On Brian Williams & National News Reporting

Photo Credit: NBC News

Photo Credit: NBC News

This past week it was announced that Brian Williams, the recently disgraced NBC Nightly News anchor would be placed on ‘extended leave’ for six months as a consequence for lying about his experiences as a correspondent during the Iraq War, most notably the story about his having been aboard a helicopter that was fired upon. Many in the media world seemed to agree that the sentence dished out was fair albeit rather ‘too little, too late’ in the grand scheme of things. However, in retrospect as we reflect on the departure of Brian Williams and more importantly the loss of real journalists like Bob Simon, who tragically lost his life at the hands of a car accident this week, it’s interesting to note where the current media culture stands. I can’t help but notice that people like Brian Williams aren’t really journalists so much as they are poster boys who the network can slap on the header that play at the beginning of the news broadcast. These are people who get to sit idly by, present less than 10 minutes of real hard news going on in the world and then proceed to fill up the last 20 minutes not filled up by commercials with dime-a-dozen public interest stories and viral videos. This was a point highlighted by Bill Maher this past Friday, where he pointed out the trend among media agencies to lift viral videos and images off the internet and call it a ‘news story’ as a substitute for real reporting. And in large part he’s absolutely right. However, the larger point that he makes, which I agree with wholeheartedly, is the standard that the news networks seem to accept that the demographic watching has a tiny attention span and can’t be bothered with ‘hard hitting news’, hence the reliance on ‘feel good stories’ to pad out the remaining time left on the clock. There is an obligation and sense of responsibility that comes with being a newsman and that is: you have the duty to use the time allotted to you for the purpose of reporting important stories not just the one’s which get the most buzz on yahoo or twitter. And for the love of God, please ask questions that provoke a discussion. Stop interviewing ‘easy guests’ who are just going to sit there and either blatantly spread mis-truths (looking at you ‘Meet the Press’) or simply get soft ball questions that do nothing but amount to self-congratulatory back-patting. It’s amazing to see the difference in quality between American news agencies and coverage provided by BBC America where someone like Katty Kay can interview a guest and ask some really thought-provoking questions on a topic that maybe most people missed that week. So luckily, those of us who aren’t satisfied with the saturated nature of news reporting have some sort of outlet for superior news coverage, thanks PBS! I’d like to hope that more people than just myself and Bill Maher share this opinion but it would seem that in this world of ‘instant everything’ most would rather be only relatively informed than spend their time searching the internet for the whole truth. And in that being the case, News agencies should feel even more obligated to spend serious time discussing news worthy stories instead of coping out to the hysteria that plagues the internet all to often and running ‘trend’ stories for easy ratings. It’s far too easy to run a piece about the ‘boy who raised money for his dying paraplegic grandpa using box tops’ than a piece about climate change, the effect of Ebola on primates or an extended discussion about the war in Ukraine. People don’t like depressing stories like that, they like stories about the ‘miracle _____ that did _____” and that sort of sensationalist reporting does nothing but reinforce the idea in far too many American’s minds that the only place where things ‘happen’ is in America. Unfortunately it seems, this trend is only going to get worse and the minimally informed will continue to vote and make decisions for those of us who do chose to stay informed, and the world just keeps on spinning. Note: I strongly encourage those of you to watch the previously mentioned Bill Maher segment on American News media because it elaborates on points briefly touched upon here.

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Gun Nation: An Absence of Culture

If there’s anything to be said about the United States is that it’s a slave to the rhythm of ‘the great chain’. That is to say, we ebb and flow to the tune of corporations and the agendas of those in the position to regulate talking points. The greatest talking point in the heartland of today’s America is gun control or lack thereof, to be precise.

We have the open carry nuts in Texas who like to take their weapon of choice to their local eatery and proceed to flaunt it in front of ‘civilians’ who are merely trying to enjoy whatever processed meal they ordered. And the local treehouse militias who march through such dangerous locales as Target, Home Depot and Walgreens, the nation is surely safe and sound from whatever dirt ball wants to shatter the peace that has settled over the sleepy towns of white bread ‘Merica.

But wait! There are still shootings happening and now it’s even a gamble to be a kindergartner trying to make it as the lead tree in his or her upcoming spring play. How can this be, there are lots and lots of good guys with guns patrolling every bath and tile aisle to the cushy appendages of Long John Silver’s seafaring cuisine. Well the answer you may find has a little something to do with us as a nation.

You see ladies and gentlemen the constitution was written a long long time ago in an unmolested ozone layer far far away. The founders of this country who we’ll refer to as the framers, didn’t like the idea of your regular Joe the plumber being able to go out and vote because that was surely dangerous and would negate the whole intricate process of electing officials. They also didn’t like the idea of itchy fingered rednecks being able to just unload their blunderbuss into whatever squeak or twig snap they happened to hear outside. But unfortunately the south existed then too, and the founders knew that to get this kinda thing passed they had to make some concessions to their eccentric cousins down on the Bayou. One of these turned out to be the second amendment, which was created to appease those southern slave owners who were petrified at the thought of any of their ’employees’ getting the notion of revolution in their heads, because you know they’re complainers and never satisfied. So the northern framers conceded the notion and *poof* out came the second amendment which promised the constitutional right to keep a well regulated militia! Which for better or worse (the answers the latter) has evolved to take the form of camouflage hat wearing hill people who regularly patrol the congested lines at department stores and 2-star restaurants.

Ahh but you’re no dummy, you’ve figured out a sure fire argument to shut up ol’ blithering Maverick. “But cars kill people too! And knives do too! Why not ban those as well, if you’re so keen on taking our guns!”

You’re right of course, I must’ve overlooked that but I counter you with the following wisdom; You see the difference between guns and cars is that cars weren’t made with the intended purpose to ‘kill’. Guns as per their design, are engineered to kill. Same with knives. The thing about knives is unlike guns, they don’t have a powerful lobby to buy legislators, governors, judges, etc. with campaign contributions so they can enrich themselves with blood-stained arms dealer money.

Think about this: The day that the Sandy Hook shooting massacre happened there was a stabbing spree in China where a man stabbed 23 people, none of whom died. Knives aren’t nearly as deadly as guns and can’t kill nearly as fast or at a distance like guns can.

The thing that you gun nuts can’t understand is that this culture soapbox that you stand so mightily on doesn’t have a lot in the way of culture, it’s mostly about the guns at the end of the day. A lot of it has to do with you being insecure about yourself and the need to have a cold metal grip and finger on the trigger at all times to feel like the ‘big strong man’ you aren’t without your steel blankie. Or maybe you’re an avid ‘wildlife enthusiast’ whose enthusiasm for killing and maiming Bambi and all his little buddies is the only thing that keeps you from testing your skills out on the rest of the American populace. In any event you’re fucked in the head, and I mean that in the most brutally honest manner possible.

It’s this infantile reliance on firearms and an irrational hatred of any government that suggests reform (that’s expensive shit!) that causes the rest of the developed world to shake their heads at their cousins on the other side of the pond. Even Canada has figured out that gun regulation and background checks are necessary and all they do is play hockey! It’s bad enough that the world has deemed creating a national healthcare system a top priority while we shuffle our feet over in Congress and hold up signs that say ‘hands off my medicare Obama!’, but really, we’re gonna do the same with keeping ourselves safe? The mind boggles.

So at the end of the day, it’s apparent that if given the choice between the bodies of children piling up because of a lack of initiative to fix things and doing something to regulate or even give an inch in the favor of common sense, most of the right-wing America couldn’t care less.

The God Suppository: Side Effects May Vary.

Let me begin by saying, that I again do not propose to have all of the answers to the inner workings of the universe and would not expect of any of you to argue that I am some sort of genius on my behalf, although the thought is well received. I am going to maintain my staunch stance on religion and the notion that it poisons the well of society to a point that exposes even the most reasonable individual as a ‘god fearing’ cretan that acts purely out of self preservation. 

 

I want to start my article, which will continue into future segments on religion and the supernatural should cooler minds prevail when the dust settles. So let’s dive into it shall we; Do we need God to exist to make our existence significant? I think most of the individuals that attend church on a daily basis would agree with that notion whether it’s internally or vocalized. Why do I say this? Mainly because many of the weekly churchgoers* these days and years before like to think themselves as the highest form of intelligence bar none and thus are worthy of the term ‘god’s greatest creation.’ Now these are the same individuals who will argue that the birth of a child is a ‘miracle of life’ thus drawing a line that separates the sacred from the rest of the world’s inhabitants. How is childbirth a miracle? If we were the only sentient being that could reproduce at will then perhaps I might argue on the side of the ‘pro lifers’ that have to turn every cause into a bumper sticker. However, we know that this is not the case, in fact animals were producing millions of years before humans even existed and managed to survive without the means of any sort of ‘lifelines’ that support our own existence. I would say that the fact that evolution is a reality that any idiot with half a brain that paid attention to 6th grade biology could figure out, I would say that the ability of dinosaurs and ocean dwelling creatures to adapt and survive for millions of years qualifies as more of a ‘miracle’ than say,  a species who consciously reproduces in the hopes of having their own ‘mini-them’. Plus if life is so sacred than why do we relegate the word ‘sacred’ to only human life? The same people that will argue for the sanctity of a human embryo are the same individuals that ingest young calves by the quarter pound patty and subsequently argue over the evils of experimenting on unborn fetuses. “Two different things!”you say as you spit out chunks of processed meat across the table? Are they really? I call bullshit on that two faced view of ‘sacred life’. 

 

Do you know why humans take precedence over other creatures? It’s for the simple fact that humans are the only creatures that can talk and present a personality through language. Human beings view animals as menial creatures that eat and overproduce and thus need to be tapered back, this is a common argument used to describe the need to hunt deer. Hmm an overpopulated, over eating species that serve no purpose other than it’s own self preservation? That sounds an awful lot like umm… humans? Do animals have the potential to destroy ecosystems and become over populated? Yes of course they do, were you not paying attention in 6th grade biology again?! But let me say this: no other animal outside the human race has ever consciously made another creatures life miserable in the hopes of some sort of personal gain. We are an inherently destructive race that knowingly feels the need to piss our name in every inch of grass we see and plaster concrete over any low lying swamp land that could be better utilized as a ‘housing complex’ for minorities. And all in the name of religion and ‘progress’. I’d like to pinpoint the exact moment when progress stopped being about helping others and more about a nice car and a paycheck. I guess those guys in the flat earth society who wrote the bible forgot to do a little bit surveying before they decided to build a religion out of the human misery around them. 

 

So in closing, Do we need God to exist for us to feel important? For the puritan that needs that reassurance whenever they look in the mirror before they go out into the world, I’d say the answer is indisputably yes. But for those of you who have no need of fairy tale mythology to explain why your neighbor is fucking your wife beyond the fact that she’s a whore, than good on you for not following the rest of your species of the cliffs of delusion. 

 

*Let me clarify that by churchgoer I mean those that make the conscious effort to go to church every week. Not like those once a year fucks that hog the pews on Christmas Eve. 

‘America’ Or Why You Can’t Fix Stupid

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With every big media trial that occurs, usually for murder or the occasional infanticide, it appears that every person; male or female, black or white, and self proclaimed expert alike come out of the woodwork to lay their opinion on the table for all to hear. What usually amounts to this potpourri of (mis)information, is biased and nonsensical arguments that devolve into hours upon hours of quarrels and ‘he said, she said’ statements that make the ‘highlight reels’ of the web. As per usual, the media will of course hyper-inflate what could easily be considered junk swept under rug of the chopping room. In the end those precious few who opt to take a neutral stance on such issues are greeted with a circus that seems to grow only stronger as fuel for minute to minute updates run dry. Rephrasing and repetition become ubiquitous as news stations are forced to use recycle footage and old ‘post 9/11’ terminology to strike fear in the hearts of the less attentive viewers. Thus those on the lower end of the spectrum get a 1st grade book report summary of the ‘truth’, which takes liberties with the facts and turns opinions into causes and bullet points into long winded odes to justice and civil rights. The point I’m trying to make is that many of American’s tend to take what should be obvious social problems and run with them to the point where they plateau into matters of ‘race’ or ‘gender’. While these issues are good and all, at least for social media, they don’t strike hard at the matter at hand which is something more serious and socially unacceptable. Cases like the Trayvon Martin case highlight such issues and shed light on human’s inherent ability to leech off social issues and use them as a soapbox of sorts to bandwagon their own opinions which they tout as research or fact. It’s a shame because it discredits those who really do look at both sides of the coin and formulate well educated responses to the social failures that are looked upon as social norms. Violence is so widespread that it has been relegated to the ‘inner city’ and minorities in the lower income neighborhoods. The media for all it’s power and expert analysis has been directly responsible for the dumbing of America and the novocaine for an ailing citizenry that forgets the uneven plane it stands upon everyday.

We are a nation of the contrary, a country that looks through all the grim and grit and looks for reasons to disagree with social reform. Gun control is a serious part of this as is abortion and the improvement of daily life. On one hand we push for reform and call those who seek to block such changes fools or lazy. Then on the other hand, when reform or change does take place that can really make a difference we disagree with that and shout blasphemy or sacrilege when it threatens our faith or moral fiber. We are stuck in this hamster wheel of progress that amounts to nothing in the end. History is unfortunately written by the victor and as of late, the winner is awfully good at pretending that mediocrity is an achievement. With every verdict and with every bill we lose a sense of where we are and where we are going, and thus are forced to wander through this endless desert of misdirection. Progress only comes to those who with the desire to be progressive.

World’s Apart: Society’s Mental Block

‘Selfie’. The term has become commonplace among social network aficionados and casual facebookers alike. It is a jargon that has come to represent an entire generation due in part to it’s ubiquitous nature. Recently the word found it’s way into the Oxford Dictionary as the publishers declared it the ‘culturally defining word of the year’. While largely looked upon as a throw away pop culture story that typically falls under the radar with most of the ‘yahoo’ and Huffington post-type articles, it is a story that has more depth and serves to shed light on the inherent flaw of such innovations.
The story is the answer to the often posited question: What have we accomplished technologically to better aid our daily lives and stay more connected as a species? When the smart phone came about in the early 2000’s they were hailed as the dawning of a new age of communication, allowing us a society to close the gap between the disconnected and the connected.  Apple cashed in the biggest on the first of such phones and marketed accordingly with the selling point that their products were essentially the ‘bentley’ of the cell phone universe. With such convenience and new innovations came the rise in social networking domains most famously, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Phone companies caught on fairly quickly the cash cow that could be created with little more effort than an app that would revolutionize how we stay in contact with loved ones and friends with a tap of a finger. Phones had become the gateway to a world of dreams with limitless possibilities.  Little More than a decade later Apple and Microsoft unveiled their tablet companions which substituted as ‘mini laptops’ and their latest in high tech phones accompanied by HD resolution and larger capacity much to the glee of tech wizards and app lovers alike. 
It is now 2014 and it is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t own some sort of tablet, smart phone, or high powered computer. We are infinitely connected to one another at a click of a mouse or keypad with the world at our fingertips, whether we like it or not. However, in doing so we have become more aloof and alone, losing what makes us human in the effort to create simplicity. Infinite information is an app away and has dulled our minds into accepting the idea that we need not stretch ourselves further than technology allows. As such society has become stagnate in our ability to form electronic relationships that simulate human connection very well without the physical bond that has driven us for centuries. Today’s youth have never known a world without the internet, cell phones or Facebook and thus have little to no appreciation for imagining the absence of such. What we have created are a generation of socially inept individuals who live vicariously through the inter webs and online personas. Distraction levels are at an all time high with the rate of cell phone related accidents on the road climbing and showing no signs of dipping. Schools are forced to combat such issues with little to no avail requiring one more obstacle (and a large one at that) to be tackled on a case to case basis. And with an economy already in the toilet and a limited employment market awaiting our children on the other side of a 4-year undergraduate degree, we have only crafted our own doom. It is not difficult to imagine a world where physical connections are viewed as an inconvenience entirely with large wall screens providing sustenance for any desired human contact. 
In the end it is up to us as a culture to mediate and curb such behavior in our children and more importantly ourselves. It is often posited whether environment or heredity has a greater effect on our upbringing and I feel it could be said at this juncture that the choice is ours as a species and should be taken more seriously than it presently is.