Whatever happened to the news that was the news before a man with the news turned out to be a man without whom the news might be the news?
Just over half a century ago, a ground-breaking US satire show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In took the West by storm. To be honest, it hasn’t stood the test of time – the visual gags look terribly laboured, and the guests ill-at-ease today – but it was the first anti-Vietnam War, liberal, media-mocking mainstream programme on American TV. Best of all, Richard Nixon hated it almost as much as the Dick Cavett Show during Watergate.
But the two central (and older) comics at the centre of the satire, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, were consummate professionals. Dan was the savvy straight man, and Dick the dummy who got all the punch lines but none of the girls. For me, their best running sketch was a parody of the Johnny Carson Show , always introduced in a ridiculous manner by Rowan, who said “And now, here’s the man with the news for whom the news just wouldn’t be the news without the news, heeeeyurrrs Dicky!”
Mindless Sixties liberalism has a lot to answer for, but at the time I was just as crazily hedonistic as the rest of them. As Anti-War turned into Radical Chic, like so many liberal causes it became a knee-jerk Truth. And once spoilt Baby-boomer Hippyism got sobered up by 1970s oil crisis reality, many of us began to reassess what if anything ‘the Swinging Sixties’ had really been about.
Today, I look back and regret the stance the West took against the War in Vietnam. History has shown clearly that the massive role Beijing played in the Viet Cong victory produced a tragic result: some 12 million human beings under the jackboot of a repressive régime up there with Stalin’s USSR for ruthless ideological fascism. Ho Chi Minh sold Vietnam to the Chinese: it was nothing less than naked colonialism.
But back then, things looked altogether more straightforward. The Laugh-In was a place you went every Friday to be reassured that, even under LBJ and Tricky Dicky, freedom of speech was alive and well in God’s blessed America. Don’t smile: it was.
The CIA-Texas-Pentagon axis of which Eisenhower warned had disposed of the uncooperative President John F Kennedy in 1963; but the axis having installed it’s candidate Richard Nixon in 1968, the media and the young were still powerful enough to chase him from office by 1974. Little did they know that CIA black ops against Democratic President Jimmy Carter would result in the election of arch stooge Ronald Reagan in 1980. Ever since then, the Alt State has been in the ascendancy: they have either owned or neutered every elected US President.
But I’m still struck by the comedic innocence of “here’s the man with the news for whom the news just wouldn’t be the news without the news, heeeeyurrrs Dicky!” Because somehow, here in 2018, it looks incredibly prescient.
Fifty years later, who is the man with the news that is the news as opposed to not the news? Is the news only available from the man with the news, and if so, who is that man or woman? We knew where we were with Walter Cronkite and the BBC: but Cronkite is long gone, and the BBC is in chains.
Without a dwindling source of news that could perhaps to be the news (but we can’t be certain) what is the news?
My contemporary example of confusion takes us to the ongoing Cambridge Analytica story. The pro-EU MSM insists that CA’s devilish techniques persuaded a lot of Brits to leave the EU….something they really didn’t want to do. But then, the starting point for all liberal journalists is that the people they “care” about are thicker than a ship’s beam – ‘the Sheeple’ – and wicked hidden regressive forces talk them out of everything that is really being done for their own good.
So Brendan O’Neill of Spiked writes that ‘This is a libel upon the electorate. Because in reality, British voters’ embrace of Brexit against the wishes of virtually the entire establishment represented one of the great acts of free, independent thought in the history of British political life’.
I’m inclined to agree. But I don’t know if Brendan is right. Do you?
Is there anywhere else we can go to get a better assessment? Let’s have a look at Wired:
‘THE FEDERAL TRADE Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection confirmed Monday that it has undertaken a non-public investigation into Facebook’s data practices, according to a statement from Tom Pahl, the agency’s acting director. The announcement comes just over a week after The New York Times and the The Guardian published explosive reports about the reported improper use of data belonging to 50 million Facebook users by the Trump-campaign affiliated data firm Cambridge Analytica’.
I have two problems with this one: what good is a ‘non-public investigation’; and I place ever-decreasing faith in the validity of anything printed as “news” by the NYT and the Guardian. Be that as it may however, they are offering a diametrically opposing view of what the news is to that of Spiked when it comes to CA.
The irony of all this is that, in a world where almost nothing is certain and firm belief well-nigh impossible, intolerant faith in outdated ideology has never been stronger. Be the disciples cynical neoliberals, archaic socialists or Stone Age Jihadists, the retreat into empirically untenable stockades is more marked than ever in my lifetime.
Is this the Age of Media Manipulation, is it the Era of Elector Ignorance, is it the Epoch of Opinion Rigidity, or is it an anarchic mélange of all three?
For myself, I remain a firm believer in 3+1 = 4.