Old media personnel are puzzling over FEMA’s fake press conference this week which was alleged to be just a result of poor judgment by well-intentioned bureaucrats. When you read press reports about this however, you get the feeling that reporters weren’t so upset that they could probe beyond the talking points issued by Bush’s press secretary, Dana Perino.
FEMA called a press conference last Tuesday, giving reporters only 15 minutes notice. Its purpose was to communicate FEMA’s efficiency in responding to the crisis in San Diego. Naturally, no reporters showed up due to these time constraints. However, FEMA did think enough in advance to provide a conference number so reporters could listen in. Yes, that’s correct. Listen. Only. This must have been a government-designed conference-calling application because reporters were unable to ask questions.
Stung by Katrina’s press nightmare, FEMA was attempting to give the public timely communications. They even went so far as to put FEMA employees in the press conference location to ask questions about the crisis. Clearly, they were doing their best to give the public the facts. It was all just a big misunderstanding and an error in judgment.
"FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regard to the wildfires in California," Perino said. "It’s not something I would have condoned. And they — I’m sure — will not do it again."
Now, any rational person would draw the conclusion that everything about the FEMA press conference was completely intentional and the claim it was "an error in judgment" is a gross understatement if it is even applicable. Some unknown reporter(s) who called in to the conference call that day complained of its mute nature and now it’s a big story. I imagine that there will be quite a few old media commentators who will trot out an indignant phrase or two, but let’s face it, any self-righteous indignation by the majority of our old media representatives is purely hypocritical.
A typical press conference with just about any old media outlet, national or local, proves that the last few generations of reporters have been given nothing more than a homogeneous indoctrination rather than an education in the art of journalism and reporting. Not very many stand out and they all seem to ask the same dumb questions, finally just printing or broadcasting, without any serious critical thinking applied, the subject’s statements. When the final report is delivered, the unfiltered, unquestioned statements are fed to the public. That is, if the person making the statement is somebody who holds any position of authority.
When it is some poor schmuck who’s run afoul of the authorities it is a completely different story. Of course, whatever the authorities say is repeated without question, but the citizen is usually maligned and there is no attempt to help a brother out by asking pertinent questions. Reporters generally won’t be awarded a Pulitzer for writing about you until you’re on death row, accused of a crime you haven’t committed. In that case, the same person who managed to sleep-walk through journalism classes and his or her journalism career, starts asking relevant questions. Maybe if questions were asked before or during the trial, you wouldn’t be on death row, held as an “enemy combatant” or accused of being a bad-parent justifying the state’s action against you.
FEMA’s little charade was no different than what occurs every single day when members of the old media show up to cover the world’s important stories. The only difference is where the “reporter’s” paycheck is drawn.
How is this different than what you see on any given day in the old media?
“Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” one staffer asked.
“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response so far,” Johnson replied.
And so it went for more than 10 minutes, without any journalists.
Oh, the horror. Just like virtually every press conference one can witness in the modern era appears to be void of any journalists, so was this fake version of a press conference. Of course, at the same time that ABC news is reporting on FEMA’s fake press conference, they run a puff-piece on Chertoff, now in charge of FEMA as the head of Homeland Security. Trust them, the government learned its lesson after Katrina and is working hard to give us all confidence that FEMA can properly do its job.
When the old media’s “journalists” start asking Chertoff where he finds his authority in the constitution to manage disaster efforts and how he can in good conscience execute such authority when it doesn’t exist, I’ll be convinced of their concern and professionalism. Until then, I’ll remind myself that the best thing I ever did was to sell my television and cancel my cable subscription. I can tell you this: a year after I stopped watching television, my entire way of thinking changed. That was 12 years ago. I don’t miss it even a little bit.
I am convinced that most everyone would be affected as I have been and that television psychosis is the main problem with media personnel. They watch each other on television. It’s a very incestuous situation where a surreal version of the world is presented by its most narcissistic. The fact that there are so few in the old media who can be distinguished from FEMA plants is very sad. Obviously ad revenue and profits do not depend on journalistic integrity.
This isn’t to say that profit is bad; profit should drive media decisions. However, the old media is subsidized heavily and does not suffer from competition as much as we are led to believe. Licensed and protected by the government, the old media has faced no real competition and no serious consequences for bad actions. It also has no incentive to strike at the system. What competition exists amongst old media players is purely an illusion. However, as protection of old media has been increased, so it has it moved further towards extinction.
The internet has slowly but surely become the only decent alternative to old media. With the old media, you have to tune in at a specific time or purchase the current publication to see a regurgitated news story, but the internet offers that same regurgitated story on-demand. Look at how CDR has rocked the old media (which, by the way, fought this technological advancement tooth and nail). The Internet is Tivo on steroids.
It’s time we all just turned it off. The excuse that you won’t be informed is laughable. The trend toward entertainment on TV is to package popular shows on DVD. So, if you’re addicted to a particular show, don’t worry, you can still get your fix.
The real reason to stop watching television and spending any time with the old media, is that it needs to die. It serves no purpose other than to perpetuate lies. I would argue that even the "entertainment" they offer is nothing but propaganda. The number of dramas which portray LEOs and Judges as saviors of the people are laughable in the face of reality. Just like the FEMA press conference, it’s not real. It’s the great American fake-out and it’s time for us to stop giving it any legitimacy.
Rick Fisk [send him mail] is a 45-year-old software developer and entrepreneur. He is married, has 3 children and resides in Austin, TX.