Advertisements

Fake News and Real Life

Our Tuesday morning started before sunrise and stretched into the afternoon in the lobby of a local hospital, where we anxiously awaited the outcome of our father’s spinal surgery. The rest of the day’s news seemed unimportant, but while our mother was getting some much-needed napping done there was nothing else but pacing to occupy our interminable wait.
Once upon a fairly recent time in Wichita almost any significant medical procedure would take place at the Wesleyans’ Wesley Hospital or the Catholics’ St. Francis or St. Jude hospitals, which still remain the big three under national corporate ownership, but these days there are gleamingly ultra-modern specialty facilities spread all over town. We wound up way out on the east side, across the street from one of the local corporate airports and not far from swank restaurants in trendy shopping centers, at a well regarded place where they work pretty much exclusively on spines. The workers were friendly and professional, the coffee was free, and they had several of those big high-definition televisions tuned into the various cable news channels.
An old family friend and a new friend from the parents’ elegant nearby dropped by to offer some much-appreciated moral support, as did an elder from the parents’ church, and Mom got cell phone calls from our brothers in Colorado and California and a cousin in Oklahoma, but that only took up some of the time. The local newspaper doesn’t take up much time these days, even if you do the crossword and jumble and crypto-quip puzzles, and we’d forgotten to bring along the laptop to take advantage of the free wi-fi we should have expected at such an up-to-date facility, so when Mom dozed off we wandered over to see what was on those newfangled high-definition TVs.
One was tuned into Fox News while another just a yard or so away was showing MSNBC, and it was pleasantly diverting to watch the captions and the scrollers and see what the two polar ends of the cable spectrum were choosing to yak about. On “Fox and Friends” they were making a big deal of the black-masked “antifa” idiots who had staged some destructive May Day mini-riots in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco and Chicago and New York, while the folks at “Morning Joe” on MSNBC didn’t seem to get around to mentioning them at all, and in both cases we thought their news judgment was skewed by bias. When our Fox-watching folks showed up for the check-in they both mentioned they’d heard how that awful Michael Moore guy was going to stage an anti-Trump Broadway play, which was still big news an hour later on “Fox and Friends,” and we assured our parents that Moore’s pretty much a left-wing has-been these days and nothing to worry about it at a time like this, and they’ll be heartened to know that MSNBC seems to agree, as we didn’t spot a single picture of Moore’s jowly face during the hour so we spent glancing at “Morning Joe.”
The guy we assume is the titular “Morning Joe” and his comely sidekick Mika with the same foreign-sounding and hard-to-spell last name as a past National Security advisor were mostly interested in yakking about some interviews that President Donald Trump gave over the weekend. We could hardly deny them their fun, as the interviews were so undeniably disastrous that we’d already gotten our own kicks in from the right, and we couldn’t really criticize their critiques from the left. Even the exceedingly Trump-friendly panel on “Fox and Friends” was forced to address the unavoidable topic, and their guest, thetalk radio hostess Laura Ingraham, who is usually so Trump-friendly he seriously considered her for the job of Press Secretary, was forced to concede that the interviews “didn’t do Trump any good.” Fox’s regular panel of “Friends” tried to mount a defense, especially that pretty young woman that we have no idea who she is in the middle of the couch, but their hearts didn’t really seem in it.”
The handsomely aging guy on the left of the couch at “Fox and Friends” we recognized as Steve Doocy, and in our sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated and highly anxious yet profoundly bored state we recalled the couple of times our paths had briefly crossed on the Wichita media scene. He was a reporter for one of the local TV stations, we were clerking at the local newspaper, which was a whole lot thicker and more time-consuming and far better than TV way back then, and although he seemed a nice enough guy we couldn’t help but resent how all the women at the paper seemed slightly smitten by him, especially one that we happened to be smitten with. He seemed rather tongue-tied trying to defend those undeniably disastrous Trump interviews, and looked at least the same three years or so older than ourselves, and we couldn’t help chuckling about what all those left-wing babes at the paper would think of him now. We’re not at all famous and as plain and right-wing as ever, but our hair’s still full and we’re not obliged to muster a defense of those undeniably disastrous interviews.
After a few fitful moments of sleep in the chair next to Mom the newfangled beeper machine they’d given us went off, and then a very fit-looking and handsome young surgeon that our Mom told us had attended a Christian college came out to tell us that the surgery had gone well. We were advised that Dad would be waking up from the anesthesia in an about an hour, and after two and a half hours of fitful sleep and pacing and news-watching the beeper went off again and we were sent in to see him. He’d gone off to surgery far more calm and confident and ready to get it over with than anybody else, as usual, and he awoke from the ordeal his same mellow self. He was in intense pain and dreaming the dreams of Morpheus, but still lucid enough to inquire how his beloved wife and family and were doing, and offering reassurances while making some minor complaints, and all the news was good.
A while later he reassured us we could go home, and after we pressed him for more reassurance we somehow made our way back across town for a much-needed nap. We woke up to check the internet for the usual news feed, found nothing that seems especially pressing, took notice that The New York Yankees are back in first place in the American League East and The Boston Celtics are up two-to-none in the second round of the National Basketball Association playoffs, and at the end of it we gave thanks for a pretty good day. We’ll drop by the hospital way out on the east side tomorrow, where Dad’s going to be laid up for a days, and try to adjust our news judgment to what really matters.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

The News Makes News

Maybe it’s just a post-holiday lull in what surely be a more news-making year, but for now all the big papers are treating Megyn Kelly’s move from Fox News to the National Broadcasting Company as a big deal. They might be right, for all we know, but these days it seems that even the big papers aren’t such a big deal.
We cut off our cable many years ago, but you had to spend the past year hiding under a bigger rock than the one we were hiding under to not know who Megyn Kelly is. She was about as well-known as a cable news broadcaster can be even before the presidential election, and then her televised and endlessly re-televised confrontations with eventual Republican nominee and president-elect Donald Trump brought her the sort of fame usually reserved for androgynous pop music performers and transgendered reality show stars. It all started when she had the temerity to ask about his long history of making vulgar and sexist statements about women, and he somehow persuaded a Republican debate audience that such vulgarity and sexism was a much-needed blow against the stifling influence of something called “political correctness,” which we had thought meant an attempt to impose limits on Republicans in political debates about race and sex and such but apparently referred to an old-fashioned code of civil decorum that Republicans used to insist on. When Trump railed afterwards that it was an unfair question from the smug leftist news media that her permeated even Fox News, and said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when asking it, he had pretty much sewn up the Republican nomination and she had become a household name.
The feud continued throughout the primary campaign, with occasional moments of making nice with one another, although at another point Trump declined to appear at a Fox-moderated event where Kelly would be threateningly on the panel, and it made for riveting and ratings-driving reality television. Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters saw Kelly as a smug elitist and probably even globalist media villain, even though she worked for Fox News, and many of those who were inclined to think that a candidate’s long history of vulgar and sexist comments about women were a legitimate issue to raise in a debate and that “blood coming out of her wherever” was not proper presidential rhetoric were disinclined to come to Kelly’s defense, entirely because she worked for Fox News. Both came out of it pretty well, with Trump as president-elect and Kelly inking a gazillion dollar deal with one of those over-the-air networks that everyone on cable used to aspire to, but it remains to be seen how it works out for everyone else.
We expect that Kelly, at least, will fare well in her new job. So far as we can tell she’s a competent and fair journalist by television standards, and she’ll bring a reputation for standing up to Trump that should endear her to NBC’s dwindling audience. She’s quite the hottie, too, and we mention that objectively true fact not for the puerile reasons that Trump might bring it up during his next appearance on the Howard Stern show but rather because it seems to make a difference in television news. Trump is a trickier question, of course, but we can be sure he’ll be a boon to all the networks.
How the Fox News network will fare is less certain, so much of the rest of the media’s attention has focused on that. Fox News had already been shaken by the forced resignation of its longtime boss, who had been accused of a long history of all sorts of sexually harassing sleaziness by many of the women at the network, where we’ll also note as a relevant matter of objective that they’re almost all quite the hotties, so the loss of its most famous face surely poses some difficulties, even if she was reviled by all the so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone Trump supporters who make up such a large share of the audience. There are plenty of other competent and fair journalists at the network, such as Shep Smith and Chris Wallace and Brett Baier, so if the network decides to go in that direction they have plenty of options, even if their competence and fairness has also sometimes aroused the ire of those so-loyal-they-might-shoot-someone Trump supporters.
In any case the liberals will continue to call it “Faux News,” and the newly ascendent sorts of conservatives will continue to call the last of the big papers “The New York Slimes” and “The Washington Compost,” Trump will have more followers on “Twitter” than the other media have readers or viewers, and most  people simply won’t listen to anything they don’t want to hear. How that works out also remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

There’s No Ducking It

We had hoped to spend the day heaping more ridicule on that “pajama boy” advertisement for Obamacare, which is the health care reform law’s latest and most hilarious embarrassment, but there was no avoiding all the ruckus about that “Duck Dynasty” guy’s opinions regarding homosexuality. Commenting on these ruckuses is becoming a tiresome duty, as they seem to occur with a boring regularity, but such is the lot of pundits in our contemporary popular culture.
So far as we can gather from the voluminous news coverage, “Duck Dynasty” is a “reality show” broadcast by the “Arts & Entertainment” cable television company that chronicles the daily lives of a family of hirsute rural Louisiana entrepreneurs who have earned a sizeable fortune in the duck-hunting equipment business, and apparently one of the family members granted an interview to the GQ fashion magazine that included some disapproving and crudely-worded remarks about homosexuality. That a hirsute rural Louisianan who has made a sizeable fortune in the duck-hunting equipment business should hold such views and state them in such blunt terms hardly seems newsworthy, but all the people who make their livings being offended by this sort of this thing complained loudly enough to get the fellow suspended from the program, numerous other people were offended by the cable company’s censorship of its employee. “Duck Dynasty” has a reported 14 million viewers, which would have gotten a program mid-season cancellation back in the day days of three channels but is now enough to make the debate to dominate two days of news.
We have no opinion regarding “Duck Dynasty,” as we cancelled our cable subscription years ago and have never seen an episode, but it is so often written and talked about that we are aware of its reputation for offering a positive depiction of a rural, working-class culture with traditional values. This strikes us as something that deserves a place among the gazillion or so shows on the cable menu, if only in the cause of cultural diversity, but it is by now predictable that the self-appointed defenders of tolerance would once again insist that any such deviation from the modern orthodoxy must suffer economic punishment. Every so often some beauty queen, football player, or chicken sandwich mogul will dissent from the current enthusiasm for homosexuality, and they are routinely subjected to the same sort of public shaming that was once reserved for adulterers and unwed mothers. It’s a peculiar feature of the contemporary culture, and one on which we feel required to hold an opinion.
Homosexuals should not be bullied or forced to endure second-class citizenship, but neither should anyone who has moral objections to homosexuality. Both should be free to to live their lives according to their own convictions, to whatever extent it does infringe on the rights of others, and both should be tolerated if not celebrated by the broader society. None of the remarks attributed to the “Duck Dynasty” guy advocate violence or legal discrimination against homosexuals, just his own personal objection to the practice, so in this case it seems to be those demanding his suspension who are engaged in bullying.

— Bud Norman