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Caseythoughts As you might imagine, a weekly adventure of 'writing a column' has a few challenges as well as lessons. Some would say a challenge IS a lesson waiting to teach a solution. One challenge I was not expecting was a problem of what might be called 'timing'. When you write something topical, you have to hope it is not hopelessly outdated by the time it is in print, or that its truth has been outrun by another truth which contradicts it, or makes the first words sound dated or uninformed. Kind of like listening to the Cole Porter song 'You're the Top': some of the lyrics are mysterious, as are the people mentioned. Writing a column such as this is a hazard compared to writing a news story which either stands on its own as 'it happened' opposed to trying to be topical and relevant while the events of the world (and 'news cycle', how I hate that phrase) are coming at you like water from a fire hose.

As a result, I have been trying over the last year to grasp some of the larger meanings and thoughts on the world instead of lunging at things that an suddenly appear dated or 'yesterday's news' as my boss in radio liked to say. Thus, for instance, I have not commented on the latest news of the Judge Kavanaugh travesty, although I have plenty of thoughts on it and the whole mess and circus. In my attempt to look at a larger picture, I am suddenly confronted with a larger 'truth', if you please.

Give the printed or broadcast media a 'sex' story, and everything else fades into the background. Yes, the Kavanaugh story is sex, although it certainly has issues of assault, allegedly drunken behavior, etc., the 'Me Too' movement. But, 'Sex Sells', as Rupert Murdoch once opined. I'm sure there are many of you who will say that the Senate confirmation hearings are not about sex, but let me state my case, and reasoning, and sentiments about what this is all about ('this' being the 'news' circus).

Let's go back to any other case you wish to cite in the last twenty years or so that captured (held hostage?) the news media for days, weeks on end. And, eliminate the politics, focus on the mania in the media. Clarence Thomas v. Anita Hill? The people v. OJ Simpson? The people v. Bill Cosby? Monica Lewinsky v. Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones v. Hillary Clinton v. Ken Starr v. U.S. Senate? The Russian hacking story? The latest Senate debacle? There's something here that continues to anger me: that is, that all else, all that matters, all that happens in a world of seven billion people gets short shrift, the short end of the stick, so to speak. As a matter of fact, much of the real news is practically ignored. Wall to wall trash, because we are being told it's trash, I mean news.

I remember (I still have it on videotape) the day the Monica Lewinsky story 'broke' when the Drudge Report released the salacious rumor of a rogue intern having an affair in the Oval Office with Bill Clinton. I remember the day, and can still see it in my memory, as this was the same day Yassir Arafat was in Washington hoping to move the peace talks along. I remember his bemused and befuddled expression when the reporters asked him not about Middle East peace prospects, or what he talked about with Clinton, but about his thoughts on the intern story. Monica Lewinsky. And, basically, that's all we heard and saw in the media long? A year and a half? Everything that happened, basically from that day, became a media circus giving a boatload of bigmouths an opportunity to proclaim, or condemn, and ignore everything else. Having an Ithaca radio talk show during those months in 1998-99, I let the national media have its way: we had Ithaca, and plenty else, to talk about.

The same with the OJ trial, the same with the first (and second) Cosby trial, though not as much, the same with the Thomas hearing, and now the circus in the Senate hearing room and the hallways of the Senate with the back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, and wouldn't you think this was between the party bigmouths instead of the man and woman involved in the memory contest? Yes, I firmly agree with you that there are important attendant issues in this 'story', but none of them warrant coverage ad nauseum just to keep talk show pundits (both radio and television) in the money while the world stumbles and staggers along in 'the rest of the news'. Another naval close call in the South China Sea? A thousand dead in an earthquake? Assad keeps on killing his own people with Russian assistance? And, you know what? As I think about Hannity and Limbaugh, the whole Russian interference/Hillary conspiracy and FBI intrigue fit into this scenario, too. This is nuts.

My thirst for news has been short-circuited and ignored. I need to find sources of news other than the latest conspiracy theory, rumor mill morass, salacious slop which major media thinks, or maybe, knows, America wants. Give 'em raw meat just the way William Randolph Hearst used to, or maybe all the news that's fit to gag me with a media spoon. Murdoch was right: sex sells.

How about this for an interesting headline that has been pushed to page 9A: Benjamin Netanyahu was in New York a few days ago and held a press conference with Trump. Oh, you didn't hear about it? Important news? Well, Trump seemed to signal that the White House 'plan' for Middle East peace would be a 'two state' solution! Nothing new, since it was proposed in the 90's, but got swamped by all the Ken Starr/Lewinsky news at the time. The 'two state solution' has also been damaged by Trump's idiotic decision to alienate the Palestinians in numerous ways including declaring Jerusalem to be the Israeli capitol, but the press conference last week signaled a dramatic shift in White House policy and may foretell what the Jared Kushner (where's he been?) proposal could be in the coming months. Yes, he's in charge of these negotiations, although who he's negotiating with I'm not too sure. Pooh pooh Trump and Kushner all you like, but the fact is that what the White House does in the Middle East (or doesn't do) has world shaking implications, no matter who wears the mantle of President. Ask anyone still alive since Harry Truman's day about that truth. But, this event and potential policy shift barely made it to page 9A because the first eight pages were covered, dripping margin to margin, by the uproar and continued posturing of the Kavanaugh hearings. Who is really posturing here? Methinks the media.

Are those hearings important? Yes, as the Supreme Court has monumental decisions to make, especially in a four to four environment and a deeply divided country's future could be seen at stake. But, to the extent where such things as the real issues facing the Supreme Court and its makeup as well as the cases pending, Middle East issues and the continued roiling in Syria, Turkey, Russia, Iran (did you know that Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran are meeting this week, without asking the US to participate?) are the real news, and these mentioned worrisome issues get the back page treatment. The red meat loving broadcast media licks its chops while it ignores the rest of the world and keeping us in the dark and clueless as to the real state of affairs. Reminds me of talking with those still alive about the thirties, when we were shocked at Germany's invasion of Poland, or Pearl Harbor: shock? It was obvious for years what might happen, and a state of obliviousness seemed to cloak the newspapers and radio as to the real state of affairs, while America listened to Amos and Andy and Jack Benny. The world's safety and welfare are always at stake, but perhaps never more so than these past few years as we waltz around in media circus la-la land. Or am I just being a poor imitation of Chicken Little?

When CNN started in the 80's by ted Turner, it made perfect sense and we needed constant coverage of the world, since cable TV had afforded the potential of a round the clock news channel. We needed more than three networks who might interrupt their soap opera with the pregnant phrase (in stentorian tone): "We interrupt this broadcast". Since the Kennedy assassination, that phrase would stop us in our tracks and would immediately turn our heads to the screen, or ear to a nearby radio. But when 24 hour news channel became nothing but a 'news cycle' which seemed to rotate the same so-called news every ten or fifteen minutes (and being a radio listener with no TV in my apartment, I can tell you how network radio repeats the same stories every hour), I maintain that we can blame the national media for the distrust and the anger which has overtaken our under-educated public. But the blame, if it must be assigned, ultimately rests with us.

We are being manhandled and misled as to what's important. Maybe even a "People" magazine mentality. Years ago in broadcast news the mantra was 'if it bleeds it leads', and even Annie Proulx alluded to it in her magnificent 'Shipping News' when the local editor just pulled a file photo of any old automobile smashup to accompany the latest story of a motor vehicle accident on the island. Didn't matter what photo, everyone wants to read about car crashes, and any photo gave it credence.

And in today's world of 'news cycles', just keep the crowd titillated and occupied with bread and circuses; the 'look over here at this shiny object' while what we should be focusing on (if given the opportunity by broadcast and print media) is kept away from the 'top headlines' and stuffed deep into what's left of America's newspapers. Thank God for local reporting, for it still focuses on what its constituents know is important, from board meetings to community events. But that's small potatoes in this lightning fast world.

It's really our fault; we let television dictate what's important. We let not only networks but media moguls, social media gurus, Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley tell us what we should like, what we should pay attention to, when and what to binge-watch, and when to change the channel to something more salacious, more exciting, more sedating. (The Ramones singing 'I Want To Be Sedated' keeps coursing through my brain). Or maybe Howard Beall in 'Network' telling us "Just let me have my steel belted radial tires, just don't bother me with facts. Worried about the hero? Look at your watch: he'll figure it all out before the next commercial break."

Maybe, when trying to sift through all the crap that mass media and social media tells me I should care about, I can quote Howard Beall again: "Go to your windows right now. Lean out, I want you to lean out and yell 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

I wish us "Good night and good luck", then, as Edward R. Murrow did on Sunday nights on CBS. Our chances of being heard in protest by Madison Avenue, the networks, Washington or Silicon Valley are a little less than snowballs in hell. They are sure that they know exactly what we want, and plan on continuing a full menu of what can only be described as bread and circuses. The Roman Emperors knew this so well, didn't they?

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