Monday, July 23, 2012

Who Says?

As an example of the kind of journalism one must wade through in an attempt to know something about the world we live in, the July 23, 2012 article on NBCNew’s web page is as good a specimen as one can find.

The headline reads: “Foreign leaders see ‘America in decline,’ Australian foreign minister tells Romney.” It sounds pretty ominous until one begins to unravel the details.

First, it is a case of Mr. Romney telling a group of supporters at a fund-raising event, that the foreign minister of Australia told him, at a private meeting, that other “foreign leaders” had (presumably) told him, in private meetings, no doubt, that they held the opinion that the U.S. is “in decline.”

What? Who’s on first? This is an anonymous quote of an anonymous quote of several anonymous quotes of unsubstantiated opinions, conveyed through an interested party to a group of partisan supporters, and then passed on to the “media”, for what purpose? To raise money for Mr. Romney’s campaign? To convince the nation that our “exceptionalism” is slipping under the current administration?  

Why didn’t the honorable foreign minister simply send an Op-Ed piece to the Washington Post and say publicly, what he had to say – with statistics and reasoned discourse to back up his opinion? Or he could have accompanied Mr. Romney to the fund raiser and delivered the message on his own, and then help Mr. Romney pass the hat. Or he could have transmitted his concerns directly through an interview on NBCNews or Fox.

But further, we’re told the secretive foreign minister had suggested an instant fix for America’s decline; i.e. ". . .  one budget deal" that helps balance the budget.” Presumably that would not be the budget deal worked out nearly a year ago which now Mr. Romney and his fellow Republicans reject, but rather one which Mr. Romney would gladly propose . . . with no details included. Details take time and talent to develop and they tend to addle the brains of some of his supporters who are struggling desperately to find reasons to continue their support for him.

Mr. Romney is starting a six-day campaign swing through several foreign countries, not the least of which is Israel. We can hope that he is making this unprecedented foreign campaign foray because he has tapped out the resources of his wealthy donors in the United States and is merely going abroad to withdraw a little extra cash from his tax-sheltered foreign accounts. We can be certain that his intense national loyalty would prevent him from encouraging foreign donors to  influence our politics by injecting millions of their dollars into our campaign. He wouldn’t! Would he?

I realize that NBC (and all the others) have a 24/7 obligation to keep the “news” flowing. Their obligation is to the advertisers who support their broadcasts and flesh out their web pages, not to their viewers who are mere numbers presented to advertisers as proof of the network’s ability to deliver an audience for the advertiser’s wares. (Note, if you will, the amount of time [or space on the web page] allotted to advertising relative to content.)

Without those advertising dollars we would have less “news” no doubt. But is it too much to expect that our “news sources” will be what their name implies; sources of news, and not of propaganda hand fed from opportunistic candidates and their campaign managers.

Enough of the “he said that someone told him that others are saying” stuff. That isn’t news. It isn’t helpful. It is either a case of a downright attempt to obfuscate, or it is inexcusably inept reporting. Neither case is a compliment to the news industry.

1 comment:

  1. On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as quite informative:

    Dear Dr. Laura:

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

    Your adoring fan,

    James M. Kauffman,

    Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

    Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

    P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian.)


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