Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Sam Smith: The Ritual of the Words

The Ritual of the Words


By Prorev.com Editor Sam Smith

My view has long been that news is something that has happened, something that is happening or something that is going to happen. News is not what someone said about what is happening nor what someone perceived was going to happen nor what the editors thought the impact of something happening would be on its readership.

Once again, I find myself in the minority. It turns out that by current media standards about the only thing that matters any more is what someone said about something.

Thus we find ourselves being forced marched through the semiotic swamp left by the Dixie Chicks, Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, newly elected senator Jim Webb, Jimmy Carter and others who have said things some thought they shouldn't have. In some cases, such as Richards, it was instantly clear that the words were stupid and wrong, a fact that could have been covered in less than one column inch. In other cases, such as Webb, the comments were refreshing enough to merit passing praise but hardly in the category of hard news. In a few instances, such as the Dixie Chicks, the words had such clear economic effects and social implications that they were worthy of further examination.

But together with numerous other examples - such as Tim Russert playing a decades old video tape to Jimmy Carter to find out whether he still agreed with what he said when he was governor - the media is teaching public figures that it's not what you do that matters; it's what you say about it.

The obsession seems to stem from the boomer blarney that life is all about branding. Act wrong and you can easily cover it up with the right words, but use the wrong words and you've had it. The fact that the words may be the product of inebriation, the apology for them the product of hypocrisy, and the discussion of them the product of mass cultural insincerity is of no import. It is the Ritual of the Words that matters, the closest many in America's elite come these days to a religious practice.

The key factor is that the certain words are unacceptable. It doesn't make much difference if the words are truly offensive - as in the case of Richards - or only out of step with conventional thinking as in the case of Jimmy Carter speaking of Israel's apartheid or the Dixie Chicks being embarrassed about Bush coming from Texas. When deportment is the issue, and the media is the judge, you don't get time off for being right.

On the other hand, some figures do get immunity. For example, I'm still waiting for the mainstream media to point out the irony of Jesse Jackson - who once referred to New York as 'Hymietown' - serving as an arbitrator in the Richards matter. I have yet to see a conventional journalist tackle the several reports of Hillary Clinton's past anti-Jewish remarks. And, of course, the mainstream media has been a leading participant in the most vehement display of ethnic prejudice since the days of the old south: the current campaign against Muslims and Arabs.

Further, as it has been demonstrated in the Richards case, the media can take a bad incident and help make it far worse, in this case including the unprecedented damper on free speech of a prospective financial settlement by a comedian who annoyed members of his audience. Will comedy nightclubs now require signed releases from their customers? Finally there is the hypocrisy of a society that treats blacks as badly as ours getting so much more easily upset about an ethnic slur than it does about continued discrimination in all its tangible forms. This is not accidental. One of the ways a society maintains invidious distinctions is by creating an aura of politesse about it all with the repeated inference that the problem is really just a few Michael Richards.

In the end, we're not going to be able to talk our way out of climate change, find the right spin to end the Iraq war, brand ourselves into a decent diversity, or find the phrases to bring more economic fairness. It would be nice if the media recognized this and went back to covering more of the reality of life and less of what someone said about it.

*************

FROM UNDERNEWS
FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
EDITED BY SAM SMITH
Since 1964, Washington's most unofficial source
E-MAIL: mailto:news@prorev.com
LATEST HEADLINES & INDEX: http://prorev.com
UNDERNEWS: http://www.prorev.com/indexa.htm
XML FEED: http://prorev.com/feed.xml
SUBSCRIBE VIA TOPICA: mailto:prorev-subscribe@topica.com
PROBLEMS SUBSCRIBING? SUBSCRIBE DIRECTLY: mailto:news@prorev.com
1312 18th St. NW #502 Washington DC 20036
202-835-0770 Fax: 835-0779

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Binoy Kampmark: Biden’s Victory: A Eunuch Presidency Beckons

Whatever was set to happen on November 3, President Donald J. Trump would not lose. Falling in that establishment firebreak against democracy known as the Electoral College would not erase, let alone repudiate him. His now victorious opponent, far ... More>>

Reese Ehrlich: Foreign Correspondent: The Challenge For Joe Biden

If he’s smart, the likely President-elect will stop the unpopular endless wars and use the money to help our domestic economy. By Reese Erlich I’m pissed. I’m pissed at Donald Trump for trying to shut down the vote count early and at Republicans More>>

Boris Johnson At Sea: Coronavirus Confusion In The UK

The tide has been turning against UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Oafishly, he has managed to convert that tide into a deluge of dissatisfaction assisted by the gravitational pull of singular incompetence. Much of this is due to such errors of ... More>>

The Conversation: Biodiversity: Where The World Is Making Progress – And Where It’s Not

The future of biodiversity hangs in the balance. World leaders are gathering to review international targets and make new pledges for action to stem wildlife declines. Depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty person, you’re likely ... More>>

The Conversation: The Numbers Suggest The Campaign For Cannabis Reform In NZ Will Outlive The Generations That Voted Against It

Like Brexit in the UK, cannabis reform in New Zealand fell into an age gap — given time, a second referendum would probably succeed. More>>

Gordon Campbell: 22 Short Takes On The US Election

Finally, the long night of Donald Trump’s presidency is over. To date, the courts have been given no cause to conclude that the exhaustively lengthy counts of those mountains of mail ballots was anything other than legal. Stacking the US Supreme ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On How The US Supreme Court Is Undermining American Democracy

If Joe Biden is elected President next week, here comes the bad news. If Biden tries to defend Obamacare, combat climate change (via say, a variant of the Green New Deal) or tries to improve the access of US women to abortion services , he will run afoul ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog