When I was a kid the whole nation didn’t ping off of a news cycle like a pinball, flashing lights, ringing bells and ultimately dying away to await the next drop of the coins. A global disaster like Fukushima, for instance, would take center court, followed up by careful tracking of the radioactive flotsam that arrived recently in Alaska, along with aggressive handling of the continued cover-up of a nuclear accident worse than Chernobyl. Have you heard about Fukushima lately? Me, neither. Yesterday’s news.
Last year’s environmental disaster, the Gulf oil spill, has been in the news lately, but less because of the eyeless shrimp and sickly children of the region than because of charges filed against a BP scapegoat on the eve of its anniversary. How quickly we forget, when there’s always a new disaster on the horizon!
I grew up in a different time, of course. That was when newscasters wagered their good names on accuracy, not a pitch for ratings. That was when a political assessment from the lips of a Walter Cronkite or an Eric Sevareid mattered, and we never doubted its veracity. Now we are treated to truthiness and infotainment with panels of pundits holding forth, or — in the case of FOX News — cranky old ideologues shouting over one another, moderated by some young thing, in an unending loop of 24/7 chatter. This is insult to much of the nation’s intelligence, but for those who prefer to have someone else do their thinking for them, it’s as comfortable as old television reruns where Pa is still in charge at the Ponderosa, Archie still insults Meathead, and Lucy and Ricky still sleep in single beds. That an entire cross-section of our political spectrum takes pride in this choice of anti-intellectualism is both a sign of our times and a tragedy.
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