Sunday, November 25, 2012

Post No. 183: My News Station is Red Hot; Your News Station Ain’t Doodly Squat

© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In response to our post-election piece, Douglas commented about public perception of sitting presidents. He pointed to instances where “the media” did not treat past presidents as kindly as Obama following storm-related disasters.

While he did not actually attack the media or indicate which media outlet he preferred, we recalled that some have complained about bias in news reporting.

A few days ago, we watched Network on TCM. When released in 1976, some questioned the role of corporations in the reporting of news. A week before, TCM aired Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, with an Andy Griffith so far removed from Mayberry, it will make you gasp. The 1957 masterpiece foresaw the growing influence of TV.

In response to Douglas we noted:

1) "The media" at the times referenced (1992, 2005, and 2012) was different due to the state of technology and the number of outlets;

2) Although "the media" has always consisted of citizens, the role of lay citizens is more pronounced than in the past when we essentially had "professional" journalists;

3) We used to think of "news" as distinct from "entertainment." That line (if ever it existed, Charlie Brown) is blurrier than ever. We have more entertainment types weighing in today, be they Eva Longoria, Chuck Norris, Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, or Eevva Longorrrria;

4) There are intangibles which people feel about others, especially when bombarded with images (in this case Presidents), but can't quite, or choose not to, articulate. Bill Cosby could give money for school kids, and most would say it was a gracious gift. Oprah Winfrey could do the same, and many would swear it was a tax deduction motivated gesture;

5) Everything is about timing and context. The social, political, economic, and technological situations 6-12 months prior to each reference date should be factored into how people perceived the respective presidents;

6) We strongly suspect the vast majority of Americans visit the "media outlets" which smell the best to them, and remind them of their more idyllic youth. Douglas often reminds us that everyone has a bias. Although some work hard to reduce it, others let it all hang out. At this point in our information evolution, people legitimately do not know who or what to objectively believe, and so they believe what they want to believe;

7) We have become a nation which dissects the hourly conduct of our presidents, including trips to the bidet. Imagine watching a basketball game where the coach is rated each time a flush is made, instead of waiting until the end of the game, or the end of the season. Plus, every interest group has 27 different factors by which they evaluate the president.

Had Romney won, within 18 months folks would have been calling for his head for his failure to provide quick enough assistance to Hurricane Sandy states and revive our sluggish economy. What’s frightening is that the same folks will criticize Obama 18 months from now.

We're on an exponential path of increasingly unreasonable expectations (substantially due to communications technology). No elected president will ever be able to truly satisfy 50% of the citizens again, UNTIL (a) the global economy comes roaring back and the benefits trickle down to the common citizen (something over which the president has little control), or (b) there is a war of major consequence. That president will ride that wave of prosperity, or wave of patriotism, for which a cause and effect relationship cannot be honestly established.

Since the beginning, engineers, scientists, inventors, and new thinkers have spurred new technology. It is technology that drives prosperity. The use of that technology drives industry, and trade and industry create jobs and drive tax revenues. When all is humming, an economy is strong enough to keep enough people employed, and fewer folks bitching about basics. The have-not voices are drowned out, or there are enough crumbs for the haves to toss to convert their screams to mumbles.

8) That's what this last election should have been about: how to ignite an explosion of creativity, inventiveness, and innovation. The reality is that government action, or inaction, may encourage but does not drive that.

So here’s the deal, college students. Too many Baby Boomers (Institute Fellows included) abdicated our responsibilities and became fat and complacent as the size of the prosperous middle class grew. We developed an unrealistic expectation that things would always get better and America would continue to be No.1, without a sufficient number of us putting in the effort required to stay No. 1. (What the muck made us think the children of each succeeding generation would live better lives than their parents? Hope?)

With each passing year, we expect more of our elected officials (who are not in a position to deliver) and for government to do “something,” more or less. It’s neither the fault of government, nor our elected leaders.

It is the logical result of human societal evolution once we started removing the food generation burden from individuals, and figured out that a few could generate excess food permitting most the “luxury” to pursue other pursuits of choice. Once we created “jobs,” people became dependent on them, and on receiving currency from some source. Additionally, we failed to recognize the challenges presented by leisure time.

Only individual citizens can pull us out of this mess. We cannot rely on government or corporations (including those owning major media outlets) seeking less regulation and favorable tax treatment. They are the last folks to whom we should be listening, no matter what the nature of the message.

Neither my, nor your, news station is red hot; both of our stations are doodly squat.


  1. I am disappointed that you have not garnered some comments yet. I might disagree with some of your analysis (blaming technology, for example, rather than those using that technology) but not all of it. You see, that also fits into my "we listen to what we want to hear, see what we want to see, believe what what we want to believe" theory of Man.

  2. Douglas:

    You've been with us long enough to recall that we occasionally raise the issue of what prompts our readers to respond versus not respond. On occasion, we have theorized that when 95% of the heads are nodding, we get fewer comments, despite having a large number of readers who took the time to digest the piece.

    Quite frankly, as the Laughingman once told the Logistician, we have absolutely no idea why some posts generate numerous comments, and others virtually none.

    In our view, we do not "blame" technology, since the concept of blame implicitly suggests a preference or relative subjective assessment. We do believe that the more one knows about a person, and the more one sees of a person, the more information one has to think positively or negatively (depending on their particular value system) about a person. With less information, as was the case in earlier days, one made one's assessment of others on fewer factors. Now we are capable of gathering all of the intimate details of the lives of our public figures.

    We strongly suspect that if the American public knew as much about the intimate details of the lives of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan as we know now at the time they held office, we'd be far less "something" about these men. Perhaps that would be a good thing. Perhaps we'd stop talking about "back in the old days..." as if they constituted "the golden years" here in America.

    Imagine if a guy liked Lincoln cheated on Mary Todd with his videographer and then got her pregnant, or if he engaged in hanky-panky with a White House intern in the Oval Office, we suspect that lots of here-to-fore admirers of the Great Emancipator might be less enamored of him. But then again, some others might say, "Yes!"

  3. In the "old days", the public trusted the guy behind the desk on the TV. Walter, John, Chet & David, and a few others. It wasn't the actual content but the presentation that seemed to matter. TV was the "new" technology.

    As to knowing so much more about the candidates and office holders, perhaps we should remember that the press suppressed its own reporting about JFK's little flings, helped Roosevelt downplay his physical problems while reveling (perhaps not the right word) in Nixon's profanity on those WH tapes.

    I found something of interest:

    The press (or, now, the media) does what it has always done (Jefferson hated the press), that it has access to more information through technology and that there are more "wannabe's" doing the "reporting" does not bother me too much. We once recognized the inherent bias in the media/press and could overcome it by that knowledge, we seem to have lost that level of cynicism that is expressed in that insurance ad with the girl believing "they couldn't put it on the internet if it wasn't true."
    We seem to know the bias is there but we no longer care very much. By "we", of course, I mean the "masses", the "great unwashed", "those others who vote for the other party."

    I do go on, don't I?

  4. Let's say you met a young lady Douglas, and you were only permitted to ask her 5 questions within a day, the answers to which weighed equally in your mind in terms of your decision whether to marry her.

    Then later on, you met another young lady, and you were permitted to ask her 25 questions within a day, the answers to which weighed equally in your mind in regard to the marriage decision again.

    Assuming the same proportion of positive and negative factors for each young lady, are you more likely to marry the first or the second?

  5. Not an apt scenario, I have an ex-wife and I did not vet her well enough. But I was young, rash, and apparently a bit stupid. I took more time with my second and did much better. But it is always a gamble. Both were redheads. As I said, we listen to what we want to hear, we see what we want to see... etc.

  6. There is a lot of laughter in our conference room here at the Institute. Apparently most of the Fellows can relate.

  7. 'Only individual citizens can pull us out of this mess.'

    How? By voting next time for worse criminals because they will be the lesser of available evils?

    By refusing to vote?

    By 'protesting'?

    By revolting, rather than simply being revolting?

    Reginald, my parents would not have been pleased to see your parents buy a house nearby, but they never told me this. They told me to consider other people's feelings, but never mentioned specific groups that might be excused. They told me to be truthful and honest - full stop.

    My father never engaged in conversation, by mother was slightly religious, but a stranger would never have known.

    Without guidance I studied photography and wasted my life. With almost no guidance I acquired the status of 'happy soul' for most of my life. Decade after decade becoming poorer and poorer, but allowed to be a happy soul by socially responsible governments who never expected me to opt out of medical care, or go without unearned support when required.

    LACK of ambition saved my sanity - I think some of your commentators learnt this trick. And your COLLEGE STUDENTS need de-motivation Reginald (like I said before), so that they can learn to deal with having less of everything including a worthwhile vote for president.

    Did anyone read this far? I think Douglas got it right - you should make some comments and your response into a new post with a catchy name.

  8. CorfuBob, before we specifically respond to your comment, what would you suggest that American citizens (perhaps also applicable to those in western industrialized countries) do to address what you perceive to be the problem? Are you suggesting that they scale back their desires, want less, be less competitive, and less ambitious?

  9. I've found that when choosing women and news media, what I watch for is the ones that say maybe and might. I prefer that to the ones that deal in absolutes.
    I had a friend that wanted me to go see the movie OBAMA 2016 and I did, because I try to practice open-mindedness, and she was a redhead.

    Its the first five minutes of the movie they show a picture of the hospital in Hawaii and say this is where Obama was born. They even showed what room he was born in. I wanted to stand up and cheer, but I didn't.
    Anyway, I watched the movie with the redhead, and I could sense the parts that really affected her, the parts that scared her just by her body language and breathing.

    Its amazing, how someone you went to grammar school with, someone you graduated with from the same High School and shared teachers and pastors and friends with for all those formative years, shopping at the same stores and being pulled over by the same cops, you can share all that and have a totally opposite view of the world.

    She took me there because she thought it might change my mind about Obama. And to my surprise, the movie was really done pretty well.The whole movie was designed to either illuminate certain beliefs about Obama, or to reinforce certain fears mightr have about him, But first, you really needed to have a certain world view for that to work.

    It didn't work with me, in fact, it had the opposite effect.

    When they played the scene where Obama is visiting his deceased fathers grave, filling his hand with graveside dirt and letting it trickle through his fingers onto the grave, I was truly touched. it didn't scare me that his father was Kenyan, and my have been a Muslim Communist.
    When it came to the part where they showed a map of North Africa and the Middle East colored all in green, with the words "Nation of Islam" embossed on top, I could feel the fear coming off the redhead.
    Me, all I could think, looking at that map, was "This is how it ought to be".

    i didnt mean to write near this much, but you inspired me to it, so i'll go on.

    A few weeks later, I watched the PBS Frontline report called "The Choice" which gave an informative presentation contrasting the history and views of Romney and Obama. I called a friend and suggested he watch it.

    "No" he said "PBS is completely liberal biased".

    I talked to him later. He said he watched it anyway, and it wasnt that bad.

    "Yeah, I know" I said " After watching the liberal biased Frontline report, i actually have some reasons I might could change my vote to Romney"

    And that is why I love PBS. They say maybe and might, and generally leave me to my own analysis.

    i did a post at Bulletholes today, and managed to link to you. A post you did a while back inspired part of that too.. Good stuff. I'm not as serious minded as you guys, but I try to keep up.

    hey inspector!

  10. Yeah, we are laughing at Bulletholes too!

  11. This is a trick question, is it not, CorfuBob? During the time that you have followed our blog, we have found you to be bright, articulate, well-read, introspective, and to have a good command of world history. We strongly suspect that the vast majority of the effort put into reaching your current state was not dictated or otherwise influenced by what the elected criminals were doing, or anyone else in government for that matter.

    What can the individual citizens do to pull us out of this mess? Simply put, stop relying on others to "lead" us out of it. Many feel that politicians are engaged in an exchange that has almost nothing to do with the common citizen. If that is the case, then we should simply ignore them and move on doing what we are capable of doing. Inventing things, creating new technologies, and finding solutions to problems in our society. Technology, as we have often said, drives everything. Elected officials aren't interested in building the economy; they just collect money from whatever source they can. Their survival depends on it.

    Two other quick thoughts. Even if the U.S. truly became a socialist country and took care of all the "necessities" of its citizens, there still would be a segment of the citizenry who would complain and opt out of full participation and carrying their share of civic responsibility. It's the nature of humans. While we should care about that segment, the reality is that we can not devote too much of our time addressing their issues. We must focus on the majority of citizens.

    We can create a society that values intangibles, and whose members are rewarded for the positive influences they have on society, which are non-monetary in nature. Education, science, medicine, etc. do not have to be pursued only for monetary gain. That's a choice we all have in a free society.

  12. Another thought CorfuBob: The make-up of our stock indices and the Fortune 500 has changed dramatically since 1960. Newer, younger players created new companies which replaced many of the older companies, or pushed them to much lower positions. Although we admit that we have had 25-30 years of "indiscriminate" (and in some instances "unprincipled") profit making resulting in the current economic situation, it was the younger, Baby Boomer generation which brought about this change. The youth of today, which includes our target audience of college students, can exercise the same degree of creativity and innovation and they have the power to make a concomitant change in the world.

    Additionally, they have the benefits of the mistakes made by we Baby Boomers. Whew, we're glad that we have been able to come full circle and find something positive to say about the future of western nations. (At least in the short term.... :) )

  13. Bulletholes:

    Welcome back, and we're glad to see that we are at least inspiring some folks out there. Now WE are inspired.

    But on to the more important question, is the red head a natural or is it Memorex?

    On a serious front, women and the news media are very similar to one another in that both are constantly moving targets, and you never know quite what you are going to get. (And this is from a female member of our staff.)

    We first saw Frontline's "The Choice," when Bob Dole ran against Bill Clinton. We will not reveal what we thought of it since it MIGHT provide you with some insight into our political persuasion, which we are still trying to figure out. We also saw the most recent version.

    Our sense is that you are probably a member of the Constitution Party. Not being a member of either major political party, we suspect that we will not offend you in sharing the following.

    Either shortly before or after President Obama took office, we saw George Will on Charlie Rose's show. (Damn, a PBS show....) Will noted that the "beauty of conservatism" is its "purity." He also noted that conservatives are drawn to one another because their philosophy has "moral clarity."

    To add to this analysis, Jonathan Haidt contends that what progressives fail to appreciate is that to conservatives, politics is like religion, whereas progressives treat it like shopping (i.e., picking and choosing among issues without a requirement that there be any internal consistency.)

    It's a whole different other "thought process," sorta like the difference between the thought processes of men and women.

    You mentioned that you found it interesting that people can grow up together and share many of the same experiences throughout the years and yet develop dramatically different worldviews.

    Another interesting exercise? Engage people who grew up together through grade school, but compare those who stayed in that same home town and never left, with those who left and only recently returned, say to take care of a sick parent. That one will really mess you up.

    Thanks as always for contributing. We value your thoughts.

  14. You know Bob, all day today while we went about our business, we kept thinking about your comment to the effect that "lack of ambition saved [your] sanity." For some unexplained reason, a line from a popular song out of the 1970s kept coming to mind: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

    There is no greater freedom or power (on an individual level) than freedom of choice.

  15. Negative on the Constitution Party.
    I voted rep my whole life until 1992 when I discovered what it meant to vote my conscience, and went with Perot.
    From there, I went Clinton, Bush, Bush.
    I hear people like to say that anyone who didn't vote Dem before they were thirty didn't have a heart, and anyone that didnt vote republican after thirty had no brain.
    I'm pleased to say that these last few years I have found my heart.
    And the redhead? 100% through and through!

  16. In roughly 10 minutes, at 9:00 p.m. EST, C-Span2 Book TV will air a discussion with author Ray Kurzweil, entitled "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed," hosted by Scientific American's Mind Editor, Ingrid Wickelgren. Kurzweil draws on the most recent neuroscience research to reverse-engineer the brain and apply what he has learned to build intelligent machines.

    We believe that if we understand the brain better, then we can better appreciate and tolerate differences in behavior between people. Check it out.


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