Bill Maher with the best and, in my opinion, last word on the Brian Williams scandal. He knocks this one out of park. Maher makes a convincing case why the real news scandal has nothing to do with Brian Williams lie.
The above article about Brian Williams is extremely interesting. It is in Rolling Stone and it is an alternative viewpoint to the scandal surrounding Williams. I don’t personally know enough to come down one way or the other. I think that the scandal fits a narrative that many of us hold about the mainstream media, that it is basically entertainment in the guise of news, and that many of the people that give us our news aren’t very credible. That being said, it is also true that we often rush to judgment in our society before we have all of the facts. We should always retain a bit of skepticism when judging someone, especially when something already falls neatly into our own personal bias of how we view the world.
President Obama recently stated that the news media overstates the threat of terrorism compared to climate change. Despite some initial waffling by his press secretary, who also eventually answered the question in agreement, this statement seems like a no brainer. Here is an article on islands that are threatened because of sea level rise related to climate change:
Or check out the the predicted future for one of our country’s biggest cities:
My point is not to scare you about climate change, though I wish more people would get motivated to make the smart changes that we absolutely need to make, only to give some examples of arising problems related to climate change, as it is a serious issue. Overall, the threats we face from terrorism pale in comparison.
However, this is just another example of a mainstream media that entertains more than it informs and a human brain that is good at identifying localized or regional threats, but not large systematic ones.
The first article is about the gap between the opinions of the general public and the second is about how the President had to remind people that it was safe to get vaccines. One of my last blogs (I will link it at the end.) was about how our society relies too heavily on experts, especially the kind on TV that are used to shape public opinion on moral and political issues. However, where experts are really valuable is on technical issues, which Howard Zinn, in the excerpt I published, eludes to, although perhaps not strongly enough. Scientists can’t teach you morality, but scientists can give you the technical facts on which to base morality on. Scientists are not experts at complex ethical questions regarding manmade climate change, but they can in fact tell you that man is contributing to climate change. Scientists should not be the ones laying out the reason why it is ethical to vaccinate your children, but they should be the ones that tell you if vaccines are safe or not. Yet on climate change, vaccinations, and other topics of the day, we have a large percentage of the population that ignores the cold hard evidence on such issues. What does it mean when a President has to waste his time telling people that it is safe to get vaccinations when the overwhelming scientific evidence is that it is indeed safe?
Again the only way a democracy can work is if the general population actively tries to stay informed. We have too many people that believe in nonsensical unsupported gibberish. There is a great deal of senselessness on the internet, but at the same time it is actually pretty easy to get the correct information if you diligently search for it. A democracy is supposed to put leadership in the hands of people, but people, in order to deserve that leadership, must also assume the burdens of that leadership. That means spending at least part of your life trying to stay informed as to what is actually going on.
Why are we spending so much of our time arguing over things that are settled science? I think it is because of the corrupting influence that the god of money has on our society. There scores of think-tanks that have been created, often by corporate money, to try to influence public debate and public policy. There are a great deal of political “leaders” that are often shills for different industries. Many of the so-called “experts” on TV have been bought and paid for by different industries. People like the Koch brothers are purposely trying to dismantle education, particularly science education, but really education that gets people to think critically. In an age when we are bombarded with information, it is more important that people can think critically than ever before. People need the ability to actually tell the difference between respected technical experts of certain fields and bought and paid for talking heads, which I admit can be hard to do if you don’t actually have the time to read up on stuff. The media, especially the mainstream corporate media, does not do its duty in telling its audiences who is receiving checks from where.
There is so much to discuss on this topic, but for the time being I will leave it to you to explore on your own. Try to teach yourself about the role of think-tanks in our society. Also, google Barry McCaffrey, who was a military expert often brought on TV shows in the lead up to the Iraq War. Then spend some time googling where he gets his various paychecks from. He is a great example to understand how money corrodes public debate.
My previous post on experts here:
Hat tip to my friend Peter for the second article.
This is a really great piece by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone about the shameful response of media outlets in the wake of the French attack. A sample:
The implication is that, yes, we have a right to be offensive, but let’s not be offensive this time, maybe just this once, because — and this is the part that’s usually not said out loud — this particular group of satire targets is more than unusually violent and nuts and struggles more even than the average fundamentalist on the sense of humor front.
That point of view is a gross and shameful capitulation. I’m against easing back on the offensive cartoons “just this once” for the same reason I don’t believe in fighting al-Qaeda by “temporarily” tossing out habeas corpus and committing acts of torture: you lose in advance when you give up your culture.
Most of the news sites that I visited this morning were going apeshit over the missing plane. If we are being honest, this is news precisely because it doesn’t happen a lot. Meanwhile, last year 32,719 died in road accidents. The year before 33,782 people died on our roads. The amount of people that were injured on our roads in those respective years were roughly 2.3 million (2013) and 2.4 million (2012). These are just the totals in the United States. (These numbers were gotten from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)
I know far more people that are afraid of flying than driving. Yet if you view the two side-by-side statistically it makes no sense. Meanwhile, the news coverage is equally senseless. I’m sure they will be spending hours and hours covering something that, while sad for the people who lost loved ones, comparatively to other issues, has no bearing upon our day to day lives.
Ebola, disappearing airlines, terrorist attacks, all have one thing in common: You add them all up together and they don’t come even remotely close to other ways that people die prematurely. They are just sensational and therefor gather larger coverage in the news. This is why our democracy often fails to work. Threats are distorted out of all proportion and people focus on things that bear no relation to their lives, while at the same time ignoring things that do.
P.S. Order! We must submit the following statement to the official record: It’s sad to say, but my initial reaction on seeing that another plane had disappeared was, “Jesus fucking Christ, we’re going to be hearing about that goddamn plane for months!”
The always brilliant John Oliver on the wage gap from his show Last Week Tonight.