December 20, 2013

Another week for the History books

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:26 pm

Did History happen at San Francisco City Hall on Thursday?

Workers at the Santa Monica Outlook were used to the feeling that the building was shaking.  Each day, when the presses started to roll, the building would rumble just a bit.  When a small earthquake would occur, as happened periodically in that area of seismic instability, the building would gyrate in place (twerk?), but on one particular day about thirty years ago, when the building started vibrating, the World’s Laziest Journalist yelled:  “this is history happening” and ran out into the parking lot on the South side of the building to see the last time a railroad freight train would be used inside Santa Monica’s city limits.

We were reminded of that spine tingling feeling of realizing that something with historic significance was happening, earlier this week while we were listening to David Lazarus work as a substitute host on the Norman Goldman radio talk show.  The radio landscape in the San Francisco Bay Area will change radically when the political liberals are banished from the local airwaves and we knew that was going to happen; but listening to the Los Angeles Times writer do some verbal jousting with a conservative troll, we had that old “history is happening” feeling again.

A classic bit of Americana is about to go belly up.  Folks who don’t have online access to progressive radio programming in the San Francisco area will never again get to hear the classic bit of Americana wherein a troll calls a progressive talk radio program and asks “What if there had been a good guy with a gun there when the bad guy walked into that Connecticut school?”

The last weekend round-up column before Christmas of 2013 arrives is the perfect opportunity to become all sentimental and nostalgic.  The Lone Ranger, Lux Radio Theater, Fiber McGee and Molly, are gone and now the classic bit of Americana concerning “what if there had been a good guy with a bad gun there?” will join those other hallowed memories rusting in the Radio Hall of Fame.

Yes, there will always be archived material to bring back the treasured memories, but is listening to a recording of Abbott and Costello talk about the baseball team’s lineup the same as hearing it live?  Isn’t “doing it live” another American tradition that is fading into oblivion?

William L. Shirer, who was no stranger to radio history, wrote several books about his experiences of being a journalist working in Europe as WWII approached and became unavoidable.  In one of them (probably “Berlin Diary The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934 – 1941,”) he described the deleterious effect living in the midst of a relentless stream of propaganda had on the journalists whose job it was to refute that same series of lies.  If Murrow’s Boys weren’t immune to it, expecting average Americans to avoid becoming indoctrinated by a one sided debate might prove to be a bit overly optimistic, Think of the effect more like “shaving points” in a basketball game, rather than being an example of “taking a dive” in a boxing match.

Journalism presents news consumers with a smorgasbord of information that the individual can customize for his or her own tastes.  Some guys turn first to a newspaper’s Sports Section, other skim the front page before going to the comics.

On Thursday, December 19, 2013, a wedding ceremony was held at City Hall in San Francisco that drew a large contingent of journalists, but no satellite TV trucks.  The bride and groom started out clothed on the steps (Sheriff’s Department jurisdiction), were ordered to relocate to the sidewalk (SFPD jurisdiction), and were nude when the minister performed the wedding ceremony.  The wedding may have been a historic first for San Francisco.  If so, photos of the event will be used sporadically for years to come.  No TV trucks means it’s not a big news story and there won’t be any video available to use on the Evening News.  The story ran on the front page of the Bay Area section of the San Francisco Chronicle’s December 20, 2013 edition.

The bride, Gypsy Taub, is very adept at drawing news coverage and so we may write a column comparing her expertise at manipulating journalists to the way that politicians play the newsies as if they were from a paid Public Relations firm.

Newsworthiness and historical importance don’t always coincide.  In a week when some showbiz maneuvering for the cable TV show “Duck Dynasty,” the death of Al Goldstein and several movie actors, and a shooting at a Colorado school, were current event topics, stories about the use of gas in Syria were not getting good play.  The obscure stories about events in Syria may, in the future, wind up being of much greater interest to historians than this week’s celebrity gossip items.

Lamenting the fact that celebrity gossip is replacing hard news in the journalism world is itself a topic that won’t attract a big audience.

We know that is traditional for liberals to use Christmas time to spout platitudes about “Peace on Earth,” but for a patriotic pundit living in a country still deeply involved in George W. Bush’s “Forever War” that sounds suspiciously like a cowardly surrender attitude if not actual treason.

December is a time when journalists knock out the annual best of material, the top news stories recaps, and columns full of whimsy and nostalgia.

O.K.  Here goes:  When we were getting religious training during our grade school phase of life, a nun related an bit of information about the Roman treatment of the Christians.

The people who were going to be sacrificed in the arena for the amusement of the citizens were often taunted by some of the people who were watching the victims being walked through the streets to the place where they would draw their last breath.  Some of the sadistic instigators would walk along with the intended victims right up to the entrance to the Coliseum.  At least once, the sadistic guards let the vocal agitators past the entrance and into the “blue room.”  When they closed and locked the entrance doors, the people who were doing the taunting turned to the guards and explained a mistake has occurred and that they didn’t belong there.  The guards responded:  “that’s all we ever hear.”

It seems to us that eventually some of the conservative talk show listeners will someday change their mind about the way things are going and start to object to being told that the jobs will start to reappear when more tax breaks for the rich are enacted.

A massive tax cut for billionaires is a great idea if you are a billionaire.  If you are a member of the middle class who has been searching for work for an extended period, tax cuts for the billionaires should be a topic that gets a “we don’t have a dog in this fight” type answer.

Fooling people into blundering into participation in a gladiators’ contest and getting desperate voters to approve of tax cuts that probably aren’t going to generate the creation of just one job, are both fine examples of sadism in action.  The guards thought what they did was funny.  The billionaires think duping the working class into approving tax cuts that will only benefit the super rich is funny.  In both cases the only relevant question is:  “Whose side are you on?”

In a year when liberal talk radio is being drastically reduce to almost zero in the radio marketplace and no one, least of all any Conservative, is lamenting the disappearance of the last vestige of free speech, it seems to the World’s Laziest Journalist that it is time to forget about the possibility of time travel and scratch “Visiting Berlin at Christmas time in 1938” off the bucket list.  We don’t need to go there; we’re already there.

The closing quote for the Christmas 2013 column will be the words of Hunter S. Thompson:  “Big darkness soon come.”

Now the disk jockey will play Tom T. Hall’s song The Cowboy and the Philosopher (it contains an excellent Christmas wish list), “Christmas with the Chipmunks,” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  We have to go see “American Hustle.”  Have a “just what I always wanted!” type week.

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