Dear Winston, the media sucks and welcome to Big Brother edition

Dear Winston,

Why are you always so down on the major news media?  Surely, they can’t be doing that bad a job. 


Wondering in Wellington

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Dear Wondering,

Your question reminds me of a story I heard Alistair Cooke (I think) tell about Winston Churchill once, a thousand years ago.  It went something like this:

Churchill was in a tavern with his friend and scientific advisor, Professor Lindemann: he asked him, “Prof, if you were to take all of the beer, wine and other spirits I’ve consumed in my life and pour them into this room, how much of it do you think would be filled?”

Lindemann set to work immediately on the relevant mathematical equations, concluding at last, “Winston, according to my calculations, if you were to pour all of the alcoholic beverages you’ve consumed in your life into this tavern, you’d fill it all the way up to the tip of your nose.”

At which point, Churchill, looking up at the high ceiling above him, answered,

“So little time.  So much yet to be done.” 

Frankly, my friend, your question about the major media puts me into something of the same state of mind: there’s simply no way, without filling an entire book, I could even begin to adequately explain why so much of what the major media has been doing in recent years appalls me.  So, instead, I’m going to settle for giving you one example.

As you know, the approval rating for Congress now stands at a staggeringly low level: when last tallied, only 18 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress is doing.  As Glenn Greenwald and other boggers have noted, there’s no mystery in this.  Disapproval of the Democratic Congress is unusually high because, unlike the usual situation where members of the majority’s own party drive congressional popularity ratings up at least a little, in this case, rank and file Democrats are as down on Congress as Republicans.

There’s also no doubt as to why that’s true: Democrats (and many independents) are furious at congressional Democrats for repeatedly caving into Bush’s demands, particularly on the subjects of civil liberties and the war in Iraq.

So how is the major media spinning the story in light of this obvious truth?  You got it: by reporting just the opposite.  They’re pushing the absurd storyline that the real reason so many Americans have turned against congressional Democrats is because they’re mad at them for being too hard on Bush.  As Greenwald notes:

In discussing Congress’ low approval ratings yesterday, I noted that Bush followers and media pundits simply invent facts about these ratings that are plainly false. In particular, they repeatedly claim that Congress’ low approval ratings are due to its excessive investigations of the administration — which, they never tire of telling us, Americans do not like — as well as Congress’ failure to co-operate with the President in a bi-partisan way. That is a pure expression of conventional Beltway wisdom.

On cue, former Bush official Peter Wehner, writing on the Commentary blog, asserted that these negative Congressional polling numbers reveal that “Democrats are paying a high price for their hyper-partisanship. They appear angry, zealous, and vengeful, far more interested in investigations than legislation.” Right-wing blogger McQ cited as one reason for the unpopularity that Democrats “spent all their time investigating marginal, and to most Americans, unimportant things while accomplishing nothing of importance.”

So, again, why am I so down on the major news media?

How about because I’m sentient.



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Dear Winston,

Forgive me for sounding so down in the dumps, but anymore I sometimes just feel like giving up.  What’s going on now, with the spying and all of the other crimes being committed by the Bush Administration, is nothing short of a full frontal attack on our constitutional liberties.  Yet, for the most part, the Democrats just keep letting Bush get away with it.

To be honest, though, Winston, what bums me out even more is how little this situation seems to be upsetting average Americans.  This really hit me hard a few days ago when I went to dinner at my aunt’s house.  Don’t get me wrong: she’s a good Democrat and hates Bush, but when I brought up the issue of the assaults on our civil liberties she just kind of looked at me like I was from Mars.  It was clear that she had not only not been losing any sleep over it, she wasn’t even aware of what’s been going on.

Is there any hope, Winston?


Fatigued in Fredericksburg

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Dear Fatigued,

I’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes I feel the same way.

By way of example, while driving to meet Zach for breakfast this morning, I made the mistake of tuning into the local easy listening station on the car radio: yeah, I know, I should have been listening to NPR.  Anyway, Moron Number One and Moron Number Two, as I’ll call them (popular local radio “personalities”), were taking calls from listeners about a new random drug testing policy that has just been adopted by the school district. 

It works pretty much like most such policies: either parents consent to having their kids pee in a bottle for random testing, or their kids can’t participate in extracurricular activities — sports, band, drama and the like.

Now, I’m the first to admit that the issue of random drug testing in school isn’t clear cut: drug use can be devastating to the young people involved, and can endanger others.  And while I think the federal courts have gone way too far in downgrading the constitutional rights of minors, clearly kids are subject to greater intrusions into their privacy than adults.

So there’s a legitimate issue here: but what depressed me so much about what I heard on the radio was that everyone who spoke — Moron Number One, Moron Number Two and all of listeners who called in — every single one of them, saw absolutely no issue here at all.  They all thought the policy was wonderful — an unadulterated virtue.  Being randomly called out and forced to pee into a bottle, they all seemed to agree, was no big deal.  They also seemed to agree that those parents and students who had raised concerns over the program at the School Board meeting the night before were a bunch of whining idiots: after all, kids who don’t use drugs have nothing to fear.

And it struck me, if people can’t see that a policy like this at least raises some legitimate concerns regarding personal freedom, will any intrusion concern them?    

Technology is opening up a Pandora’s Box of “wonderful” ways for people to make themselves feel “safer” at the price of a little liberty.  We’re not far from the point, to take an extreme example, where it will be technologically feasible to implant a microchip into the subcutaneous tissue of every man, women and child in the nation, thereby allowing satellites to record their every move.  Think of how seductive that could be. 

Every crime could be instantly solved.  Just dial up the computer and ask who was at the corner of Pine and Washington when the murder, rape or robbery occurred (and where that person can currently be found for easy arrest).  What could be slicker? 

This would, of course, be Big Brotherism on a scale that even George Orwell never imagined — yet, very soon, it will be completely feasible

But surely Americans would never stand for such a thing, right?  Well, maybe not today, at least not for most adults: but what about kids?  You know, like the drug testing thing.  Is it so hard to imagine people — perhaps scared to death by reports of child snatchings — agreeing in large numbers to have their kids tagged and monitored, then later agreeing that in the interests of safety all children should be required to do the same?  (And, of course, prisoners, parolees, mental patients, the elderly and on and on.)

And so a generation of sheep would grow up — a generation thinking there’s nothing at all out of the ordinary about having their every move tracked and recorded.  They wouldn’t grieve their lost privacy, since they would never really have known it.  And after that the next step of extending the program to the whole population would become easier and easier.

Remember, the government isn’t trying to spy on you, just to protect you.  

Besides, if you’re doing nothing “wrong,” you have nothing to fear, right?

So, yes, sometimes I do feel like giving up.  But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the Constitution of the United States go up in flames on my watch — at least not without one hell of a fight. 

So, please, stay in the fight as well, Fatigued in Fredericksburg.  There are too many fools filling the air with nonsense for someone as thoughtful as you to stand silent.



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Dear Winston,

You pathetic liberals are such cowards.  Why, I’ll bet you never even watch Fox News.  What’s the matter, commie, you afraid of hearing the truth?


Pissed off in Peoria

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Dear Pissed Off,

Always glad to hear from you, my friend.

In answer to your question, I don’t watch Fox News when searching for the truth for pretty much the same reason I don’t go to a feedlot when searching for a four-leaf clover.  While it’s certainly possible that I may eventually discover one there, I prefer not having to dig through that much shit while trying to find it.



Check out the last edition of dear Winston here.

 Check out our episodes archive here.

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2 Responses to “Dear Winston, the media sucks and welcome to Big Brother edition”

  1. FreeDem Says:

    Why outrage is muted?

    Think of how much time you spend reading and learning on the internet, and how that is helped by blogs like Buzzflash, Truthout, etc. and think about those who are not yet aware of these sites.

    Then think about how many folk don’t have that time, or focus on Sports, Movies, or other entertainment. Using the ‘Net only for email etc.

    Then remember all those with limited or no access to the Net, whose only access to news at all is radio, TV or occasionally a newspaper. Even if they don’t agree with the goals, the GOP is framing the conversation, and common knowledge to those who would read this, is alien and unknown to those who cannot.

    So even if they are mad at congress for not taking Bush on, as you point out they are made to feel that they are out of the mainstream, even as they are at the center of it.

    With all that it is not surprising that they seem to be in a separate universe.

  2. CCone Says:

    Saying children have less rights is saying they are a sub-section of the USA. It was like Nazi Germany. First it was the Poles, then it was the Jews and then anyone who stood up against the Nazis. There is trickle up lose of our personal freedoms. There are false positives out there, and who is making sure that no one is testing for other things. How about your private medical issues?

    Too many people are lax on this point. Benjamin Franklin said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Franklin’s Contributions to the Conference on February 17 (III) Fri, Feb 17, 1775

    I never signed a contract to be drug tested here at work, but about two weeks ago, they told the Contract personnel to go and take the test. I refused, and I guess I am too valuable to lose because I am still here. Power to the People. I stood on my 4th Amendment rights.

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