Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stop Breaking the News

The past decade or so has seen two concurrent phenomena relating to news organizations:

1) Major (traditional) news outlets have consistently dropped the ball on responsible and investigative journalism; basically most of them have been happy to be Tass-and-Pravda-ized and to serve largely as administration and corporate mouthpieces, and

2) Most of them have actually been fairly honest about it, in a way. They've plainly stated that they're all about 'Breaking News'. Traditional TV news stations are in love with the term 'Breaking News'. I’ve heard local stations refer to themselves as “The leader in breaking news”. You can’t glance at a screen on a traditional news channel without seeing “Breaking news” emblazoned across it. This extends to the net---Check into or or etc., and you'll see the header "Breaking News and blah blah blah". Granted, it is often news that is critically important to public well-being---I remember back in 2006, on the day of the mid-term elections (one of the more crucially important elections in recent memory), around midday I checked in to see early reports on exit polling or public mood/sentiment etc, and discovered that had decided to lead off its main page with “BREAKING NEWS----BRITNEY SPEARS FILES FOR DIVORCE!” (or something to that effect--I can't be absolutely certain, as e-news & TV cover so many such national crises every week---but you get the idea).

Getting back to the point, it is your fault if you thought 'breaking' was an adjective and not a verb. When you see "Breaking News" you should know (by now, anyway) that it is not so much a promo/slogan as it is a confession.

However, I think it is time that they can stop with the headers/slogans now, don't you? After all, they have truly done a heckuva job and 'the news' as we used to know it is effectively, and possibly irreparably, broken. Traditional 'news' has been a joke, a Weapon of Mass Distraction, for some time now; It is all about selling advertizing, ya know, so the programming is either newsertainment or parroting the party line. One of the heaviest ironies of recent times is that while most entertainment TV has shifted to a 'reality' (mostly unscripted) mode, much of 'the news' on TV has been increasingly following a script (mostly a feed from the Ministry of Truthiness, I guess).

Over the past few years the most relevant facts and insight on significant events has been provided by non-traditional news models such as The Daily Show (yes, a humor/parody show has done more than any traditional news outlet to raise public consciousness about the unbelievable assault on democracy that we have seen in recent years) and blog pages such as Talking Points Memo, DailyKos, Huffington Post, Truthout and so on (though HuffPo claims to be breaking news too, so I regard them with a certain suspicion).

Anyway, here are some headlines, from some recently broken news, that needed fixing---so I fixed them.

Firstly, the horrific story of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). I think I got the first screencap from MSNBC and the other from CNN, but every major outlet basically ran it in the same tone. I altered it to reflect more reality.

Virtually every news outlet called it a 'ranch', a 'compound', run by a 'polygamist group' or 'breakaway sect'. Why this sanitization of the facts in the headlines? When you have a culture of ritualized oppression and exploitation of women (to the point of isolation, forced marriage, rape and other kinds of abuse), why soften the words? These people belonged to a CHURCH. The men treated their women this way because they truly believed that the Word of God mandated it. They brainwashed many of the women into believing this garbage. They forced early-teenaged girls to 'marry' lecherous bastards three or four times their age (and who had several dozen other 'wives', no less) and raped these children immediately after the 'marriage ceremony'. So I've fixed the headlines to call it what it is---Ritualized rape and slavery, sanctioned by their view of religion.

Particularly these days, when religious fundamentalism is disturbingly and increasingly gaining traction in this country, it is important to emphasize the fact that wacked-out Christo-fundies can be just as fucked-up as other-religion-fundie-wackos, and that Christianity can be interpreted to perverted extremes just as effectively as any other organized religion---not sanitize this fact with euphemistic language.

Speaking of sanitizing language, we arrive at our second 'headlines-that-need-fixing' issue. You know, when Granpa McCain repeatedly mixes up his Shia and Sunni when talking Iraq policy, it isnt a 'gaffe' or 'misstep' or 'stumble'---even if he treats reporters to private barbecues and stuff.
So this headline from the NYTimes (representative of many headlines across the traditional news spectrum) needed to be fixed as follows:

And finally, not so much from the 'headline fixing' department, but rather the 'lets try and run this side of the story' department......
When CNN runs pieces like "McCain calls temper a very minor thing" or "McCain courts women voters", is it too much to ask them to follow up and grill McCain on this story? Here's a charming excerpt:

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day.

And no, it isn't trash journalism to follow that up. The major news outlets recently spent a couple of weeks playing the story that Hillary Clinton may have been in the White House during Bill's tryst with Monica Lewinsky---if that is considered to be even remotely relevant to her current campaign, this McCain story should be a front-page lead. Besides, that story, if true, may be very pertinent. The character of a man is not revealed in his broad, expansive, public persona; it is revealed in little everyday actions in ordinary situations. It is pretty bad for a man to speak to any woman in that fashion---even in private---but for man to say that to his wife, in the presence of others, may be indicative of how routine that kind of language, and that kind of attitude/thinking, is to him.

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Robb said...

Well done.

Very presidential quote. It's hard (but fun) to imagine Ronnie calling Nancy a "c*nt", don't you think?

I guess that will really help him connect with the self-hating soccer mom demographic.

Anonymous said...

If it quacks, it's a duck.

This duck is quackin loud and clear.

Yackety, this is all nothing more than the shit that wrote most of the misogynistic bibles (First And Second Tests), Koran, and led many other pre Christian multi idol worship societies to do the same as you've described.

It's abuse, by males, top to bottom.

They should be held responsible for the HORROR they've committed upon the innocents.


Anonymoustache said...

Yup, I can't imagine ol' Ronnie saying that, but I can imagine ol' Frankie Blue Eyes saying it to Nancy! Ba-dum-bump-tisssssshh!!
OK, you can't set it up on a tee like that for me dude---I got no self-control---look what you made me do---I bet I just pissed off pretty much everyone with that joke. Everyone? OK, well, both the people who read this blog....

Drugmonkey said...

"obama gave us a hug"...??!?!?!! WTF!!11?

Did you or did you not call your wife a "trollop" and a "cunt"? THAT's a fucking question you media fluffheads!

Drugmonkey said...

let's try this link.

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

Love the literal vision of "breaking the news."

Now, McCain turns my tummy as much as the next lib, but I do sort of think his communications to his wife are not necessarily for us to judge. I say this only because Dr Hyde regularly calls me "SuperMegabitch," but in a, you know, endearing way.

However, if someone can come up with ANY evidence that he said it with genuine mean-spiritedness, OR if he's said anything on that level to another woman, then nail his ass to the wall. And hurrah. Nothing sends the female vote our way faster than the news that a candidate belittled his wife in front of others.

Anonymoustache said...

As to your take on McCain's statement, I disagree. I think it is pretty clear from the report that McCain said it in anger (not that it matters). For a career politician to belittle his wife, in the presence of others no less, is revealing. To use words like trollop and cunt is shockingly suggestive of a certain mindset.
Also, while I think it is relevant in any case (as it provides a window into the soul of a president wannabe) I think it is particularly relevant in the context of his wooing the women vote---when he acts like he cares about women's issues and when the press does fluff pieces to make him look less of a sexist pig.
Finally, (I know I'm about to step into a minefield in trying to distinguish between shades of grey in slur, but) I think there is a huge difference between calling someone a 'bitch' and calling her a 'trollop/cunt'. While the former is not complimentary, it is more generally viewed as a (derogatory) comment on a person's attitude more than as a slur on her gender per se. The latter, on the other hand, equates the person to a sexual organ, implying that that is all she is; it harkens back to the era where women were viewed and held as 'things' that were only meant to serve a man's sexual, reproductive and culinary desires. As we see regularly (most recently with the FLDS, and with McCain's comments in a way) this era is far from dead in the hearts and minds of far too many men. So when it rears its ugly head, it must be exposed for the evil that it is, and destroyed without mercy.

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

Yeah, I agree those are much nastier sentiments. I'm just saying--the report makes it sound as though he was angry, but who knows if that's true? It's so easy for a reporter to slur the tone of someone's remarks by setting them out of context (Rev. Wright coming to mind about now...) And it does matter to me how seriously he spoke. People develop all sorts of strange conventions in their marital lingo.

Relatedly--I've heard people say they won't support Clinton because she stuck with Bill even though he cheated on her and humiliated her in Mega Public. To me, that's not a good reason. It's her (and his) marriage; let them do with it what they please. (Now her Iraq vote is a different matter....)

Anyhow, I obviously would not mind if fallout from this caused McCain to lose his burnished aura in the eyes of the press, and women voters, since his anti-abortion stance is plenty anti-female enough for me already. Just saying, I'm trying to stay away from finding fault in other people's marriages. Got enough to do in my own ;)