Friday, February 22, 2008

So I Watched "Outfoxed" In My Communication Class...

I'm taking Communications at my local Junior College and it's a cool class. I figure that since I'm writing a book and I'm thinking about doing something with film or TV I should get a serious background and I'm learning a lot of new stuff that I didn't know before. So today we watched about an hour of "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism", the intention being to show the influence of Fox News upon the cable news industry. You can tell from the title that it's not a favorable portrait of Fox News but the film is flawed in many ways. In the end the hypocrisy of the story telling overwhelms a very important message about the sad state of what passes for journalism today.

To be fair and balanced (he he) I should tell you that I don't like Fox News over all. I like Sheppard Smith and I will watch Bill O'Reily once in a while depending on what story he's covering because the guy can be entertaining and even right about certain issues. Beyond that I find that Fox News gives me mental diarrhea. Working in a Motel with the TV on for eight hours has given me a front row seat and since I'm a news junkie I have one of the three cable news outlets on at any time (unless LOST, Smallville or The Office is on) and I have seen everything that passes for Cable News at one time or another. Fox's morning show, 'Fox & Friends" is so vapid that it actually sucks IQ points from my brain. The hosts are the stupidest humans in North America and I didn't think anyone could beat the Today Show in that department. I picture the office manager for Fox & Friends deciding to stalk the supply cabinet with the kind of paste they use in Kindergarten because the Hosts are prone to eating glue. Gerraldo Rivera? What can I say? Fox News and Gerraldo are a match made in Heaven. Fox News is my main source of missing college kids, murdered housewives and scary news stories. So "Outfoxed" should have made my day, but it didn't.

The problem with the movie is that all the source material comes from Left-Wing and FAR-LEFT organizations and even thought the film starts off well it quickly slides into an unfocused mess. At about the half-hour mark the film loses it's focus on journalism and heads into political issues. Fox has never tried to hide their point of view, they're like a Right-Wing Pravda and there's no point in emphasising the obvious. Yet the director cannot help himself and it quickly becomes a shrill, anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Christian rant. From here there is a sad, intellectual blindness that hurts the film's credibility. The prime example is an on-air confrontation between Fox's Bill O'Reily and an anti-war activist named Jeremy Glick, who was using the fact that his father had been killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center to give himself legitimacy. O'Reily has a patriotic hissy-fit and everything that comes out of Glick's mouth just tick's him off even more. O'Reily kills the interview and they have security escort Glick from the studio. Not Bill's best day. The problem is that the documentary tries to say that O'Reily then misstated what Glick had said on the broadcast. They dispute O'Reily's claim that Glick claimed that Bush (George HW Bush) was to blame for the attacks of 9/11 and imply that Glick hadn't even implied this. Yet when you check the transcripts that is EXACTLY what he implied: that in - six months before the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, starting in the Carter administration and escalating while Bush's father was head of the CIA, we recruited hundred thousand radical mujahadeens to combat a democratic government in Afghanistan, the Turaki government.

Glick: Why would I want to brutalize and further punish the people in Afghanistan...
O'Reily: Who killed your father!
Glick:...didn't kill my father.
O'Reily: Sure they did. The Al Qaeda people were trained there.
Glick: The Al Qaeda people? What about the Afghan people?
O'Reily: See, I'm more angry about it than you are!
Glick: So what about George Bush?
O'Reily: What about George Bush? He had nothing to do with it.
Glick: The director - senior as director of CIA.
O'Reily: He had nothing to do with it.
Glick: So the people that trained a hundred thousand Mujahadeen who were...
O'Reily: As respect - as respect - in respect for your father, who was a Port Authority worker, a fine American, who got killed unnecessarily by barbarians...
Glick: By radical extremists who were trained by this government...
**I'll comment on this at the bottom**
The film shows this exchange in it's entirety and yet the film then tries to tell you that he (Glick) didn't say what he said. This is sad and a telling commentary about the true power of Fox News.
As Fox News rose in rating's prominence the competing cable news channels and even the network news agencies took notice. When I say they took notice, what I mean is that they began to freak out. CNN, once the most reliable news source in the world, has now become a sad, cowering shadow of it's former self. No longer news-driven, CNN now frames it's news into packaged stories just as Fox News does and they populate the morning with pleasant talking heads who seem to be gunning for Fox's reign of vapidness. Or is it vapidity? Anyway, CNN is like a sinking aircraft carrier, you hate to see it go but you cannot help but watch. I should state that CNN' downfall stems from other factors as well: relocating from Atlanta to New York and the sale by Ted Turner, who's maverick outlook on life was reflected by his news network. CNN is competing with MSNBC in the race to see which one can become the Liberal answer to Fox News. MSNBC's actions are probably less forgivable than CNN's because of it's lineage to NBC News, and there was a time when NBC was the best television news for about twenty years. MSNBC is a mess. They have decided to directly counter Fox News' flagship shows with alternative programming. Keith Olbermann runs opposite Bill O'Reily and just like O'Reily there is very little credibly news and a lot of opinion. So for that hour there is no real news discussed on two of the three cable news networks. MSNBC does have Chris Matthews, who's been around the track enough that you can get information from him that you can't get elsewhere.
The problem is that instead of being quality news outlets, CNN and MSNBC are trying to play Rupert Murdoch's game and we viewers are the ones who are losing out. Because Fox News's format is profitable the other cable news networks ( specifically the corporations that own them) are losing their grip on credibility from all of their drooling as they chase Fox's money train. The greatest evil today is that news agencies (papers, TV and radio) are owned by companies that do not understand news and need to make higher profits. While it is possible to get rich with a news organization you (if you are smart) have to live with about an 8% to 12% profit margin. Those margins give regular companies a heart attack, so when some corporation buys a news organization and they look at the books they immediately try to figure out how to boost that margin to 19% to 25% (or more). So they first start to cut positions and consolidate the newsroom. The first thing to go are the foreign correspondents. In the 1960s and 1970s viewers then could count on reliable coverage from just about anywhere in the world. ABC, CBS and NBC all had foreign correspondents all over the globe. They were invaluable because they lived in the countries that they covered and we able to offer perspective and insight that is lost today. The next to be cut are editors and with them go little things like common sense and rational thinking. Stories today just aren't as well sourced as they once were and this has eroded credibility with the public as increasingly stories run my major network and cable news outlets are proven to be wrong. The Internet today features dozens of blogs that do nothing but correct news stories and the bi product of this is that the public has begun to turn to blogs to get their news.
This is all due to Fox News and it's business model: Political one-sidedness+ sensational stories+sleazy stories+ loudmouth pundits = $$$. Who cares if any of it is correct of even true?
"It's not a lie if you believe it" George Costanza, Seinfeld.
Mr.Glick is confused, as many Americans are about who the Mujahadeen were. More specifically he is clueless as to who the CIA trained.
The CIA trained Afghan refugees in camps along the Pakistan/Afghan border. Foreign fighters were usually on their own and this included the Arabs. Osama bin Laden had been contacted by a third party and asked if he desired assistance from the CIA and he said no and for two reasons: 1. He felt that this was a Muslim cause and the west should but out and 2. He hated the United States even back then. So Glick's assertion that the CIA trained the men who would later make up Al Qaeda is false.
The Taraki government was not democratically elected. He came to power in a Communist coup. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan as his government began to fail. Glicks assertion that we had over-thrown a lawful government in Afghanistan is false. Worse, he overlooks the mass-murder of civilians by Soviet forces during their occupation.
George H W Bush was director of the CIA from 1976 to 1977. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It wouldn't be until 1981 that the CIA would get serious about training the Mujaheddin.
Once again Glick is wrong.
Al Qaeda is a sophisticated organization run by very smart men. Their capabilities are matched only by their sense of dramatic irony. The fact that their pilots all trained in the United States speaks to both.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Junior College 22 Years Later

The last time I walked out of a classroom at the Junior College it was 1986 and I had finished Music Theory. I got a "B".

I was not a serious student when I was a teenager, the only reason that I'd even sign up was so that my mother's medical insurance would cover me. I took Arabic and did well in that class but my college transcript is a wasteland of drops and incompletes. Then my family situation changed and I was forced into working full time. Working full time meant that I no longer paid attention to the semesters and time of year so by the time I'd think about registering for a class it was too late. Time went on and I just settled into my life.

Then last December I was goofing around on the Net and went to the local JC's website and looked at the classes and schedules. I then registered and then signed up for three classes: Spanish 1A, Introduction to Communications and Marine Science. This week I went back to school for the first time and it has been fun and not the stressful encounter that I thought it was going to be. The teachers are all really great at what they do and I can already fumble around greeting people and asking them where they are from and where they live in Spanish. The biggest suprise has been Marine Science because it is shaping up to be the most fun of all three classes, this to the point of maybe making Marine Science my major. The teacher is really into his subject and interested in his students which makes for a positive environment.

The coolest thing about this turn at education is that there isn't the social pressure that I felt when I was a kid. I don't know anybody here now and I'm older than 95% of the students and thus I am free from the soap opera that underscored school in my youth. You know, worrying about how cool people think I am, worrying about looking lame in front of women and just the whole post-Highschool social pecking order that I'm no longer involved in. The saddest thing about the local junior college (or any local JC) is that you will have students who try to maintain their highschool's social climate. It's sad because they still act like it's highschool and they disrupt classrooms as they insist on talking durring lectures and they take their show to the student common areas where they perpetuate their immature behavior. I paid for my enrollment with my VISA card. I wonder how the hell they paid for their classes?

Anyway, I am a free man. A Grown up. I'm going to school to work for my future.

It feels good