February 21, 2014

Liberal Journalism MIA in Berkeley?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:23 pm

Dorothea Lange, then a Berkeley resident, took the Thirties era photo of a farmer’s wife (the image is called “Migrant Mother”) that became the “go to” image for depicting America in the Depression.  Mario Savio delivered the speech that some historians credit as the real start of the Sixties from on top of a police car in Spraul Plaza at UC Berkeley.  Morris Dickstein wrote:  “The History of the Sixties was written as much in the Berkeley Barb as in the New York Times.”  It seemed only natural to expect that in the Bush era journalists would be clogging both Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues to relay stories and photos of the famous variations of Main Street to the rest of the world.

Wolf pack coverage of the latest installment of bad times still hasn’t arrived in the university town a few miles east of San Francisco and so the question must be asked:  Has Berkeley become passé or has America’s Free Press screwed up again?

The Berkeley campus has a student newspaper and a school of journalism and the fact that the J-students aren’t covering the city’s homeless as relentlessly as the paparazzi dog actors in Hollywood may actually be the story.

Ninja Kitty, a denizen of Shattuck Avenue, finds it curious that the local politicians ignore the homeless at the same time that tourists from around come to the city wanting to take photos of hippies.  Do the tourists contribute to the politicians’ reelection campaigns?

He may have provided a Rosetta stone clue when he noted that the dynamic duo on the Armstrong and Getty radio show distort their audience’s perception of the homeless by focusing attention on the fringe element of the contingent of Bay Area vagabonds and concentrate on warping their observations and generalizations by focusing on the panhandlers in San Francisco who are shunned by the majority of the homeless community.  Why would anyone want to provide such inept attempts at journalism?

Is focusing on a group’s radical extremists an example of fair and balanced journalism?  What if a Liberal radio show asserted that the Republicans Party was populated by people brandishing guns as a way of standing their ground to protect their right to handle rattlesnakes in a religious ceremony?  “You’ll take my rattlesnake from my cold dead hands!”

The World’s Laziest Journalist has listened to Armstrong and Getty and noticed that their basic knowledge of the homeless milieu is inaccurate.  The homeless in Berkeley regularly use the access they have for taking a shower.  The homeless, who often sleep in the open, keep dogs with them as a means of having a burglary alarm system while they sleep.  Any homeless person can verify the accuracy of the folk wisdom:  “The rich rob from the poor; and the poor rob from each other.”

The hippies became known as “freaks” in the late Sixties and since Diane Arbus was known for photographing unusual people, we often marvel that she didn’t document the vagabonds in the Sixties who hitchhiked into and out of Berkeley.

Richard Avedon was hired (by Rolling Stone Magazine) to set up a portable studio at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and take portraits of all the most prominent politicians.  We’ve often wondered why he didn’t cover the anti-war protesters in Berkeley earlier in his career.

If the mainstream media ignores the Berkeley angle now in a complete contradiction of how, hypothetically, Dorothea Lang would have responded to the opportunity, we can chalk it up to unknown factors, but the nagging question remains:  If students at UCB in the Sixties used their local Berkeley angle to gain entry to the exclusive mainstream media In-crowd of the New York publishing world, why then, aren’t the Berkeley panhandlers of today in need of a press agent to handle interview requests?

If you have ever closely watched a human and a dog walk together, the dog frequently makes an effort to get his stealth cues from the human’s face and body language.  They often check to see if the Homo sapiens are emitting subconscious (to the human) clues about how the canine should react.  Is the approach of a stranger a bad thing (grrrr) or a good (wag the tail)?

Could it be that the (Sixties cliché alert!) sell out to the Establishment by Journalists in the USA has become so complete and pervasive that J-schools project the “do not offend the media owners” attitude so thoroughly that the students in Berkeley don’t bother to send query letters to New York based editors about counter culture stories?  Many of the Sixties students were eager to tell their stories in underground newspapers and the trend morphed into a farm club system of developing talent for the In-crowd in New York City (see the book “Smoking Typewriters” by John McMillian) but these days in the Fox era, it seems that the method is to make absolutely sure that Journalism students know from the start that unorthodox methods and stories are off limits and a binary choice about the capitalistic society has to be made.  “Are you in or are you out?”

Speaking of higher minimum wage rates, we are investigating a rumor that makes the assertion that some affluent college students are offering prestigious firms substantial sums of cash to land an internship gig which will give them some material to list on their resumes.

A scholar from Boston, who is in Berkeley to audit a class in philosophy, has told us that he is interested in making some suggestions to the city council regarding urban development and since that topic has a cusp area that overlaps with the needs and wants of the homeless, a greater interest in affordable housing may soon become a relevant factor in an area where tenants rights is impacting the subject of affordable housing.

Since the overall Conservative strategy has long been “divide and conquer,” circumstances, which cause a uniting of the assorted activists working on the challenges of renters’ rights, the long term consequences of home foreclosures, and the problems of the homeless, could , if they all joined forces, become a worse nightmare scenario for the champions of capitalism in action.

The World’s Laziest Journalist believes that the One Percent does not want a permanent solution to the homeless problem and consequently that topic will be revisited in future columns for years to come.

Since many of the political pundits with national audiences have pointed out that the Republican Party seems to be simultaneously alienating women, Chicanos, labor, abortion rightists, pacifists, and the advocates of legalized pot; it seems that there is only one possible strategy available to the Republicans to win the contest.

Brad Friedman, the leading Internet voice for criticism (Google hint:  Bradblog) of the electronic voting machines, with no verifiable results, has been labeled a conspiracy theorist, and so the only response to the aforementioned challenge may require a reference to the W. C. Fields quote:  “If a thing’s worth having; it’s worth cheating for.”

Stoned munchies?  Cities in the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley?) are finding that there is a noticeable increase in the sales of Girl Scout cookies at the locations that are in close proximity to the dispensaries for medicinal marijuana.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  A portrait of a fellow who is trying hard to cope with the new hard times will be used to illustrate this column.  Isn’t a poor attempt to imitate the photojournalism of Dorothea Lange, better than none at all?]

In “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (on page 67), Hunter S. Thompson wrote:  “History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time – and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”

Now the disk jockey will play Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” and the Searchers’ “Needles and pins.”  We have to go look for a news story about the new Tonight Show host, Jimmy Falon, which mentions that one of his predecessors was Al “Jazzbo” Collins.  Have a “we don’t gotta show you no stinkin’ badges” type week.

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