Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Broadcast Bread and Circuses

Deep down I have an utterly ridiculous but nagging suspicion that the population of the United States is being subjected to what is either a diabolical social experiment or the most epic practical joke ever attempted. Now given the times we live in there are actually several possibilities to consider, a few being the unprecedented level of morons inhabiting the halls of Congress, the fact that the national infrastructure of roads and bridges are a joke, and that despite the best efforts of many dedicated teachers American education continues to decline. No, today I will concentrate my incredulous amazement on how the profession of American journalism seems to be failing as badly as any of the other problems this country faces.

For a couple of years now I have strictly limited my viewing time of the 24/7 cable news channels. Each of the big three (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox) are in my opinion fatally flawed. Despite the fact CNN has the longest track record and is the least bias its coverage of the issues is often so superficial as to be worthless. Something Jon Stewart of Comedy Centrals “The Daily Show” has pointed out many times.

As for MSNBC, yes it is the closest to my political leanings but in its own way it has become excessively personality driven along with devolving into a commentator channel instead of reporting the news. Plus, what little actual debate that occurs between the usual conservative/liberal viewpoints is often perfunctory with some minor Republican party minion offered up as a sacrificial lamb.

This leaves Fox News, and all I can say is that I have no respect for any person who believes their slogan as to being “Fair and Balanced.” They have far more in common with the old Soviet Union's Pravda or Nazi Germany's propaganda than an actual news organization. In fact I firmly believe if there is cable access in hell Joesph Goebbels watches Hannity, or Bill O'Reilly with his toes curled in orgasmic glee.

Wanting to stay informed my main television news outlet has been reduced to what is offered up on NBC or CBS but even they are sorely lacking. Over the last several weeks large segments of their broadcast have been devoted to what is at best fluff pieces but in my darker moods I believe to be mindless crap designed to distract and confuse an all too willing public.

The first example was a segment about how a former sitcom actress was breaking away from the Church of Scientology. Needless to say it was messy but the kicker in all this was an almost blatant commercial endorsement of her upcoming tell-all book about how she realized the church was some big sham. The second was the outrage at how a former Disney teen star acted on the stage at some award show. Okay, I'll give and say both the former and the latter examples are in fact “news stories” but such frivolous fluff should be relegated to the likes of Entertainment Tonight or one of its lesser clones.

The final example I will mention came last night on NBC Nightly News. Of all the stories they could have reported involving wars, political corruption, homelessness, environmental degradation, voter suppression, or the United States about to default on its debts due to the morons I mentioned above they spent several minutes on french fries. In glorious detail they explained how Burger King has over the course of several years finally perfected french fries that are just mildly bad to eat. Supposedly they contain slightly less fat-but still taste the same-extending the time to someone's first heart attack. Glory Be!!! All the prayers of obese Americans have been answered!

Yes I admit, I am rather peculiar to make such an issue of this but I would much rather have had that time reporting on something like this.

From National

  Rain Forest Plants Race to Outrun Global Warming

From a 13,000-foot peak of the Andes Mountains in southern Peru, gazing east over the dense rainforests of the Amazon basin, all you see is undulating green—one of the most verdant places on the planet.

It's what you can't see that matters.
The plants are on the run, trying to move to higher ground, where the air is cool enough to support their existence.

"Most of these species are not going to be able to tolerate climate change," says Ken Feeley, a tropical biologist from Florida International University in Miami, "mostly because climate change is happening so fast." Feeley spoke as we hiked into the jungle with a small group of other scientists—through an area that contains more tree, plant, bird, and animal species than the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.

It is here that an international collective of scientists, called the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, has mapped one of the largest field grids of its kind for a wide range of climate change studies.
According to a decade of research by Feeley and his colleagues, including tropical biologist Miles Silman of Wake Forest University, tropical species are frantically migrating up slope as they reproduce. But they may not be moving fast enough.

Tropical Andean tree species are shifting roughly 8 to 12 vertical feet (2.5 to 3.5 meters) a year on average—the arboreal equivalent of a dash. Yet for those trees to remain in equilibrium with their preferred temperatures, they need to migrate more than 20 vertical feet a year.

"We are looking at what entire populations of these species are doing in response to climate change," Silman said. "It's fairly spectacular and quick. But it might not be quick enough."

As we hike, I notice a large, bushy schefflera with umbrella-like leaves. It looks just like the one I have in a pot on my porch back home in North Carolina. Silman says it could survive the race. Of 38 species tracked in the 2010 study, schefflera is migrating the fastest, as much as a hundred vertical feet a year. But ficus, another common houseplant native to the tropics, could be doomed. It is migrating less than five vertical feet annually.

Research models by other biologists project that more than 50percent of tropical species could die off by 2100 or sooner if average temperatures rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit, as climate experts predict. If the planet warms even more, which is possible,extinctions could reach 90 percent.


Pixel Peeper said...

You really have to look hard to get "just the facts" these days. So much is an opinion with an agenda. I have found that foreign news tends to be less fluff (usually). I regularly read a German newspaper and often find that some news from the U.S. is reported better (and sooner) than on any American media.

I'd like to watch Al Jazeera America to see what their standards are like, but my cable company doesn't carry it.

goatman said...

I thought I was the only one noticing that the nightly news (any network) has become pap and flap -- not the real news happening in the world. We get the NY Times as a newspaper, so at least the stories cover the world and not just Burger King!
Also, have you heard of "Democracy Now"? It is on some NPR radio stations and is also shown on a DirectTV channel. Amy Goodman does a good job with stories seldom covered elsewhere.

R W Rawles said...

This was probably the best politically journalistic article I have ever read of yours, Beach. But I am biased: I agree with what you say, 97½ of it anyway. I listen to MSMBC probably 5-7 minutes before I get sick to my stomach. Oh, I am glad they're out there alright, telling the truth as it is. But the truth is hell, as HST said. But the truth is that I am an old man now. And the truth, as true as it is, is no longer my truth. I have moved on from politics. That's for others who will be stronger stake holders in the future of this once great country than I hope to be. I still vote against Republicans and will to the end of time, as they say. But my reading is trending strongly toward finding my own personal stakes to hold.

Rose L said...

I agree with you. I think in the good old days, newspapers and the news on tv were there just for that. Seems when they became more of a private industry it was soon all about the bottom dollar and who could get the most readers (or watchers) throught the "fluff" stories--which actor is sleeping with which actress (or in some cases, which actor!), who has had work done on their face or buttocks or boobs, all sorts of junk like that.
Most people rarely read about or listen to anything about the drastic climate changes, the poisoning of our land and water, the loss of plants that could be medicinally helpful but destroyed by the cutting down of rainforests, the dying animal, plant and insect species and what effect it could cause (trickle down). I wish more peope would listen and want to speak up and work to fix things. Scary times for not too far off generations.

Life As I Know It Now said...

When I really want to know what is going on I read the New York Times and watch CSPAN on my laptop. I would rate CSPAN higher than the NYT though. I agree that Democracy Now is a good alternative.

The Bug said...

I get all my news from Facebook (you think I lie - ha!). I used to religiously watch Keith O back in the day, and Rachel too, but I am currently in a bury my head in the sand phase...

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Absolutely! I find the news broadcasts on BBC America FAR more informative and it also has a world view instead of a myopic-American outlook.

As to be expected, my satellite provider quickly added MSNBC to the regular channel package once Al Jazeera came online.

Goatman: Yeah, I catch Democracy Now every now and then. The area NPR news station is where my car radio is always set when I drive.

R.W. Rawles: You wrote: "I have moved on from politics."

So have I to a great degree. I still respect and admire Obama and get extremely upset when progressives compare him to Bush or Hitler even though I think Barrack has done some stupid things that I disagree with.

Just about all my hopes for reform both here in America and the world rest with a younger population that on average is better educated and more globally aware. Entrenched interests have tied down and discredited any person even mentioning that our current way of life is unsustainable. Add to that an oblivious population that is quite fat, dumb, and happy and I have never been surprised Obama's "hope and change" never got far off the ground.

Rose L.: Yeah, I get a lot of flack and incredulous eye rolls from certain people for speaking my views but with seven billion people on the planet and more coming the current global mindset of nation-states, multinational corporations, and powerful splinter groups that can challenge both the former and the latter is not working anymore.

Life As I Know It: I catch CSPAN sometimes as well.

The Bug: LOL!!! Actually I scan Facebook for news and current events as well.

Slick said...

Most people are more interested in fluff than news. They want to be entertained.

lime said...

i have a cousin whose daughter did an internship with that group in peru.

as for your assessment of the news stations, i couldn't agree more, particularly with how you summed up FAUX NEWS. i listen to NPR's morning edition a lot. i can't say it's entirely unbiased but they seem to try and they do give more than cursory coverage of news items and ignore the pop culture BS.

I'm curious about al-jazeera america like pixel is but in the same boat, not available here.

Beach Bum said...

Slick: Yeah, that is sadly the case. It worries me greatly, my own personal opinion is that a great number of Americans simply have no idea what it will take for this country to successfully function in this era.

Politicians can come and go because they will do what it takes to keep their jobs but it takes an informed public to keep a country going.

Lime: I expect Fox to be propaganda but MSNBC greatly disappoints me. I want news and real debate. Not token arguments crafted to satisfy the viewing public.