News we can choose

Old school journalist Ted Koppel lambastes both MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, concluding with this:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

via Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

One could argue that Ted Koppel himself was not completely objective and that his pioneering night time news show tended to tilt to the left.  And yet, if it is impossible to be objective in the news business, doesn’t that mean the postmodernists are right when they say that every group has its own “truth”?

Isn’t there a danger in only hearing what we want to hear?  Maybe conservatives should listen to MSNBC and liberals should listen to Fox.  Do you have any other solutions to this syndrome?

Taking Jon Stewart’s rally seriously

Jon Stewart keeps insisting that his “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” that he and Stephen Colbert are putting on next Saturday is not going to be a liberal or progressive partisan event.  It sounds designed to be more like a postmodernist-style meta-rally, a rally making fun of rallies.  And yet lots of liberals and progressives are taking it seriously.

Arianna Huffington is offering free transportation from New York to her Huffington Post minions.  Oprah Winfrey is paying for a bunch of her followers to be there.  The Democratic Club at the University of Pennsylvania is busing in college students.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be there in force. So will the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  President Obama has been pushing the event and might show up.  More than 200,000 people have posted on Facebook that they will attend.

Never mind that the weekend before the Tuesday election is the most important time for actually campaigning for the people you want elected.  From the Washington Post:

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for the “tea party”-affiliated Freedomworks, is a fan of Stewart’s show and recently appeared on “the Colbert Report,” but he said he will be in West Virginia on the day of the rally, knocking on doors for Senate candidate John Raese (R).

“I’d rather have as many liberals in D.C. that weekend as possible, because I don’t want them out doing the phone calls and get-out-the-vote,” Steinhauser said.

via For liberal groups, “Daily Show” rally on Mall, not just for laughs.

Watching television

I am not what you would call an early adopter. Our one-and-half year old granddaughter was poking the buttons on our television set and somehow she broke the thing! The screen would light up, showing no picture, and then fade to black. Since that set dated from about the time when her mother was her age, we decided to buy a new one. I find that you can’t just get one with a cathode-ray tube anymore, so we ended up with a high-definition TV. I’m marveling. We are literally watching TV. Not watching programs, just watching our television set, surfing around for striking visual images. I realize that most of the rest of you have already had that experience with HDTV and now take it for granted, and I realize that some of you are standing tall against the baleful influence of this device. I salute that. But I am enjoying the stunning clarity and beauty of these pictures.

One small step for a man

July 20 was the 41st anniversary of a human being landing on the moon.  The tiny spacecraft was guided by computers with far less capability than the one you are using to read this blog.  “One small step for a man,” said Neil Armstrong, “one giant leap for mankind.”   Was it really?  Watch the video of that dramatic 1969 telecast.  (If it isn’t appearing in your browser, click “comments.”)

Pitch a new TV show

Lost is over. Law and Order and Numb3rs are cancelled. The networks need to come up with new programming and are searching for the next Lost. So far, program directors seem to be coming up with new ideas like these: Let’s have another police procedural! And to make it new, we’ll have it be just like our other police procedurals, only it’ll take place in a different city! Let’s have a situation comedy about a bumbling husband with a wife out of his league and some smart aleck kids! And when audiences get tired of that, let’s do another one just like it!

We can do better than that. What would be some good ideas for television series? I’ll go first:

(1) Washington Espionage. Set in the Cold War of the 1970s. The main character is a counter-intelligence agent with the CIA, but it includes a web of spies from all sides, their handlers, and their targets. Stories hinge on CIA, KGB, and other agents recruiting traitors, turning double agents, spycraft, and living their lives while hiding their true identities.

(2) School Days. Follows a group of incoming college freshmen at a state university and their progress from year to year until they graduate (whereupon, after four years, the series ends, or starts up again with a new class). We see their friendships, temptations, loves, and struggles. Also what they learn, the things they get into–from radical politics to campus Christianity–and how they grow up during their years at school. (I realize that the networks would probably focus on frat parties and sex in the dorms, but still. . . )

(3) Church. Follows a small-town pastor as he deals with the problems, the crises, and the joys of the people in his congregation. We get to know the families in his parish and watch how the pastor ministers to them. Sometimes the issues he deals with are humorous. Sometimes they are life-and-death serious (troubled marriages, rebellious kids, suicides, addictions, health problems). Each episode includes a scene at church, where we hear a snippet of the sermon and see all of the people in all of their problems come together for worship.

Wouldn’t these make good series? These brief paragraphs, by the way, are called “pitches” and are exactly what go before the network executives who sometimes invest millions on as little to go on. Any of you Hollywood producers who read this blog, if you want to use any of these ideas, fine, but give credit and a cut of the profits where they are do. Now your turn. . . .

They once were Lost and now are found


So Lost ends with the sacrifice of someone with bloody hands and feet and a wound in his side.  Whereupon everyone, including everyone who died in the series,  ends up in a church–complete with a statue of Jesus–where they forgive each other, are reconciled, and experience a joyous reunion.  The door opens and they walk out into the light.

I can’t remember any prime time series with so much explicit, overt Christianity.  It’s given in symbols, but symbols are far more evocative than prose in a work of art.   In addition to the Baptismal imagery that ran throughout the series, we also had in the last episodes Holy Communion imagery, with the mysterious God-figure saying “take this cup, and you’ll be like me.”

Pundits were saying that Lost has unique significance for our culture at this time in our history, to the point of proposing that the first decade of the 21st century–lacking a good name so far–be called “the Lost decade.”  So what does it mean that it takes Christianity to resolve all of those intractable problems and unravel all of that confusion?

I suspect that there will be a lot of howls from critics about the ending of Lost.  I’m not sure the literary critic in me is completely satisfied with the narrative resolution.  But still.   It shows that all of those Christian interpretations that people were reading into the show for the last six years were right after all, that all of that scattered symbolism was, in fact, the key to the show.

More importantly, the ending shows that traditional Christian concepts and imagery still have a powerful resonance in a Lost world.