During the last half of the 1930’s, Europe was flooded with journalists from America, who were being paid to report on the ominous developments that indicated a trend towards fascism was occurring, and they, subsequently, became the subject for a trend spotting item for historians to unearth. Concurrently radio was in its Golden Age stage and Hollywood was about to release the movies that marked the high water mark. Critics agree that the films receiving Oscar™ nominations for 1939 were a remarkable collection of excellent movies that has never been equaled in the following years.
What makes 2013 different from 1939? How good is radio these days? In typical Irish style we’ll answer that question with another question: Was there more or less political propaganda on radio in Germany in 1939 or in the USA today? In the late Thirties in Germany, citizens caught listening to foreign radio stations were dealt with in a very severe manner. Why doesn’t the app that lets Americans listen to American radio stations on their cell phone let them listen to foreign origin radio stations?
Have the movies gotten better? An obsession with maintaining political correctness while attracting the largest possible number of paid admissions has rendered cinema moribund. How many Ten Best lists included “Killer Joe”? Is regimented thinking a bad symptom in a country that was founded on the principle of freedom of speech? Ja,wohl!
How much demand for foreign correspondents is manifest in American Journalism today?
CBS had a list of foreign correspondents in Europe in the Fifties that was on the “all star” level. Today about the only foreign correspondent working in Europe that we can name is Silvia Paggioli and she works for NPR.
Do the students attending college this year have any idea who Gerda Taro was let alone consider her a woman’s lib role model?
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat history but what happens when the young generation is discouraged from learning history at all?
Back when LBJ was in the White House, the current issue of the French language magazine Paris Match was sold on the newsstand in the PanAm building each week. (Where?) Recently Al Jazeera bought Current TV as a way of gaining entrée into the American media market. So far the response seems to be a cold shoulder reception. Copies of Paris Match are available in Berkeley Public Library each week, but due to postal delivery the latest issue may be a tad outdated.
Are foreign language magazines (and points of view) a superfluous, unnecessary expenditure in a country that has renamed French Fries as Freedom Fries? Has Freedom of Speech become an expensive, useless luxury in a time of austerity budgets?
Yes, you can use your Interenets connection to read foreign language web sites if you can read and understand sites using foreign languages or can fiddle with the “translate this page” option, but the few that do can easily be dismissed as unpatriotic conspiracy theory nuts.
Reportage in Washington has become a breathless scramble for spin rendering journalism into a copy of coverage of Hollywood luminaries. When was the last time you encountered news using the phrase “an investigation has revealed” rather than “according to a reliable source”?
Rogue pundits out in the boondocks have as much chance of uncovering a scoop as do the members of the in crowd in D. C. Neither group is going to get anything but announcements and news releases because everything that happens now in D. C. happens behind closed doors and journalists sit back and wait for the official press release to be delivered to their desk.
While the World’s Laziest Journalist was in the process of writing this column, we encountered a used copy of James Fallows’ 1996 book “Breaking the News (How the Media Undermine American Democracy)” for fifty cents. We have read that book before but our copy of it is still out on loan somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area so we bought a new used copy to refresh our memory.
If well educated Americans didn’t heed Fallows’ 1996 warning what would be the use for this columnist to finish writing this column in early 2013? On a cold day with rain in the forecast for Berkeley CA, it boils down to a line from “Rebel without a Cause:” “We gotta do something.”
On page 74, Fallows starts off chapter three by saying: “Any reporter born before 1965 did not go into journalism for the money.”
Was he trying to imply that Robert Capa got his self kilt for altruistic reasons?
Could stories about how the small coalition of military, bureaucrats, police, and clergy in Spain, who tamped down the demands for better condition from the farmers and workers in the mid Thirties, be a warning to the protesters wearing Guy Falk masks to the Occupy events?
Isn’t it enough for Fox News to run a quote from the President saying that holding the debt ceiling hostage won’t be tolerated and a quote from John Boner (from the codpiece party) saying “We’ll see about that!”? Isn’t that a marvelous example of fair and balanced journalism? Aren’t the buttinskis who inject any commentary way out of line?
Do the liberal pundits think that Americans have to be told that if an order doesn’t carry an implied threat, it is useless? If a fellow receives an order from a boss, a sergeant in the Army, or his girlfriend there is an implied threat behind the order. If you don’t follow the boss’ order; you will be fired. If you don’t follow the sergeants’ orders you won’t get a weekend pass. If you don’t follow a girlfriends’ orders . . . something bad will happen.
When a kid delivers an ultimatum and indicates that if the threat isn’t accepted, he will eat worms how much gravitas does it carry? How much serious consideration does it inspire? If the Republicans hold the debt ceiling hostage, will President Obama hold a press conference and eat worms?
If America has a debt crisis on Super Bowl weekend (or thereabouts) will anybody care? Will the Yankees finally win Super Bowl rings? Can the Super Bowl and Oscar™ events be compared to a chance to dance to “our song” on the Titanic?
Is Jim Morrison’s wish to see anarchy reign supreme in America about to be granted?
Recent news reports indicate that there may have been as many as 400,000 unjustified home foreclosures. (How many foreclosed homes were owned by journalists?) Does that upset journalists? Fallows quotes Michael Kinsley, of Crossfire, as saying: “Being paid more than you are worth is the American dream.”
Now the disk jockey will play “Born to lose,” Iggy Pop’s “I wanna be your dog,” and Frank Zappa’s “It can’t happen here.” We have to go see about joining the SF Press Club. Have a “the check is in the mail” type week.