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The World’s Laziest Journalist

April 2, 2005

By Bob Patterson


This columnist went for a walk on the Ocean Front Walk along Venice Beach recently and when we got to the border with the City of Santa Monica, we remembered that was where the old Pacific Ocean Pier was located.  Local lore has it that the film They Shoot Horses Don’t They did some location filming on the famous tourist attraction.  That film, based on a novel by Horace McCoy, was about a marathon dance contest back during the depression. 


Why haven’t they updated the concept and done a reality TV series about such an event?  They could film it extensively and break it down into several weekly episodes.  Heck, it’s getting like the Depression again and folks are desperate for money just like back then.  Now, on Reality TV they eat all kinds of unpalatable stuff just for the cash and the exposure on TV.  If they’ll do that, then surely some folks are willing to bop ‘til they drop for cash prizes.


The strong possibility that the suggestion to revive the marathon dance is not too outrageous makes a columnist ask himself where will the line be drawn?  These days what does it take (other than naughty words) to go over the line on television?


They have pay per view cage matches on cable TV these days, don’t they?  How long until they get the old gladiator routine fired up again?  They could go to some country with lower standards that the US (Shangri La?) and have a pay per view, real life and death contest.  The Roman Circus lives again, surely some remote country could extend the hospitality for such a spectacle to be staged inside their borders.  Heck, the winner could go double or nothing with a Lady or the Tiger final episode, perhaps. 


What about a show that features terrorist interrogations?  What ever happened to Joe McCarthy?  Can’t you just picture him being the M.C. and someone asking him:  “Have you at long last no humanity?”  Isn’t he dead?  Aye, lad there’s the rub!


You couldn’t stage a show like that in the US, but isn’t there an old adage that if a thousand business men do it, it can’t be illegal?  Well, then if such a show originating outside the US and could get sponsors, why couldn’t it be shown on cable pay per view? 


[When they show police pursuits here in LA, why don’ they have small banner ads rather than the promobabble nonsense they run in the lower part of the frame?  They could probably sell such crawl ads featuring energizer bunnies ads for long chases and/or Pennzoil ads for car performance enthusiasts?]


Wasn’t there a foreign film (from Sweden or some such) a dozen years back that had the premise that the woman in the movie was dying of an incurable disease and her demise and death was part of a TV show? 


The poor working class in the Scranton area has progressed from the events shown in The Molly Maguires to an Americanized version of The Office. 


Such reality TV might be called “low brow,” but have you seen the continuing deterioration of the attempts to have an intelligent debate style consideration of controversial issues?  It’s only a bit of an exaggeration to say that Edward R. Murrow has been replaced by that sly old fox, Soupy Sales.


The 20th century philosopher, Monty Python, has said:  “Contradicting isn’t arguing” -but the people who do the political analysis shows don’t know that.


Visitors to the Columbia School of Journalism site with coverage of reportage of the 2004 USA presidential election read repeated examples of how presenting opposing contradicting statements is being marketed as “fair and balanced” news coverage.  After the election the Columbia analysts have continued their online critical assessment of the American media’s performance and they continue to point out that contradicting statements are still being presented as objective news coverage.


There is a tendency for fact discrepancies to arise during a tennis match.  “That was in!”  “No, it was out!”   For tournament play aren’t impartial witnesses, whose only function is to adjudicate such irreconcilable claims, paid to make the calls?  Shouldn’t that be the mission statement for journalists in a country that believes in a free press rather than Monty Python style verbiage which might include cleverly disguised government subsidized propaganda?  


Have you seen the coverage about the condition (while she was nearing death) of Terri Schiavo?  Some of the anecdotal evidence about her condition seems to directly contradict other accounts of how she looked and was responding.  Did anyone think to let an impartial reporter (or if necessary a trio) into Ms. Schiavo’s hospital room for a first hand account of her ability to respond to voices and faces and an accurate description of her demeanor?


With all the coverage and punditry about the Schaivo case, has anyone any where asked if the concept of ending the suffering of a horse with a broken leg should be considered by the liberals or the compassionate conservatives?  Didn’t Germany have an agency for their Fatherland Security, called the Geheime Staatpolitzei,  whose agents could shoot anyone, anywhere at any time?  Isn’t the quick ending of such suffering called a coup de grāce?  Wouldn’t a sudden termination of her life be more humane than the long slow demise?  Has any pundit advocated a quick end to her suffering?   She’s starving to death, and don’t most folks refer to hunger pains?  No one, it seems, has raised those points.  If any of our regular readers come across any such commentary on the Internet (maybe you’ll find it on cursor.org or the Daou Report, which is now part of Salon magazine) please let us know where you got them.  Whoever it is and where ever it appears, we will give them a plug (with URL) in a future installment of the weekly World’s Laziest Journalist column because we do enjoy finding really unique insights among the avalanche of pontificating that sounds identical.


In California, TV viewers are being treated to two diametrically opposed ads that indicate that the governor is either:  A. being very frugal with his education spending or:  B. has borrowed money from the education fund that he doesn’t intend to repay.  Could both be true?  Maybe he borrowed the money and is now spending it wisely and will face the problem of repaying it later?


While this column was being written, CBS radio news was reporting that new documents obtained from the FBI indicate that the Saudi Royal family and members of the Osama bin Laden family were permitted to fly out of the USA after 9-11 while there were restrictions on aviation in place.  Critics of documentary film maker Michael Moore, said that his inclusion of that allegation in his film, Fahrenheit 911,  was an example of biased journalism.  The debate about that particular aspect of the controversial film boiled down to “It happened.” vs. “No, it didn’t.”  Now, we know.


Nietzsche said “that which does not feed me, destroys me.”  Doesn’t that philosophy also apply to facts in news stories?  A fact which is valid enhances a news story, material that is fabricated doesn’t.


Is it too late for a web pundit to summarily dismiss the implications of the special treatment for the Osama family, and get a verbal pat on the head as a  “nice doggy” style commendation from Hugh Hewitt on his radio show? 


Hey, Hugh, we are trying to build traffic here.  Give us a break.  The Second Bush administration reminds us of the admonition of a “beloved city editor” who worked on a weekly newspaper in Santa Monica.  He once advised: “No matter what, deny everything.  It wasn’t me!  It was someone who looked just like me and had finger prints identical to mine!”  Besides what would a Saudi monarch know about 18 al Qaeda terrorists who just by the wildest coincidence happened to predominantly be Saudi citizens?  What would the bin Laden family know about their “black sheep,” rogue, maverick, relative?  (Duya know why the personnel departments ask you to list the information for a relative to contact in case of emergency?  Do American companies really care about getting family news to your relatives or do they want to earn brownie points with “the authorities” if you do something really naughty?)   Michael Moore should be ashamed of himself.  How ‘bout a plug, Hugh?  Was that a good enough evasive conservative style maneuver to win a plug on your show?


These days, Truth is an exorcise in existentialism.  The truth is what you say it is!


Speaking of existentialists, that reminds us of an old bit of graffiti:

“To do is to be.” - Sartre

“To be is to do.” - Camus

“To be do be do” - Frank Sinatra

William Pfaff, in a review of Malraux ($35 Alfred A. Knopf) in the Los Angeles Times (Sunday, March 27, 2005 book review section page R9), wrote: “Malraux was the first to understand that the lie no longer exists in the twentieth century, any more than truth does.”  Ain’t dat de truth?  It’s kinda like the truth has become WMD’s, huh?


So, now, while the disk jocky plays the official Swingers’ Club theme song, Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night, we’ll just slip on outta here for this week (hope Michael Moore isn’t watching).  We’ll be back next week.  Until then, may all the lies you tell be believable.  Have a prevarication-filled week.


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Copyright © 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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