Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What a Difference a Month Makes!!

It's been a little while since I wrote much, here or anywhere else. As excuses go, first it was earthquake-related work, and then a few other things at my day job, as we call it here in The States, and some personal developments (mostly good, besides the flu going around the house). Then I saw the item on Mojo yesterday and just had to write. That helped. Now I hope will write more. There are quite a few items in draft here at blogger, so watch out!

With that out of the way, the first thing I have to say is: Wow!

Wow! indeed!! What a difference a month makes. If you had gone to Mars or somewhere else where they don't have access to American media for a month and then come back, you might well have have thought that you had taken the wrong left turn at that last planet on the way back. Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like one is listening to the same group of people one was listening to a month or two ago.

Over the last few years, I have actually almost completely stopped listening to the mainstream electronic media in the US. Maybe a little "Hardball" once in a while, but that's about it. In fact, it wasn't for Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show", it would be difficult to even keep track of what's going on in the mainstream zeitgeist. But then, Mr. Stewart has become the most significant media item there is anyway. Of course, that is but natural; with the "electronic newsmedia" becoming so clearly and completely infotainment, that it is but natural that the best thing in that category would be something that makes no pretence of being hard news. [Of course, this has rather odd side-effects. For example, I was missing a lot of the effect of Steven Colbert's show because I wasn't too familiar with the format of Bill O'Reilly's show or much at all with Anderson Cooper, CNN's new blue-eyed, white-haired boy.]

Though, to give credit where it is due, 24-hour news has led to a lot of useless noise, but the US media does have some life left in it. On this blog, I followed the way they did birddog, to use an Americanism, the White House Press Secretary on the not-quite-scandal about Karl Rove:

I guess the change in wind direction really came after Hurricane Katrina. When Brian Williams came on The Daily Show after Katrina and he'd taken on Administration officials on his own show, for most the interview, I was feeling that Jon was going too easy on him. I thought Jon would start the interview with a "So y'all grew a new set, huh?" But then, by the end of interview, Brian W had gone out of the way to raise the topics that establishment figures anywhere in the world often dismiss without a mention or with disdain--that of institutional racism. Brian himself brought up the fact that he wondered why the army, which can airlift whole bridges in Afghanistan and Iraq couldn't have send in helicopters into New Orleans. And then he did something even more startling; he said that he wondered how many helicopters would have appeared and how fast, if this had been a city in New England where the population was of a different skin color. An African American saying the same thing would have been dismissed as playing the race card.

I just wish more people would raise issues like that, which express frank opinions about communities they are not part of. We'd all be better off for it.

And before I go, just to point out how much has changed in the MSM, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Newsweek infographic about Iraq that showed both US as well as Iraqi casualties.

Though one has to wonder about a "free press" that only follows up on story angles when the political winds make it "okay" to do so. The phrase "Fourth Estate" takes on a new resonance; the mainstream media--in any society, not just the US--has become such an integral part of the establishment in our societies today that it is distressing. Maybe the only hope really does lie in the Alternative Media to play the role of watchdog, keeping the establishment in check.

And a "programming note" before I go. In the new future, I will be writing some pieces discussing the fundamentals of various issues. The Iraq War; Islam; Jihad; US foreign policy in the world. See you then!

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