Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Who frames the questions we ask ourselves?

I listen to progressive radio quite a bit. I was enjoying some good discussion between Senator Bernie Sanders and Thom Hartmann's listeners yesterday, when they had to break for the "News" at the top of the hour.

Lead story? Who's the father of Anna Nichole Smith's baby. The next story was about some guy I never heard of dropping out of the presidential race scheduled over 20 months from now. The next was about a kidnapping, and the last story was about Britney Spears.

I graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and usually I get so mad when I hear this kind of thing I switch the radio off for a few minutes in silent protest, but the time for silence is over.

The award-winning television show "60 Minutes" has been on the air for decades as a beacon of investigative journalism. If my memory serves me, I noticed a few weeks ago its lead story was about a woman swimming the Antarctic followed by a story about a blind, retarded musical genius. They were both fascinating stories, but let's face it: the content was right out of one of those old shows like "That's Incredible!" or "Ripley's Believe it or Not!"

We need to be asking serious questions right now. Questions like, "Is Dick Cheney behind the deliberate outing of Valerie Plame and the CIA front group Brewster Jennings and therefore *guilty of treason*?" "What really happened on 9-11?" "What's going on in this country ... what's taking place under the radar that stands to seriously affect me and my family's future?" And finally -- "What can I do, personally, to make a difference for the better?"

The fact that for the most part, most Americans are *not* asking these questions is of grave concern. I don't think we're *entirely* to blame (though of course we bear some responsibility). A war of ignorance is being waged on the American people, and the enemy is the multi-conglomerate mass media corporate machine. (And the chokehold certain shadowy entities seemed to have gained over our public education. Who teaches decent civics courses these days? How many high schoolers are actually taught their rights?) We need to do something about this. In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act that allowed virtual monopolies over our own public airwaves.

We need restrict the amount of control one owner can have over our local media markets. We need more independent media in as many forms as possible -- radio, television, newspapers -- in addition to the healthy variety we see on the Internet.

Let's recognize we are in a battle, and we're up against highly organized and well-funded armies of ignorance. Their weapons are distraction in the form of pointless questions. It's up to each and every one of us to start asking better questions, and then demand some answers!

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