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Monday, October 6, 2014

Can we trust the news?

      A News Room Maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads”. The most starling and improbable event is sensationalized, and then hyped into a whopper. With zero indigenous American Ebola cases the news reports on the Ebola Plague, News Anchors speculate about the Ebola virus evolving into a super virus like that in Stephen King’s “The Stand”. I’m “just saying” that science fiction could be real, right? Back in two minutes with the next impossible claim, be sure and buy the sponsors products before your grandchildren die.

      Cable news ask, “Can we trust the government?” I ask “Can we trust the news?”

      Wolf! They cry, over, and over, Wolf! Ebola! Wolf! ISIS! Wolf! Enterovirus D68! Wolf! Khorasan!

      Let us not forget some of the classics.

      Wolf! Bird Flu! Wolf! Y2K! Wolf! Swine Flu! Wolf! Wolf!

      The only part of “The News” that I watch is the weather report and occasionally, the sports report. No weather report, no sports segment, I’m not tuning in. The amassing result of my viewing practice seems to be that I am better informed than the committed cable news viewers. My Twitter account is more informative than Fox News, a sad but true claim. Reading “The Demon in the Freezer”, by Richard Preston, maybe six hours of my time, and I am better prepared to discuss Ebola than someone who spent 10 times more hours glued to the “News”.

      How do the Ebola and ISIS threats compare to the danger of driving. 40,000 Americans will die in automotive accidents this year, two and a half million will be injured in automotive accidents. Countless passengers beheaded when the car runs under a semi-trailer. In Dallas mothers keep their children home to protect them from the Ebola threat, then they put them in the auto’s back seat as them run their daily errands. Were the children safer in school or the backseat of the family car? Do the “News Anchors” report on the death plague of auto accidents? If an entire family is wiped out in a single automotive accident, well, that will get a short spot.

      “All we have to fear, is fear itself”. FDR’s stirring 1933 speech would be attacked today, it would be characterized as government incompetence, as Presidential weakness, and misdirection by the ruling elites to cover some other scandal. We would hear news panels, composed of other news commentators without a single expert, drone on and on about their personal views. The dearth of experts on any panel discussion is a red flag, a sign that facts and rational discussion and considered information is not market tested. The marketing department has decreed experts boring, they do not build viewership. Enhancing-shareholder-value trumps an informed public. An “informed public”, that is so 1960s, we are much more profitable now.

      The 1933 FDR speech to our nation, addressing the economic crises.

      “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

      Imagine a political leader trying this speech today. Fox News would be giddy to tear this apart, weeks’ worth of “Can we trust Government?” programming.

      One more time, can we trust the news?

      Right now, I have to get back to Monday Night Football. Later, folks.

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