Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2000 /19 Shevat, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SO NOW WE KNOW: The big television networks peddle Drug War dogma in exchange for taxpayer-funded advertising discounts.
My initial reaction: Disgust. Ultimate response: So what?
In a different era, this news would have had me fuming interminably. Livid. Mad as hell. But thanks to technological innovation and an explosion of alternative information sources, consumers of entertainment and news don't have to take it anymore. The more the nation's Old Media dinosaurs screw up, melt down, and kowtow to political and corporate interests, the less and less they really matter.
Last week, an investigative report published by the Internet magazine Salon exposed how network executives overseeing popular prime-time shows such as NBC's "ER," ABC's "Drew Carey Show" and "Sports Night," and CBS's "Touched by An Angel" collaborated with the feds to plant anti-drug messages in plot lines. Salon's Daniel Forbes detailed how many network officials submitted TV scripts to government propaganda ministers before the shows aired.
Writers and producers were kept in the dark. So were viewers. As a reward for participating in this stealthy indoctrination scheme, the networks received an estimated $20 million in financial credits that allowed them to sell commercials during air time earmarked for public-service spots. The White House refuses to cancel the program. Network honchos meekly argue that no one forced them to change their content.
On a separate front, the major TV networks bowed to another set of dogmatic bullies - racial and ethnic minority monitors. NBC and ABC recently negotiated deals with the NAACP to enforce "diversity goals" after the organization threatened a boycott. NBC will hire tokens of color to be writers on every show that enters a second season. ABC will tie financial compensation of top executives to their minority hiring and promotion records.
Go ahead, you empty suits. Be unabashed lapdogs for federal agencies and social engineering agendas. We are no longer captives of the aging TV network conglomerates and their preachy, pre-screened, prime-time pabulum.
For nighttime drama, we can switch to Lifetime. For entertainment, there's E and Comedy Central. For public affairs, no one beats C-SPAN. And for educational programming, there's the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or scores of others available through cable and satellite. Or we can turn off the TV altogether and surf the Web - for free, thanks to start-ups such as Netzero and FreeI.net (take that, AOL-Time-Warner!) -- instead.
As for news, well, TV news stopped being news -- true, fair, and objective -- a long time ago. Was anyone shocked when CBS admitted inserting a fake digital logo (that creepy eyeball) on a Times Square billboard during a New Year's Eve news broadcast? Was anyone surprised when ABC chief political correspondent John Cochran threw a party for his longtime friend Al Gore and the network, after redefining the affair as a "working dinner," picked up the tab?
As the relics of broadcast go, so go the relics of print. Nationwide, the circulation of daily newspapers sank 10 percent over the last decade. By contrast, the circulation of local underground weeklies aimed at young people has more than doubled since 1990. On the Internet, an unlimited range of independent news and opinion sites, such as the Drudge Report, Salon, CNET, TheStreet.com, Jewish World Review, and WorldNetDaily, are thriving.
Crusty print pooh-bahs continue to deride Internet journalism and the alternative press as sloppy amateurs -- even while revelations pour in about plagiarists, fiction writers, junk scientists, groupthinkers, political advocates, and corporate welfare opportunists entrenched in the nation's esteemed newsrooms.
But my generation, armed with remote controls and HTML, has learned to live without the self-righteousness of daily newspapers or the smugness of network television. Our information sources may not have Columbia Journalism School degrees or Harvard Business School credentials. But at least they're not on the take from federal behavior modification czars or under the thumb of political lobbyists.
There was a time when Old Media beasts could alienate, mislead, and offend
their audience with impunity. No more. Toppling the information elite is
simple: Tune out. Turn away.
01/20/00: The pied pipers of KidCare