“If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

We may be witnessing the dying of an epoch.

From the inception of moving pictures at community theatres until today and into the near future at least, many people have received the news of what is going on in the world around them from filmed or televised news programs. About 80 years, so far. It seems that during the first half of that 80 years, the news men (and a few women – it was mostly men) almost exclusively governed themselves by the credo of journalism – objectivity. Sure, the propaganda films of WWII were more than a little slanted toward the Allies in general and America in particular, but to my knowledge, even then the stories were based in fact. There weren’t any made up actions by the enemy in the manner Germany did when they bombed their own facilities and blamed the Poles for doing so in order to invade Poland. There was a clear sense of “cheerleading’ in the stories of how the war was going but you have to understand that most of the news was relayed from the military to the domestic news organizations to convey to the public. Not a lot of satellite feeds and foreign bureaus in 1943. So, a little slant was to be expected. Besides, the US was in a war for her very survival and the permeating sense of the day was that no matter what you did – ditch digger, housewife, farmer, office worker – you did for the “war effort”.

My grandmother, at least up until I was ten years old (circa 1975), still saved all the cans from canned goods. She would wash them out and peel the labels and let us grandkids cut the bottom out of them and then stomp them flat. She kept a box on the back porch to put them in. We did so dutifully because it was fun and she wanted us to. I asked her once why she did it and she said something to the effect of “…because of the war…” I didn’t know what spinach cans could possibly have to do with Vietnam, but I was a kid – what did I know? When the box was full, my grandfather would take them away. I remember going with him one day to take the cans “off”. We took the cans down across a small field behind their house to a barn. Next to the barn was an old, abandoned well. Us kids had been warned CONSTANTLY to stay away from that well as there was no cover to it. There were, however, some of the most vicious briars – over head high, that you had ever seen so, no prob, we steered clear. Anyway, we took the cans to the well and my grandfather threw them in. Now, as a 10 year old Southern Baptist raised boy in Loganville Georgia, I had no concept of the contemporary acronyms to come with the advent of the internet era, but if a stealthy and resourceful photographer in those days of old had been positioned just right with a proper lens and camera, and said ‘shutterbug’ had been able to capture my reaction to seeing Grandharold throw those cans down that well, there would have inevitably been a trick of the light, or an anomaly of the film that would have made a distinctive pattern above my head. That pattern would have been: “WTF?”. Now I knew Vietnam was on the other side of the world and I wasn’t sure how deep that well was (I didn’t THINK it went all the way through, but like I said, I was a kid), but I was smart enough to know that the first theory that came to my mind as to what throwing those cans in that well was supposed to achieve “because of the war” had some serious fuckin’ holes in it. I inquired further. My grandmother – Nina – told me that “…during “THE WAR” (OK, THE WAR, not that little pissing match they had going on over there in Vietnam or that deal in Korea a few years back, but THE WAR), the country needed every resource it could get for the war effort. Nothing…and I mean NOTHING was wasted because every can you threw in the trash was enough steel to make 15 shell casings. And those bullets might be what saved a young American’s life.” OK, that made sense but I was stuck on the fact that the war had been over for 30 years! She sat me down and told me how people back then had just been through The Depression and had struggled to survive – not struggled to pay the car note or the mortgage or get a flat screen – but to survive. Then, they had the Japs bombing and killing a good portion of our Navy and the Germans taking over all our allies in Europe. Keep in mind folks, the American people were NOT concerned with their insurance rates or credit card bills or gas prices, they had just figured out how to keep enough food on the table to fend off starvation and now they had the Japs and Krauts wanting to KILL them! So, suffice it to say, they were in full survival mode and scared to damn death. Enough so, that in 1975 there was at least one lady in the US of A that was still saving cans for a war effort that had ended about 30 years before. Old habits die hard. Fear does that. She knew the cans were going in the well but she was so IN to the war effort in 1945 that she couldn’t get out of the little bit she dedicated herself to do. Grandharold, in the meantime, had a well that needed filling so WTH?

Where did that flash back come from? Oh, yeah, the news. If Nina was so ingrained to save cans to make tanks that it ended up bordering on OCD, then you gotta figure the news guys were going to do their part. Yeah, American news had a pro-America slant in the day because it HAD to. Otherwise, we’d be all “Guten Tag!” while goose stepping down Booger Bottom Road (yes, there is one).

Back to the task at hand. Up until the 60’s or so, the TV news was a window to the world. You looked out that window and you saw what you could see. Fast forward to now and you look out that same window and there is a guy with a big piece of cardboard with a little hole cut in it. He holds up the cardboard and you can only see what is through the hole. He moves the cardboard around and shows you what he wants you to see. Then he TELLS you what you are seeing. He calls this “focusing” on the important issues. Important to who? You? HA! HE has the cardboard! It’s what’s important to him. But you have other windows so you go to them. More men, more cardboard. On 10-07-1996 you got a new window. Rupert Murdoch hired a fellow named Roger Ailes and started Fox News. There for a while, they didn’t have any cardboard because they figured the “news” was what you could see out your window. They had a guy to point to stuff and tell you what the deal was with what you saw there but he pointed to everything and said, “This is a tree.” Or “That president and that prime minister are talking about trade.” And stuff like that. After a little while, there would be a guy at this window who had cardboard and a hole and he would ‘focus” on an issue. That was OK because that was his job and the guy without cardboard would be back soon. Eventually, the guy without cardboard showed up with cardboard but it had a really big hole in it. It was still cardboard, but “what the hey.” Here lately, the hole is getting smaller and the guys are starting to all look alike. They show you different views of the world outside your window than the other windows but they still have the cardboard. They think you got tired of looking out of the other windows because of what the other guys were showing you and you did, to a point. But the larger point is you were pissed that the guys at the other windows had cardboard at all and you like the window with no cardboard. It wasn’t JUST where the hole in the cardboard was, it was that there was cardboard at all!

Now, as a good “conservative”, I am loathe to criticize Fox News for their news. And, in a way, I’m not. If what is called “Fox News” were to rename itself “Fox Commentary and Celebrity Worship”, I’d be happy. If they would then start up a “News” channel like the one they had before Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck became defacto “news directors, I’d be really happy. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

I think Bill O’Reilly is a big government populist and Glen Beck is a member of what I call “personality driven commentary”. It is fine to have those guys on the air in their time slots giving opinion and commentary. I may or may not agree with what they have to say but let them say it. I didn’t even mind Alan Colmes spewing his stupidity. But when the “news” comes on, I want the cardboard gone and the window to shine the light of day in for me to see. If a guy wants to say, “Look over there! It’s a politician wanting to pass a law about how big your house can be.” Fine. But no cardboard, please! A year or so ago, I started seeing the cardboard with the news guy a little bit at a time and it had Bill O’Reilly’s name scribbled in crayon at the bottom. Now, I’m starting to see a stainless steel shield with “Property of Glen Beck” etched in bas relief right across the middle. That is until some androgynous, racially confused, semi-plastic pedophile died and then they just borrowed Entertainment Tonight’s cardboard for a couple of weeks.

My problem with this is that somehow Fox News has clandestinely accepted the banner of the “voice of the right” while denying it. They claim to be “fair and balanced” and if it looks like it’s slanted to the right, it’s because the other guys are so far left. For a long time that was true, but alas, it is in a tail spin now. They are all but dropping all pretenses to fairness. That’s too bad because they were the last hope of television news. If the choice is to become picking between left wing propaganda and right wing propaganda or no TV news at all, the players need to realize that almost as many people have access to the internet as do TV and they may make a third choice.

People who know me know what an non-statist, staunch conservative* I am. I named one of my kids after Ronald Reagan, for God’s sake, but I don’t need my news spoon fed to me by populist hacks. Searching web pages to get news is kind of a pain in the ass but a guy’s gotta do what a guys gotta do. I’m tired of looking at cardboard.

*Conservative (my definition as it applies to me) – Strict Constructionalist. Fiscal conservative with a preference toward individual liberty. Prefers American military to protect American interests throughout the world as long as American interests are geared toward promoting and protecting free commerce and individual liberty to all peoples everywhere.