There used to be a bumper sticker that said "Kill Your TV." A
puckish thought at the time, it was nonetheless prescient, and if it didn't mean
cutting our hoops umbilical cord we would probably do it.
In many ways, the days since the election are the final straw. Don't
worry, we're not going to discuss your candidate or even mention the results or
controversies or anything. That's your business. However, we do think it's
important to say this: the media is out of control, dishonest, and untrustworthy
and doesn't merit your further attention. Well that's overly broad. We should
limit that to TV.
Here's what bugs us: whether it's the election, or OJ, or Rodney King, or
whatever bit of American grotesquery pops up, there is an inherent conflict for
television news. On the one hand, they should certainly report the news; on the
other, it is clearly in their financial interest to hype controversies and to
prolong them and to take advantage of free programming. This leads to what
we have started calling the Crossfire syndrome. Once a useful and interesting
show, Crossfire has now descended into a hell of shouted talking points, each
side trying to make their argument stick more firmly in the viewing public's
mind. What rubbish. This is Jerry Springer's world view, and it's
sickening. Most Americans we know are capable of compromise and getting along;
we see it in grocery lines and four way stops every day - people sacrificing
some personal interest for the greater good.
TV news has really started working against that noble characteristic of our
culture. Whether it's Crossfire, or God help us, Geraldo, it's become
simply a place to shout slogans and plant seeds of idiocy among the
So what we urge you to do is this: pick a number of interesting, thoughtful
publications and writers, turn your TV off, and start getting your news
online. Most are available through the web now one way or another. We
would recommend reading people like Christopher Hitchens and George Will,
Charles Krauthmammer and Andrew Sullivan, Walter Williams and Mickey Kaus.
We fully realize that if you are on the left you will see corporate control of
the media as creating a bias, and that if you are on the right that you'll see a
liberal bent throughout the media. That's fine by us. But do
yourself a favor. Turn it off, log on, and go to sites like the Nation, and the
New Republic, National Review and the Weekly Standard. The Wall Street Journal
has an editorial section up now; the Village Voice is on line.
All of these sites have vital and interesting writers, and you will find some
who will gratify you and others who infuriate you. That's
wonderful. What you won't find is people shouting slogans like airport
culties. Just as we recommend tuning out the announcers at basketball
games, you can get the gist of the news now online and certainly in
magazines. It's a calmer, more reflective way to judge the events of the
day and you won't have to put up with what passes for public discourse these
days, which is to say sloganeering and propagandizing. You'll see. There
is a way out, and it's called the off button on your remote.
Not convinced? Consider one last thing. Both OJ Simpson and Paula Jones,
realizing that the media are using them to make money, have started asking for
money in return for their words or images. Again, we aren't taking a stand
on either of these figures, but there's no question that being at the center of
media storms has changed their positions. If TV is truly interested in providing
news as a public service, let them prove it by rejecting ads at times of great
public concern. No? We didn't think so.