Getting it right
A good example is last Thursday, when a segment pondered the question of Barack Obama's supposed lack of support from "Latino" voters.
First, it must be explained that the term "Latino" refers to anyone whose ancestry derives from speakers of the Latin-based "Romance" languages: "Italian," "French," "Spanish," "Portuguese," and "Romanian." In the vernacular it has devolved into a term for people of "Mexican," "Puerto Rican," "Cuban," and "Dominican" descent, as well as from various other nations of the "Americas" that are former colonies of "Spain" and "Portugal."
The thesis, or really rumor, was presented that because Hillary Clinton gained more votes than Obama among "Latinos" in the primary elections, that he has a challenge ahead in the general election. I was going to respond, but didn't have the time. I trusted that others would find this "analysis" faulty, and they did, pointing out that Obama leads McCain in polling among "Latinos" 62 to 28 percent. NPR can at least be credited with airing the responses, but it amounted to Gilda Radner's "Never mind" routine on Saturday Night Live.
The other telling episode in the state of "American" journalism was last Sunday's Meet the Press. The show's host, Tim Russert, died on June 13, so a panel of colleagues was assembled to engage in warm remembrances. You can watch it here.
There's nothing wrong with remembering a fallen friend and colleague, but when it is done on what purports to be a news interview program, the true nature of TV journalism is revealed. It's TV first, and journalism somewhere below first.
In order to make a profit, a television network has to bring advertisers to the shows it offers. That requires showmanship. That's not a bad thing. Without showmanship you lose viewers, and become something akin to the fringe offerings of a certain "community" radio station here in Madison.
Where it becomes a problem is when the reporters, interviewers, and commentators think that they are the news, that they are key "players" in the "game" of government and world affairs. Indeed, because they are on TV more, they can easily fall victim to the delusion that they are the most important "players." The term "celebrity journalist" was coined to describe this phenomenon, which now has become so disgustingly pervasive.
As far as journalistic quality is concerned, Tim Russert was better than most. Ralph Nader praised him on yesterday's Democracy Now, saying this:
Well, the last conversation I had with Tim Russert, maybe a month and a half ago, he told me how much he believed in intellectual tension on his program. He used that phrase, “intellectual tension.” I think that marked his willingness to have, other than the normal redundant Washington politicians on his show, although he had plenty of those, but I think why thousands of people lined up near the Washington Cathedral to pay their respects yesterday is because he had the human touch. He was the busiest mega-journalist in Washington; he ran the Washington office, he was on Meet the Press, he had a book review program on cable, he was on call by MSNBC and NBC all the time. And yet, no Washington journalist of his stature returned more calls to more people. So it wasn’t just an empty PR gesture on his part. I think he really was from South Buffalo.
Others are not so admriring, remembering Russert as a servant of power. Pierre Tristam for one, wrote this critique. I linked to Linda Milazzo's challenge to Russert before he died in my previous post. John Nichols offers a balanced remembrance here.
I happened to have an interaction a few years ago with Tim Russert, unrelated to his work as a TV journalist. I pretended not to know who he was. He was a decent enough guy, warm and with a sense of humor. I felt sad when he died, and wondered what his next experience would be. Unlike the panel of celebrities remembering his greatness, I always wonder about the present and future. I wonder what became of the many thousands who have been killed since the beginning of the Bush "presidency." Where do the people go that were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks? Where do the people go who have been killed in "Afghanistan" and "Iraq?" Where do the people go who died in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?
It's something to ponder. I of course wonder where I will go when the time comes. I wonder what form I will take the next time around. In my guru-following days it was often mentioned that to take a human birth is a great blessing, and something to be lived with great care and respect. I haven't always lived up to that ideal, but have organized my life around the pursuit of a higher level of consciousness.
One thing I don't wonder about is what will become of the members of the Bush criminal regime. That's not my not my problem, and not my interest. I remember a teacher in my yoga days who said "Mysterious are the ways of Karma." What matters is what we do here. We have an opportunity to bring this gang to justice, and thereby improve our own sowing and reaping. If we have done what we could to stand for a decent standard of justice and civilization, then maybe we deserve another chance at being human. Or, as Willie Nelson once put it, you keep coming back until you get it right. It's easier to get it right when you come back as a human.
A tune to fit the subject.
The search for a higher ground might take you here.
This is required for getting there.
This is a good metaphor.
And of course this.