You Say “Liberal” Media, I Say Trivial Media-Let's Call the Whole Thing Off! by Rick Marianetti
I was 10 years old when my friend Marty Levinson took a summer vacation trip to New York with his parents. One night they saw West Side Story and he returned with a recording of the musical. I never heard anything like it before. From the finger-snapping orchestration of the prologue to the tragic reprise of “Somewhere” at the end, Bernstein’s music was a rhythmic and harmonic revelation, a bridge that would eventually take me past Elvis and Little Richard to a life-long love of Jazz, Opera, the Classical tradition, World Music and beyond.
We talked a lot about music, about girls and baseball, too. We played football and ping-pong. We had sleep overs and speculated about the origin and destiny of the universe until three in the morning.
One day two kids from his class walked past us and yelled “Hey, Jew boy!” in our direction. My friend told them to drop dead. I didn’t say anything, but I’ll never forget the look on his face. I didn’t know what to make of their words because, other than the fact that his family didn’t put up a Christmas tree in December, I never thought about his being Jewish any more than I thought about the color of his hair.
Soon afterwards I saw some old footage of the Holocaust on television. At first I thought the trucks were filled with mannequins. Then the announcer explained they were the bodies of German citizens who’d been put to death in gas chambers, many of them simply because they were Jewish. I felt sick to my stomach; I thought I was going to throw up. And then I cried. The horror of such an insane social policy was incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way towards another human being that hadn’t intentionally harmed my family or friends.
Later I’d see attack dogs and water guns turned on black Americans demonstrating for the same rights I never had to question in the little white bread town of Novato I grew up in north of San Francisco. In the television images broadcast from the south I saw the same attitude that led to the concentration camps, and my sadness and confusion turned into anger and disgust. After all, didn’t three quarters of the world’s population fight over these issues in World War II? Didn’t the United States sacrifice 400,000 lives to ensure that democracy would prevail?
As I grew up and went to college, I would soon learn that social psychosis wasn’t just confined to Germany in the last century. It’s as if there’s an evil strain of free-floating energy loose in the world that descends unexpectedly out of nowhere like a midwestern tornado. Besides the United States in Vietnam, it’s touched down in places like Rwanda, Central America, Bosnia, Cambodia, Armenia, and East Timor.
There’s a consensus that what happened in Germany should never happen again. Why then isn’t there more outrage over the operatives from Guatemala and El Salvador trained by the CIA in the finer points of terrorism and torture at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia? Some say it’s realpolitiks and that it’s naïve to think the world can be any other way. I say it’s rationalism, denial, and disassociation on a mass scale. The revulsion I felt as a kid when confronted with ignorance and intolerance hasn’t abated with age. That’s why I found this quote and what it represents quite interesting:
“(They) are a bunch of aggrieved weirdoes who don’t fit in……… They control many of our institutions, our universities, and our major media outlets. They all have cushy jobs, they never seem to get fired or laid off.”
More racist rant? Not exactly. Just a few choice words from Rush Limbaugh’s Magnum Opus, THE WAY THINGS OUGHT TO BE.
“They” are Liberals.
Such talk would be laughable if it wasn’t for the unrelenting derision with which liberals are excoriated on nationally syndicated talk radio 24/7.
I have an otherwise intelligent acquaintance who actually takes the time to record Mr. Limbaugh when he doesn’t have immediate access to a radio so as to never miss a word. He also happens to be Jewish. One day I suggested to him that every time Rush or one of the other conservative talk show hosts he listens to uses the word “Liberal”, replace it with “Jew.” I then asked him to explain to me how Radio Deutschland, circa 1938, would have sounded any different. The look in his eyes of a white-tailed deer caught in the headlights suggested irony is not his strong suit.
Limbaugh’s knack for unsubstantiated hyperbole isn’t limited to the sociology of mass media. Take, for example, one of his many bumbling forays into the environ-mental sciences. He once asserted that coastal regions wouldn’t flood even if global warming melted all the frozen water on the surface of the earth. His “reasoning”? Polar ice caps float in the ocean just like ice in a glass of water. Therefore, sea levels would remain the same even after the ice melts.
It would be nice if the geophysicists who’ve actually studied the subject could get thirty seconds in edgewise to point out to Rush and his devoted ditto-heads one small fact he overlooked: Most polar ice is on land. An Antarctic meltdown would transform San Francisco’s Great Highway into the Great Aquarium.
While it’s a safe bet Rush won’t be on the short list of Nobel Prize nominees in physics or chemistry anytime soon, his uncontested blathering still manages to reach up to twenty million listeners daily. Unfortunately, the Fairness Doctrine that once required broadcasters to devote a minute or two each day to air opposing views was abolished in 1987.
But it’s not just his propensity to distill complex issues down to bumper sticker rhetoric that’s so disturbing; nor is it the realization of how shockingly uninformed he really is. Beyond the ignorance lies the same kind of dark, aggressive belligerence I first saw directed at my friend, the kind of polarizing rhetoric that terminates in organized gassings, lynchings, and “disappearances”. Instead of Jews and Afro-Americans, Rush and his cohorts focus their crosshairs on Liberals, with special emphasis given to environmen-talists, “femi-Nazis,” gays, and anyone critical of big business, no matter how valid their arguments.
The intent is not just to promote the conservative point of view; it’s to execute a scorched-earth policy honed in on anyone and anything left of center. Liberals are more than just the bad gals ‘n guys in black ten-gallon hats; they’re a scourge, the source of everything that’s wrong with the United States, Western Civilization, and the world. In the best Orwellian tradition, hammer away long enough and you bury the original meaning of the word “Liberal” and replace it with the kind of hateful connotations associated with “Nigger” or “Kike” or “Faggot.”
While talk radio demagogues turn up the contrast knob so high that discussions are rendered devoid of nuance, informa-tional media crowds out everything else with trivia and manufactured information.
Local “news” casts consist of sports, weather, and neighbors prodded into blabbing live on camera about the latest fire, murder, or report of a missing child. National news programs are often glorified carnivals with blow-dried barkers directing viewers to “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!” and see the latest bizarre human-interest story or celebrity sex scandal. Advertisers discourage adverse content with the unspoken threat they’ll pull their ads and the revenue they provide. Besides, cost/benefit budgeting techniques now used to evaluate newsroom expenditures don’t justify the kind of investigative reporting on health care or the environment that would require more resources and thus decrease the bottom line.
The ideal of an educated citizenry exposed to a spectrum of viewpoints wide enough to illuminate all sides of an issue is further undermined by a myriad of corporate-sponsored think tanks, citizen-action groups, and high-powered public relations firms. This array of spin specialists manufacture “facts” that have the same relationship to reality as polyvinyl faux-wood laminated on particleboard has to cherry finished mahogany. These factoids seep undetected into news reports, political discussion programs and the one-sided diatribes of Republican shills like Rush (as exemplified by his preposterous polar ice cap theory), Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Michael Savage, et al.
The ensuing informational effluent is a far greater threat to the Flag, Mom, and Apple Pie than those rampaging liberals will ever be.
I’ve got nothing against conservatives, and I’m not reluctant to criticize liberal excess. One can argue the merits of either side, both of which can be traced back to at least the 18th century of John Locke and Aaron Burr. The desire for change and concern for tradition upon which they’re based emerged well before that, as individuals began to coalesce into complex social organizations. Both sides comprise an essential part of our humanity, but as media studies have shown, the relationship between the two is now seriously out of balance.
In this milieu it’s hard to see how one could seriously proclaim that the handful of multinational media conglomerates that produce most of what we see, hear, and read would relinquish control to the cabal of “aggrieved weirdoes” Rush insists now run the Information Machines. But as Germany’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbel stated more than half a century ago: “Repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it.”
Rick Marianetti is a free-lance writer living in the USA, the last superpower standing, spewing out more CO2 per capita than any country in the world; a brave new world where nanotechno-logy, quantum computers, and the genome project converge with the evolution of human intelligence. Rick works out of his San Francisco residence. “While in awe of the mystery and wonder of being alive, I’m becoming increasingly more concerned about the longevity of this hopefully never-ending pageant.” Rick Marianetti welcomes your comments at [email protected]