Thursday, November 22, 2012

The More I Know, the Less I Expect From My Fellow Man

I'm just an old dinosaur. I still read the paper every morning. Yep, the old inky-fingered habit of going out on the front lawn, getting the paper, unwrapping it and settling in with morning coffee in the easy chair and finding out what is going on in the world.

I believe that the newspaper is still the best way to get your news. It's not the fastest, for sure. Between the evening news, the emails from all the news sources I've subscribed to over the years, and the 24 hour news cycle that bombards me from every monitor that fills my day, whether I'm sitting in a restaurant, or pretty much any place of business these days, or at the gym, or the news popups on my iPhone and iPad, there are very few headlines that I haven't already heard about by the time I pick up the morning paper.

But the ones that I haven't heard about yet, those are the ones that are often the most interesting. Like today, this Thanksgiving 2012, there's a small story about two news co-anchors at the Bangor, Maine television station WVII, who unexpectedly resigned on-air at the end of the 6 PM broadcast. The article is about 15 column inches long, and throughout it gives no reason for the resignations, except for vague allusions to  "a dispute over journalistic practices".

Mike Palmer, the station vice president and general manager, is the only person quoted in the story, and he comes off a bit heavy handed. A read-through of his comments left me with the sense that he was basically saying "good riddance to bad rubbish". Yeah, I know, pretty dated reference. But hey, I'm fifty-eight years old, and it's my blog, so if you think you can do better, then get your own blog.

The last paragraph of the story is the payoff, though. It's so delicious that I want to quote it verbatim; "WVII [an ABC affiliate] and another station that Palmer manages, Fox affiliate WFVX, have made headlines before. In 2006, the New York Times reported that Palmer prohibited his staff from doing stories on global warning."

Really? As late as 2006? Who's the dinosaur now?

This guy Palmer is a real piece of work, isn't he? A little Googling filled me in better on his history. Like the story said, in 2006, the two stations he managed were no longer allowed to report stories on global warming. But there's more to it than that. It was after one of his stations did a live report from the opening of the movie An Inconvenient Truth. He sent an email to staff asking, "where we should send the bill for the live shot Friday at the theater for the Al Gore commercial we aired", and then went on to say he wanted no more stories on global warming until "Bar Harbor is underwater, then we can do global warming stories. Until then, no more." His rationale was that "a) we do local news, b) the issue evolved from science to hard politics and c) what you might have heard from the mainstream media, this science is far from conclusive".

When you try to find out more about this guy, he's a bit like smoke; easy to see but hard to pin down. Except for a short quote in the most recent article about the anchors quitting, he isn't given to interviews or explaining his actions. Which pretty much leaves those of us wondering about this great, fat idiot to draw our conclusions by inference and Googling. But we're left with inference only, because after reviewing 12 pages of Google results, I still couldn't find anything about Mike Palmer except that he's a global warming denier and two of his station news anchors told him to shove their jobs up his butt on television, and all across the internet as the video goes viral.

In fact, the only thing out there about him other than these two stories is his Linked In page, where I learned that he started out in Sales & Marketing. Now, how a person who whores products and services for a living gets to make decisions about news content, well, that's beyond me. To deny global warming even in 2006, much less today, is a genocidal exercise in putting lipstick on the biggest pig of all; our planet and our future on it.

Good luck with your Karma, Mr. Palmer.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chomsky and Me

Every time I pick up one of Chomsky's books, it's very much like stepping through the looking glass. It never stops reminding me how invasive our culture is in affecting the way that I perceive the world around me. Yes, I know. That sounds a bit like the first step to insanity, followed by less frequent bathing, hoarding, feral cats and all. But hear me out on this.

Today I picked up Rethinking Camelot; JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture, and in the introductory paragraphs he mentions how this book - or booklet, really - was intended to be part of another book, Year 501; The Conquest Continues, as part of a theme he is trying to help us all see that the war in Indochina was a continuation of the 500 year European-centric conquest of the world, that the "war planning for Indochina illustrates rather clearly some leading features of the Columbian era".

You see, like Howard Zinn, Chomsky looks at the world through the prism of those who are being beat over the head with the stick, and not from the perspective of those holding the stick, that stick-holder being you and me, dear fellow American.

So, quite normally, he sees the invasion of South Vietnam BY THE UNITED STATES as nothing more than an extension of that same effort that brought Columbus to the shores of the New World - the Bahamas, actually - where he immediately enslaved the Arawak inhabitants and worked them mercilessly at mining for gold and silver until he turned a population of about a half a million human beings into about 500 in the 1550 census. Fifty-eight years and about a half a million deaths.

But I wasn't taught that in school. I was taught that he discovered America and established relationships with the Indian tribes that he encountered. In the same way, the American media didn't tell me what was going on in Vietnam when I was growing up, getting nearer and nearer to that magic number of 19, when I'd be eligible for the draft and get to go over there and carry out the policies of our government in it's terrorist war against the people of Vietnamese, both North and South, especially South.

And that is the odd part, that it was the South that we waged our war of terror against. You see, I was being told that we were there to help the people of South Vietnam. But in fact, we were killing them by the bushel basket. We can look back clearly now and in the de-classifed records see that this was true. As an example, read the Toldeo Blade's Pulitzer Prize winning series about Tiger Force and their operations in South Vietnam.

Here is an opening paragraph:

"This series reveals for the first time anywhere that members of a platoon of American soldiers from the 101st known as Tiger Force slaughtered an untold number of Vietnamese civilians over a seven-month period in 1967."

This all came out in 2003. Seymour Hersh uncovered and reported about the My Lai Massacre in 1969. The massacre occurred in March of 1968, and United States government covered it up until if finally leaked out to the "radical press", and from there was picked up and printed in America by the St. Louis Dispatch.

Many were involved in My Lai, and many more in the attempted cover-up. But only one was prosceuted; Lt. Calley. He was sentenced to life in prison. But instead of being reviled by us all as the leader of a gang of mass murderers - which is surely what he was - we responded by making the 45 RPM single The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley a one million copy seller in just four days. It was declared a gold record on April 15th, 1971. The day after his sentencing, that sentencing was quietly modified from confinement at Fort Leavenworth to house arrest at Fort Benning. And then, after a few years had elapsed, he was ultimately awarded a Presidential Pardon by Richard M. Nixon at the end of 1974.

If you can read any of that and call anything we did over there an effort to help the people of South Vietnam, then you are a prime example of the point I'm trying to make; through a bending of facts, to an underreporting of events, to outright lying, a media can shape the way that we perceive events until there is no truth in what we know about something. Whether it's the annihilation of the Arawak people by the man that we revere as our nation's discoverer, or the whole nation cheering for the release of Lt. Calley and the creation of him as some sort of demented hero through a wildly popular song, even though somewhere between 374 and 504 unarmed people, mostly women, children - including infants in their mother's arms - and old men were forced into ditches and massacred.

But it's even more than that. More later...