David Letterman’s monologue on Monday (starts at 2:13):
Tomorrow President Bush is leaving for Vietnam. I guess this time his father couldn’t get him out of it.
Speaking of Vietnam, dangerblond had some thoughts about “staying the course” in a recent post which resonated with my own views:
He was wearing a cap that identified him as a Vietnam War veteran. He was angry and complaining about everything. She was murmuring to him to calm down. Suddenly, he went off on the national election results.
“They are going to get more soldiers killed! Just like Kerry did in Vietnam! That bastard!”
So, I guess if decorated war veterans like John Kerry had not publicly criticized the war in Vietnam, America could have “stayed the course” over there throughout the 1970s, and fewer soldiers would have been killed?
I appreciate this man’s service to our country, and he has the right to believe what he wants, but if people like him had not voted for George W. Bush in 2000, no American soldiers would have lost their lives in Iraq.
The other night Josh got on my case because I was slamming Republican senators and congresspeople who support the war and who have fighting-age children partying on daddy’s money instead of wearing the uniform of their country.
“Would you want your sons over there?”
No, I don’t. But if I really thought Iraq posed a danger to my country, not my country’s petroleum industry, I would be ashamed of my sons if they didn’t volunteer to fight.
I’ve always thought that the discussion shouldn’t be about “staying the course,” but about how many more lives we are willing to sacrifice. That’s right, I said “we,” because each of us, in what we do and say, are either contributing to, or fighting against, the prolonged commitment of American soldiers in Iraq. Each and every one of us has to make a decision about how many more lives and families we are willing to destroy, and to act accordingly in the way we talk about the occupation of Iraq.
Think about the sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, who will return in body bags, never to see their children fulfilled, never to share in the joys of living with loved ones, never to have the moments of understanding that emerge when we grow old with close companions — 2,859 killed so far. And remember the more than 21,000 American soldiers thus far who will return, but whose bodies and minds have been shattered.
When the average is 65 American soldiers killed per month in Iraq, and assuming an occupation that persists until, let’s say another 24 months, that’s 1,560 more soldiers killed in Iraq — a casualty count that approaches 4,500. Whose names will be on that list?
We, as a nation, made a grave error by allowing George W. Bush and a bunch of other fratboy, draft-dodging, chickenhawk, neocon, corporate cronies to gin up the argument to have the war in Iraq which they wanted long before 9/11.
And now, in pro-administration, pro-Republican forums like WWL 870 AM, and the new Clear Channel Fox News format on 99.5 FM, talk show hosts are choreographing the discussion to “stay the course.” The word choreographing is far too elegant for what are really just a bunch of dumb rednecks spewing their ill-informed, narrow perspectives, while shutting off discussion — people like WWL’s Bob DelGiorno, who on Monday kept repeating the same tired line about “staying the course” while invalidating alternative viewpoints (if callers could even make it past the call screeners), and limiting the discussion to that single, simpleton talking point.
What does “staying the course” mean anymore? People should say what it really means. It really means: Keep Americans bogged down in a quagmire where insurgents are trying to kill them. It’s a quagmire, because as long as Americans are there, people will want to kill them because they’re country is being occupied, and more of them will want to kill us because our government sent them there. I don’t think we could get on top of that situation if we committed every fighting-aged person in America (as well as all the mercenaries we get from other countries who become citizens after serving in the U.S. military). The bigger the American presence there, the more we are resented. As dangerblond said, every single American would fight if an army invaded the United States.
Part of the problem is that we aren’t fighting an army. We aren’t fighting a state. We’re fighting an ideology, and ideologies only become more entrenched and extreme when they’re threatened by force. George W. Bush was absolutely pathetic in his inability to comprehend the nature of the response our nation needed to take to 9/11 attacks — or he and his friends shamelessly exploited the opportunity to get their war in Iraq.
One of the WWL callers on Bob-“aaah”-Del-“aaah”-Giorno’s show said he’d done five-tours in Iraq already — a dubious claim — and said that if we could see the people over there who feel threatened by the chaos, we’d want to continue the war/occupation. I don’t disagree that we owe them their safety (now that George W. Bush and the Republican Congress screwed up so badly), but I do disagree that we can do anything about it — short of evacuating half of the Iraqi population — because we are the problem.
Once people in Washington start admitting that we can’t stay there forever, then decisions can be made about how to get out as gracefully as possible, saving as many lives as possible. But that’s part of the problem. The neocons don’t want to leave Iraq. They want an American presence in Iraq in perpetuity, because the neocon ideology is entirely financed by the oil industry.
In its corporatist nature, and in its exploitation of the idea of individual victimization as a justification for opposing democratic resolution to conflict, it would be no mistake to call the neocon ideology fascist — and that should be the focus of discussion: what are American soldiers dying for? How is the way the debate is framed by the corporate power structure of our nation altering people’s perceptions of what the cause is, and what their personal stake is in the cause?
I’m disheartened by the breakdown in civil dialog in our country, where profit is the driving motive for limiting dialog to the partisan rancor and character assault that arises from the talking points of extreme ideological opponents.
A lot of us don’t realize that our democracy is being poisoned by the corporate stranglehold on media — the principal purveyor of ideas in the public square. If ideas are the oxygen of our democracy, ours is on life support.
Corporate control of ideas is accomplished in a direct manner through editorial decisions made by gatekeepers who decide what the story is; it’s done in a more insidious manner by dumbing down the information we get; and it’s done as a byproduct of the way we’ve structured media ownership in our country to allow for a greater concentration, which limits the number of perspectives presented for us to digest. The sum total effect is the creation of an entire population which lacks the ability to think critically, which is well-versed in the desired talking points, and which is malleable to the corporate power elite’s agenda.
Times-Picayune media reporter Dave Walker is one such tool of corporate media. He apparently lacks the critical thinking required to expose the evils of media ownership concentration. In a recent story, he wrote about Entercom replacing Air America Radio with WWL re-runs, he characterized the Entercom decision as a mere annoyance “irking local lefties still basking in their narrow reclamation of Congress,” as though only “lefties” wanted more accountability in Washington.
Walker failed to adequately describe how the breadth and depth of discussion about issues on the national agenda has been severely diminished by the decision. He failed to talk about how it isn’t good for our democracy, or our communities, when a combined 13 radio stations in New Orleans are owned by Pennsylvania-based Entercom, and Texas-based Clear Channel. He failed to mention that programming changes are made by corporate owners, not based upon the needs of the community, or our democracy, but upon an excessively high rate of return demanded by the corporate media ownership structure of radio.
In his token ceremonial piece, Walker referred to lower Arbitron ratings on WSMB (while hosting the Air America format) compared to WWL. He failed to mention that WWL reaches a wide swath of the southern United States, while WSMB is only heard in New Orleans. He failed to mention the highly questionable validity of Arbitron ratings. He failed to mention the fact that Entercom never promoted the Air America format on WSMB — a critical consideration in a world in which people have been generally so turned off by radio over the years, that they don’t even bother to look for worthwhile content.
Walker mindlessly transcribed Entercom executives’ quotes:
“Because of the storm, it was hard to launch that kind of programming in the marketplace, when so many people were concerned with survival, not philosophy. We think this is a better use of the 1350 frequency at this place and this time.
“This is a better choice based on what audiences and advertisers are telling us.”
Walker never asked why, if Entercom thinks New Orleanians can’t handle “philosophy,” they should continue to be subjected to Rush Limbaugh’s rantings on WWL in the prime midday schedule. He never questioned why, if Entercom is so interested in the survival issues of New Orleans residents, it broadcasts 15 hours a week of sports, 20 hours a week of time travel and alien abductions, and 15 hours a week of food talk. He never asked what content Entercom provides on the other three radio stations it owns in New Orleans.
When, on Monday, Clear Channel changed WRNO from a stale rock format, to Fox News and partisan right-wing talk, Walker wrote another dull report, once again providing a non-threatening forum for another media giant to justify its tactics:
The new format’s mission is “to be an activist voice in the improvement of New Orleans,” said Dick Lewis, New Orleans-based regional vice president for Clear Channel.
It took Clear Channel 14 months to figure out that New Orleanians might need more information about how to rebuild their lives and their neighborhoods? And in the end, what are they giving us? Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, convicted insurance commissioner Jim Brown, and Ray Nagin’s key advisor — the Republican most responsible for the amazing disappearing mayor’s re-election — Rob Couhig. Hmm … I wonder if we’ll hear any criticism of the mayor on Couhig’s program.
Wanna know how the new activist station handles true activism? Try calling the station to complain about the addition of yet another partisan format to the radio dial.
I called on Monday to make my comments on air during Andre Trevigne’s debut. She’s another apologist for the Bush administration, but I simply wanted to state that generally, I didn’t think New Orleans needed another right-wing radio station. The girl who answered the phone said that Andre wasn’t talking about programming on her show. I replied that Trevigne should be talking about programming, because, at the very least, the decision to move to talk radio, ostensibly to give New Orleanians another forum for recovery information, was belated, and at worst, disingenuous. Once again, if Clear Channel were so interested in serving the New Orleans community, why dump Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on us? The phone girl explained that Andre Tevigne doesn’t make the programming decisions. She just works there. I replied that Andre Trevigne, and everyone else who works at a Clear Channel station, has made a choice to support the programming decisions by working there. The girl sounded troubled. She sounded like she might be, for the first time, questioning her decision to work for Clear Channel, and then offered me another phone number I could call to comment on the programming change.
Here’s that number: 679-7300. Ask for Mike Cramer. I doubt he’ll answer. I haven’t gotten through to anyone at Entercom or Clear Channel who cared to talk about programming decisions. But leave Mike a message, and tell him what you think of Clear Channel’s decision to create another forum for right-wing partisan lies.
Later, I called the FCC to see if there was anyone there I could talk to. The woman who answered said I had to make a complaint in writing. I’ve been able to phone in complaints before, but apparently, that was during the Clinton administration — before the federal government became an ideological fortress against criticism.
The FCC woman did engage me in a discussion, only to tell me that the FCC doesn’t govern programming decisions. I stated that my complaint wasn’t simply about programming decisions, but the fact that Clear Channel and Entercom aren’t using their New Orleans licenses responsibly, making programming decisions that don’t reflect the needs of the New Orleans community. The woman told me that she couldn’t state her opinion about ownership matters, but again told me that the FCC doesn’t rule on programming matters. I replied that my complaint centered on programming precisely because it is executives of corporate media companies making the decisions about what we in New Orleans should have to listen to. I said it was reprehensible what the FCC was allowing to happen here in New Orleans, and elsewhere around the country. Again, a pause, as the woman silently acknowledged that a wrong was being committed. And then she started to navigate through the FCC Web site so she could give me addresses where I could file my complaint.
If you want to call the FCC, don’t wade through the menu of options. Just dial “0” when you get dumped into the menu: 888-225-5322.
In coming days, I’ll be writing (and posting) formal letters of complaint to the FCC, and sending copies to Entercom and Clear Channel. And in an upcoming post, I’ll be writing about how the ratings game played by corporate executives has parsed up the population of listeners over the years into an ever diminishing pool, as bad programming leads to fewer and fewer listeners, and more segmentation of bad listeners leads to worse and worse programming.
I know a lot of people are turned off by radio. So am I. I know that what was once a public medium has been so polluted by corporate control over the years that it is toxic to the ears of many people who have turned instead to satellite radio and iPods.
It ain’t bad everywhere though, folks. There are models for success in other parts of the country where ownership is still independent and community-based. I believe we can create media that responds to the needs and desires of our communities, and our democracy. But we have to participate in the debate for that to happen.
Don’t kill your radio. Kill the system that makes your radio a weapon of the opposition.