Saturday, September 11, 2004

MSM and 9/11

This is a somber day. Perhaps it's somber because of the headache with which I awoke, or perhaps the memory of the day caused the headache. No telling. In either case, the day is hot, humid, and sunny, and my mood is not.

I work for a defense contractor. Despite what most of the left believes, many (if not most) of us really do focus on "defense." We pride ourselves that we build tools that help keep this country safe from those who wish us harm. We recognize that, with or without provocation, there will always be those who wish us harm. No amount of neutrality, education, or goodwill will ever convince Islamic fundamentalists that we are not satanic infidels, and therefore worthy of complete destruction. We will always be targets.

And so I continue to work for a defense contractor. I continue to feel some pride in what we build, even while I pray we never have to use it. My Dad was a good example of this. In the politically charged atmosphere of the Cold War, he worked for this same contractor (or, more accurately, a former company that has since been swallowed by the current company) working on propulsion systems that have been used in most of our space exploration work for decades. Then, one day, he came home with a more grim look on his face than was usual. This would be in the late 70's.

"What's up, Dad?" I ventured.

He fixed me with a piercing look (he was good at that) and decided I was old enough to at least partly understand. "I've just been assigned to a new project that scares me to death," was his reply.

He said the entire project was top secret, but that it was called "Missile X." Something straight out of 50's science fiction, sounded like to me. He just couldn't give me any further information, of course, without violating his clearances. Later, when I joined the company myself, and the entire world knew about the project, I learned that he had referred to the MX missile, or "Peacekeeper." Of course, it was nowhere near as deadly as it might have been once Congress got through with their poison pens. Still, it was a powerful deterrent. Thank goodness we've never yet had to use one in anger.

Which brings me to 9/11.

Occasionally - perhaps as a consequence of working for the people who build them - I feel a need to use them. I am fully aware that this is an irrational emotion, but I am a human bean, and subject to such emotion. I confess that when I saw not one (accident!) but two (deliberate!) aircraft plow into the World Trade Center towers, my very first thought was "Terrorists!" My second thought was "Kill them all!"

This is a very un-Christian thought, but well within the range of human.

As the day wore on, with reports of the Pentagon and western Pennsylvania hot off the press, my feelings roller-coastered through all the steps of grief. I have little doubt that President Bush went through those same steps.

Many have criticized - and just as many have supported - the President for continuing to read to those elementary kids in the immediate aftermath of the Trade Center. Count me as a supporter. First of all, there would be the stunned disbelief of those reports. All the thoughts that I had, and probably more, would have flooded him as he was being given the report. What else could he do at that moment but say "carry on and let me know when you have some answers." Then, go back, put on a brave parent face to the kids, finish the story, and excuse himself.

I doubt seriously that I would have handled it any better than the President.

The mainstream media have crowed for decades about how they nearly single-handedly shrunk the world. From the advent of the telegraph, news gathering has rapidly accelerated. It was a natural progression. The printing press brought more rapid knowledge to the elite first, then the masses. The telegraph and, later, the telephone did the same. Then came cinema with "MovieTone" clips bringing images of newsworthy events to the public. Finally, television. Now news is fed to us nearly instantaneously. Add sattelites and computers, and the cycle is complete. How, then, can news coverage improve without reporting it before it actually happens?

The internet.

The internet is mainstream news' worst nightmare. The internet enables anyone with a computer and halfway decent hookup to glean reports of happenings a world away nearly the instant they occur. A local Los Angeles area radio stations' tag is, "Give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world!" Guess what? Twenty two minutes doesn't cut it anymore.

That's not to say there's not still a market for twenty-two minutes' worth of sound bites. Heavens, no! There's still plenty of people who are simply too lazy to go get the news, and would rather have it handed to them on a TV tray. But Dan Rather and "the Boys" just don't get it. They don't understand that they only cater to the TV tray demographic. They somehow still believe that they ARE the news. And we are fools if we don't swallow it in their sound bite-sized chunks.

My epiphany? A report last fall on homeschoolers that implied that all homeschoolers abuse their children. A hugely irresponsible piece of smear journalism that neatly fit Rather's political leanings. It was then that I first became aware of the Blogosphere, and especially I wasn't yet ready to embrace them, but I knew they were on to something.

It can't be too much longer before the MSMers begin to see the writing on the net. They must understand that they either become part of the pattern, or be unceremoniously run over by it.

My story is not atypical. I stopped relying on primary press years ago. It began with the obvious biases in my local newspapers. First the Ventura County Star, then the Los Angeles Times, and now the Orange County Register. All subscribed and UNsubscribed to in short order. Then it was the network news. Not so much for their bias (although evident) as for the vapid and vaccuous nature of the reporting. Heck, I only tuned into that CBS report last year because our homeschool group, ever alert for possible media abuse, told us about it and encouraged us to tune in. I did, and was outraged.

Mainstream media serves one, and only one, useful purpose. They can get camera coverage of an event far faster than anyone else can. So far. I in fact did tune in to network coverage of the 9/11 disaster for about two days. But once I'd had my fill of the imagery, I went back to the internet. As a means of reporting or, especially, analyzing the news for my benefit, the media has long outlived its usefulness.

May we never forget.

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