February 7, 2006
President Bush doesn’t like the media. He proudly tells the nation that he doesn’t read newspapers, magazines, or books. He and his dwindling corps of sycophants, some of whom prepare his daily briefings, believe the media don’t tell the truth—at least their version of the truth. They are sure the lyin’ liberal media (which they believe is a redundancy) are on a conspiracy to “get him”—or at least expand his world beyond Oil Drip, Texas.
Of course, they’re wrong. For most of his presidency, the media have merely channeled what he says, preferring to confine their investigative reports to the latest Hollywood break-ups, trysts, and scandals.
Before 9/11, the media gave Bush an unbelievable honeymoon, seldom criticizing him for anything except his fractured syntax. After 9/11, the media bought almost everything he said, not unlike the disintegrating Democrats who poke their fingers into the wind to determine that speaking the truth would be a sign of weakness and disloyalty. And so the establishment media, long ago resigned to a lifestyle of digesting massive heapings of press releases and then expelling them as fertilizer to the masses, didn’t challenge his lies about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the “necessity” to suspend a few civil liberties in order to “defeat the enemy,” and never questioned why high oil prices and destroying the environment were in the people’s best interest. They merely saluted and went on to the next story, reporting a mixture of facts, semi-truths, and lies, having decided that in the aura of objectivity their role was to be stenographers, taking “he said/she said” statements to transmit to the people.
Of course, every now and then there’s a blip, enough for the President to lament the media just hate him and all that he stands for. There’s an occasional story about the lack of ethics among the Republican-dominated Congress or massive intrusion on Americans’ civil liberties and rights of privacy. But, those stories are buried by overdoses of celebrity news and Aunt Gertie’s birthday card shower.
At the same time President Bush has attacked the media while also fashioning a message that makes people believe he is a populist—“I’m an outsider to government, just wanting to help the people”—he has used the media as his own personal voice.
What if there were no media? What if for some ethereal reason the media all got together, decided they really were tired, needed a sabbatical, and created a self-imposed moratorium on news, their decision being the last story they published or aired?
The politicians couldn’t all get together to use the media to complain about how bad the media are. Since there are no media, there would be no one at the infrequent press conferences. There would be no media giving up some of their journalistic integrity to jockey for the best seats on Air Force One or at Washington black-tie parties.
With midterm elections in November, how ever would the political parties thrust insipid candidates spouting rickety platforms upon the masses?
There would be no one to accept the myriad pork-barrel press releases from members of Congress who want to show the “folks back home” they care enough about them and their votes, and that’s why they successfully got a naval supply house in Haystacks, Kansas, or a museum in the south side of Chicago dedicated to cow tipping.
They wouldn’t be able to get national air time because there would be no appearances on “Oprah,” the morning semi-news infotainment shows, the evening news, late night talk shows, or even the far more honest and journalistically competent “Daily Show” because they wouldn’t even exist.
There wouldn’t be any radio to capture their distortions of reality and transmit them to an audience that prefers to hear conservative slobbering talk-mouths and Golden Oldies music from the Bayou.
The politicians could still spew press releases, but without media there would be no one to print or televise them. They could distribute millions of flyers and newsletters, but the Government Printing Office is part of the media and, thus, would also be closed. Paid ads in newspapers, radio, and television would be useless since those media don’t exist.
If the Hollywood film industry, which right-wing politicians equate with Satanic verses, went on vacation, the politicians could create their own films and documentaries. But, that won’t happen in a media vacuum.
Politicians could still show their “normal” side by jamming with rock, jazz, or accordion bands—except that music is all part of the mass media. Without music, the government couldn’t even blast loud screeches known as “the Top 40” to terrorists to make them cave in.
Bush league politicians could try putting abbreviated epithets of false promise onto billboards but there wouldn’t be any billboards because they’re also part of the media.
The web? Not a chance. Politicians have been complaining about the web as a source of evil, or at least the repository for bare breast pictures for two decades. The web, the newest mass medium, would already be closed by ethically-challenged and sometimes adulterous politicians who have tried scoring votes by trying to censor Internet sites and messages.
Satellite transmissions would all cease. Politicians could text message their pleas for money or send video clips to the ubiquitous network of cell phones—if cell phones weren’t confiscated as part of the mass media.
Without the media, President Bush and every politician would become useless; they wouldn’t matter; they would be irrelevant. People might even start talking with each other, care about each other.
But, that’s only a fantasy.