December 7, 2010

Heard any good gossip lately?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , — Bob Patterson @ 2:00 pm

John Loughery’s biography of Willard Huntington Wright, titled S. S. Van Dine, contains a noticeable amount of material about art theory which this reader found interesting. That prompted us to leap to the assumption that we would have enjoyed the evening of conversation about that very esoteric topic which was recently scheduled to occur in New York City at the 92 St. Y. Unfortunately, the event was put on a cable TV channel and the viewers were encouraged to e-mail questions. The host group was inundated by requests for celebrity gossip because one of the participants just happened to be the author, comedian, and actor Steve Martin. The event sponsors caved to public pressure and relayed the audience’s wishes to Mr. Martin. That destroyed the event’s intellectual intent and threw it into complete disarray.

We learned about this Manhattan based brouhaha on Sunday morning at the café Mediterraneum in Berkeley CA while we were finishing our first pass on that day’s installment of the Week in Review Section of the New York Times.

Initially, declaring that we were in a genuine beatnik café (hey, if the place was open as the Piccolo and offering bargain meals while Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg were living in Berkeley . . .) before noon may be suspect, but, since that place was the home of the caffé latte, and since we were in dire need of a dose of caffeine, and since we had, while walking there, acceded to an impulse to buy the aforementioned massive journalistic document dump of information and ideas, it seemed altogether proper and fitting to be thus engaged.

We noticed that our neighbor at the next table was duplicating our effort to become well informed. We asked: “Why are you reading the New York Times in Berkeley California? He noted that was a profound question and he lacked a profound answer. Fair dinkum. We exchanged a few additional bits of opinion and local information and so when he rose to leave we asked if he knew where in that particular university town, someone could go to find a lively discussion. He listed three possible locations worth, by his reckoning, investigation.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, wouldn’t cha know it; his answer indicated that we might want to reach into the memory bank and use our ability to imitate an Irish accent to augment the search process. In the part of Pennsylvania, where we spent our childhood years, IrishCatholicDemocrat is one word and everyone who used it was of Irish ancestry.

Some naïve folks may suggest that what this columnist needs to do is to turn on the radio and turn the tuning knob to find a smorgasbord of lively discussions revolving around the day’s controversy du jour. Aye, lads and lassies, there’s the rub. The programs available on the radio are comparable to playing a game of chance with a Mississippi riverboat gambler. The programs that are conducted under the conservative banner, will disconnect a caller who is heading toward making a salient liberal point (“to protect the audience from misinformation and heresy” or words to that effect) while the shows that are hosted by a liberal pundit are lately prone to be dominated by callers repeating conservative talking points.

Consequently the result is as bland and boring as if someone who does not give a tinker’s damn about sports, tunes into a radio station featuring sports talk. Don’t the stations in the San Francisco Bay area favor the local teams and don’t the New York City based stations featuring sports talk favor the Yankees, Jets, and Giants football team?

The days when people who wanted a lively discussion would adhere to the guidelines elaborated in Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay “Talk and Talkers” are part of a lost era. Now, shouting matches are foisted on the audience because they are entertaining and help boost ratings.

After departing the previously mentioned beatnik café, we encountered a fellow who, when we had occasion to mention that we do not own a TV set, said: “Someone who doesn’t own a television? . . . that’s as scary as a Steven King movie.” Just a few moments after that exchange, we encountered a group of young hippies in the world famous “People’s Park,” who were deeply engrossed in the process of reading a fresh copy of that day’s edition of the New York Times. We took a photo because the tableau resembled a cross between a Saturday Evening Post cover painted by Norman Rockwell and some photojournalism (by Dorothea Lang?) documenting the last Great Depression.

Could it be that the conservatively owned news media have, with their incessant proclamation of the triumph of the philosophy of the wealthy, only manage to delude just themselves? What if the attitude toward journalism in the United States today matches the levels of cynicism and distrust toward managed news that was experienced in Germany during the second half of 1944?

Every kid knows that hot air and bubble gum will collapse when they meet their limits, but do the best known purveyors of conservative talking points have late night moments of questioning and doubt similar to what Scrooge experienced when he encountered some ghosts in the Dickens tale?

What respected journalism awards have Rush and Glen Beck won?

Isn’t it time for Rupert and the Koch brothers to fund some new news awards which can be bestowed on hapless propagandists to impress gullible teabaggers and to reassure any conservatives vulnerable to moments of self-doubt?

Liberal websites are like the canary in the mine and some of them are looking very peaked these days. Imagine, if you will, that Combat newspaper, which was distributed in occupied Paris during World War II, had suspended publication because of a lack of money. Do Americans still not get the picture?

Does Rush Limbaugh honestly think that capitalists will continue to pay his salary when the last vestiges of any opposing point of view have been extinguished? Capitalists don’t get rich by handing out exorbitant paychecks unnecessarily. When the voice of opposition and lively conversations have become extinct, Rush’s services will be as appealing to the capitalists as the efforts of a union organizer are now.

From a selfish point of view, wouldn’t it be logical for Rush to think that he should sporadically offer subsidy money to liberal media anonymously

Listening to Rush Limbaugh repeat passages from the Republican playbook reminds this columnist of the Twilight Zone episode that ended with the line: “It’s a cookbook!”

Wouldn’t readers of this website love to be the clerk in an Unemployment Office when all liberal media has been extinguished and Rush is given a pink slip and has to learn first hand what amounts of bureaucracy are involved in the paperwork necessary to start an unemployment claim?

Patriotic teabaggers would be the first to proclaim “It can’t happen here.” To which we would quote the closing line from The Sun also Rises: “‘Yes!’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so.’”

Richard H. Dana, Jr., in Two Years Before the Mast, wrote: “Whatever your feelings may be, you must make a joke of everything at sea; and if you were to fall from aloft and be caught in the belly of a sail and saved from instant death, it would not do to look at all disturbed, or to make a serious matter of it.” That’s good advice for conservative talk show hosts too.

Now the disk jockey will play Walyon and Hank Jr.’s “The Conversation,” a bootleg copy of “Cosmic Joke,” written and sung by David Carradine, and (from South Pacific) “Happy talk.” We have to go to the “Going Places” travel agency and ask Tulle if Pan Am offers a stop off in Tahiti if we buy a ticket to New Zealand. Have “smile when you say that” type week.

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