Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tucker Carlson Blasts Ed Murrow!

Huffington Post
Brent Budowsky
Tucker Carlson Blasts Ed Murrow!

Did I just hear Tucker Carlson call Ed Murrow a phony? The intrepid Carlson's suggestion was that because some of Murrow's shows involved soft profiles (which some were), management never pushed him to do them (wrong) and Murrow was therefore a phony (huh?).

What Tucker says to his modest audience is not worthy of comment, except that this does
represent a broader decline of standards, a broader decline of truth in television, and a broader pandering to the lowest elements.

Murrow does not need any defense against Tucker's manly assault, but the truth does need a defense in an age where truth has become subservient to partisan interests, to political agendas, to cheap commercialism, to shallow sensationalism, to the cute one liner, by the airhead talker, on third rate cable, with miniscule audience, and zero respect for the integrity of the matter.

Truth is truth, and there are times when truth is non-negotiable. When Americans who landed at Normandy are murdered in war crimes when taken prisoner, to say, and then repeat, that those troops had themselves committed war crimes is beyond shame. This is not an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. It is non-negotiable. Is Fox News proud of Bill O'Reilly for this? Is there any standard? Do truth, facts and honor mean anything?

I will predict that there will be major news, very soon, that will bring the words "Edward R. Murrow" back to center stage, in old and new media alike. And that the so-called experts will be astonished at the huge market among Americans for what I would call Integrity Television, Truth Television, Courageous Television, Fearless Television, television with honor, context, and depth.

What the media should be, is letting a thousand flowers bloom, and letting the audience decide. What has happened is two alternate models, equally corrupt, for different reasons. There is the smear and fear model, which creates a megaphone for even those who slander widows of 9-11. Is there any shame to these people?

In this smear and fear model, we are treated like a nation of cowards, driven by fear to surrender even the Bill of Rights, and we are treated like a nation of anger management problems, where major papers are accused of treason, and war heroes are attacked even for the medals of bravery they were awarded. Is there any honor here?

When I wrote a guest essay in Editor and Publisher on the 4th of July defending the First Amendment from trash talk of treason, I was inundated with responses, most of them beyond favorable. But I received at least twenty to thirty that were pure, total, unadulterated hate. Not contempt, not anger, not disagreement, but pure hate directed to both the New York Times and to me.

One wonders, when the President walks the White House at night, looking at the portraits of the giants who occupied that home, whether he is proud that his own words, his own deeds, directly inflame hatred. One wonders if the programming executives who provide a megaphone to voices of hate, are proud, in their most private moments, that people watch their shows and respond by threatening the lives of Supreme Court Justices, or those they mark on their personal enemies lists.

The other model, of course, is the corporatized, bureaucratized, sensationalized, trivialized, and homogenized notion that Americans are obsessed with the corpses of the latest murder, where democracy is treated like a freak show, where issues worthy of treatment for hours are squeezed into minutes or seconds, to keep our attention between deodorant commercials.

The common denominator here, is how the television executives view the American people as morons and idiots. The fear and smear side turns cable news into negative attack ads and shameless appeals to anger and fear, and now, at times, openly, to outright hate. While the corporatized imitators take a bad art form with low esteem for the customer, and repeat it, having more in common with the street corner vendors selling fake Movados, than the heirs to a proud and honorable profession singled out by our Founding Fathers as essential to our democracy.

There are reasons cable audience, including Fox, are modest and often declining. There are reasons circulation of the daily newspapers is falling. There are reasons for the incredible surge to the internet, to more enlightened cable such as Keith Olbermann, and to offbeat but substantive alternatives such as Steve Colbert, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. For those who think the future is Tucker Carlson calling Ed Murrow a phony, perhaps we need a new book: "Programming For Dummies".

Stay tuned. News is coming. Remember that those the right attacks, are those they truly fear, Tucker's assault on Murrow is a good omen indeed. I predict Edward R. Murrow's reputation will survive the blow of Carlson's contempt; and news of integrity and quality will be making a comeback. There will more assaults on Murrow because they attack what they fear, and they have good reason to fear news that speaks truth to power, and treats people with respect.