Public Comment

Commentary: The Plentitude of Substantially Diluted Media

By Rizwan A. Rahmani
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Every four years we are subjected to a barrage of visual and aural assaults by the mainstream media—abuzz with news about the presidential campaign and the candidates. This time around the primaries have been particularly irritating, considering it started about a year ago, and the actual election is still nine months away! As far as a year or so ago, you started to hear such mundane questions as, if Hillary will run for the office or how Giuliani will fare against Hillary? This at a time, when much more important national issues were at hand regarding war and constitutional dalliances by the current administration? The amount of watered downed, insipid, corporate agenda-laced, shallow coverage of our political process has only been exacerbated by cable news and the new corporate owners. We have only Ted Turner to thank for it. The cable news media’s self professed, expert political talking heads (usually qualified by a caption), spout their biased, non-independent, political drivel as infallible commandments that we are to accept like believers. The worst part of all this is that there isn’t any other single authoritative source available to us as an alternative. 

When Headline News was the only show on cable, it was a good place for low fat news appetizers; afterwards, you could get your main course—although not as substantial as BBC—on any of the major network evening news, and finally you could top off your main course with dessert on Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Now there are just too many venues for news, and it is easier than ever for any Tom, Dick, and Harry to get a spot on the television to dump their spade full of quasi journalistic rubbish without much scrutiny. 

Prior to cable news, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS were the networks for international news, the quality of journalism was held to a much higher standard. You couldn’t just get out of college, do a few minor stints, and then get a national audience. Dan Rather was a CBS news correspondent for nineteen years before he was given the anchor position. Peter Jennings was a foreign correspondent for numerous years before he took the anchor position on ABC. In stark contrast, this current crowd of journalists on cable news is as unseasoned as tapioca at the infirmary. What’s more, the absence of wrinkles and specks of grey in their hair only raise questions about their credentials. There is no sign of weathering on these faces from years of reporting from God forsaken locations. Wearing the latest haute couture from Armani and Prada, this crowd looks more ready—with its salon produced coiffure—to walk the red carpet than report any substantive news. And we are to trust these pseudo-journalists for comments on our national politics, economy, healthcare, and on subject as arcane as geopolitics? It is no surprise we have selected highly incompetent leaders to represent us lately. There should be a minimum years (several) of residency required before giving this crowd its own megaphone. 

This is the same crowd who started to call Paul Bremer a viceroy without ever looking up the word’s real meaning. They stopped uttering that term quickly. This geographically challenged group wouldn’t be able to point out Karkuk from Timbuktu, Sea of Galilee from Sea of Tranquility or locate Kabul on the map within the margin of error of a country next to it. Journalists aside, even the current administration was quite clueless about Iraq’s population composition: certainly this administration is geopolitically just as challenged! This explains why it keeps getting carte blanche by the media on its egregiousness: this media skipped its homework on the U.S. Constitution. This crowd should only be seen (maybe), but not heard. As it is, I have to cross-reference many news organizations, and sift through the morass of mostly dross news to get an iota of information that I consider pure. 

I think the current American news media is harmful, shallow, and it is misinforming its citizens. It should come with a mandatory warning as follows: consume at your own risk, may cause drowsiness, do not consume while driving or using heavy machinery, mix with other news sources to get a marginal effect; overconsumption may cause a loss of political judgment.  

Without the disclaimer above, in the interim, we should avoid this skim milk news before it further thickens our brains. 


Rizwan A. Rahmani is an Oakland resident.