“I’m Mad as Hell!” or “Why Civilization Is on the Verge of Collapse”
As you know, Heathrow is the world’s largest and busiest airport, second only to Schiphol in Amsterdam and JFK in New York. All three are eclipsed, of course, by O’Hare in Chicago and Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Speaking of Minneapolis, I just learned today that the state of Minnesota is the second bikiest in the nation, second only to Portland, Oregon. There are more bikes per capita in Portland, but Minneapolis is a close second. I think we fell behind a week ago when it hit 11 degrees below zero and Lizzie stopped biking to work and bought a 27-year-old Ford 150 pickup.
Also, did you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the melodies for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” AND the alphabet song AND “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” when he was five? All three tunes, which are identical, are based on an identical preexisting French tune “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman,” with obscure beginnings.
My source for all this information: Stuff I heard somewhere and in at least one case, the original edition of Trivial Pursuit. Which I think I accidentally memorized.
How can so many airports be the biggest, or the busiest, or serve the most connections, or whatever? Obviously there are different ways to measure, and in addition, these measures change over time. It is possible that JFK was the physically largest airport while at the same time O’Hare served more transfers while at the same time more people went in and out of Heathrow and some other airport had the largest number of aircraft even though a large percentage of them were mail and freight. Or whatever. But then, as each airport is designated as the “X”-est, that designation sticks. Forever. This is a little like saying that every time a person beaks the record for running the mile, that person is now the fastest person in the world forever, even after someone else breaks the record.
But that is not what happens, is it? People who follow a sport easily keep track of the changes over time in what athlete or what team has accomplished what feat. And this can be rather complex. I watched all of the Vikings games this year, and I don’t think there was a single game in which somebody didn’t break some record, with that event noted in passing by the announcers and commentators who were keeping track.
“Oh, that’s his 100th completed pass received. That’s a record. Oh, he just threw his 4,000th yard of completion for the season. Team record. Oh, he just scratched his butt for the ninth time before the end of the two-minute warning at the half. That has never been done before.” And so on.
It bothers me…a lot…when I can observe sportscasters and commentators keeping track of, and speaking lucidly about, and being accurate in regards to, what must be a thousand statistics, the health and injury status of hundreds of players, and the status of dozens of teams, while at the same time Contessa Brewer, newscaster of MSNBC (to randomly pick a news person who happens to be blathering in my direction as I write this), can’t keep two facts straight at the same time. Seriously. If you observe sports and really think about what is involved, what the commentators know and the level of information that is being processed (and it is not all trivial facts), it is actually quite impressive. But if you look at all but the absolutely top echelon of newscasters and commentators for the “regular” news, they are incapable of counting to three without screwing it up.
What is most important is this: In sports, getting it wrong is simply not allowed. It is part of the culture of sports that you get the facts straight. No questions asked. Just get it right, and if you get it wrong, fix that.In contrast, in the news, there is no such thing. There is no proscription against getting it wrong.
Yes, yes, I was actually watching the TV in a tavern in the vicinity of Taunton, Massachusetts, one afternoon, just after Ronald Reagan was shot, and I saw Frank Reynolds’ tirade. “Let’s just get this thing right!” he screamed from his seat at the anchor desk after finding out that Jim Brady (of the Brady Bill) was dead, then finding out that he was alive.
And then there was the time that Dan Rather resigned because his news agency, under his direction, had made a mistake.
But that’s it, man. Two times ever. All the rest of the time the “news” agencies have been blathering, failing to provide sources, failing to check facts, and most importantly, failing to kick themselves in the ass when they get it wrong. And the result of this is that our entire society does not care even a little if it gets something wrong.
Thus, teabaggers can not only exist but they can be reported by the press as though they were worthy of anything but immediate dismissal.
Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly about how often the press fails to police itself. But not much. Try this: Think of an example where a particular news agency…your favorite local news station, or one of the national networks…got something wrong and never corrected or admitted it, and then think of ten examples of them getting something wrong and following that error with a statement that fully acknowledged that they had made a mistake, made reference to the fact that they should have not made the mistake, and discussed some positive action that would be taken to avoid the mistake being made again in the future.
One to ten. That would be a barely acceptable ratio of unacknowledged goof to goof that leads to acknowledgment, apology, and improvement. And you won’t find anything like that. You’ll find official retractions, soul searching, self-critique leading to real improvement a handful of times in your entire lifetime. In contrast you will find mistakes (how many people really died in an incident being reported live, what really happened at the airport that shut down some flights, who actually said or did what about something that matters) several times a day, ongoing, as a ubiquitous part of process of “reporting” the “news.”
And this is precisely why civilization is on the verge of collapse. Again. And it pisses me off:
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 at 2:52 pm and is filed under Greg Laden, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.