Why is it better to get our news from a newspaper than from television?
There is a right answer — or at least a ‘two-point’ response (vs. a ‘one’ or a ‘zero’). In the dark ages of IQ measurement, such questions found themselves huddled together in a ‘sub-test’ call Comprehension. The intent of these fifteen or so queries was to test an individual’s understanding of social roles, practices, and conventional standards of behaviour — the ‘why and how things work’ in our culture. The latter day ‘down-grading’ of the test itself to ‘supplementary’ status (read, ‘optional’) says perhaps a little too much about what’s currently valued.
What isn’t political nowadays? Timing and sound bites rule. Balance and in-depth examination have been displaced in favour of encapsulated ‘scoops’, ‘breaking news’ — orchestrated to trade on a news cycle’s ‘treat of the week’; or more properly, treat of the instant. And washed through the filter of political correctness and ratings. The bandwagon has supplanted the orchestra.
So to Harry and Meghan’s ‘bombshell’ tell-all with Oprah. It was difficult to miss the carefully crafted, stage-managed, scripted frame that surrounded this ‘intimate and candid sharing’. And I’m sure that airing the interview on the eve of International Women’s Day, as a jury is being selected in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin (George Floyd’s killer), against the backdrop of BLM was all just some fortuitous accident. Not! Oprah didn’t become a billionaire by throwing something against a wall to see what sticks.
I’ve come to accept that the Americanization of Harry is long since a done deal. This is an incomplete individual who continues to struggle with his menu selections — as in ‘Will that be fish or fowl?’ Royal or no? And, as my mom was ever so fond of reminding me, ‘if you hang around with kids from the South End, it will lead to trouble!’ (Bearing in mind that the ‘South End’ was five blocks away in our small, southern Ontario border town.) Harry appears to have leapt from adolescence to, well, late adolescence in recent times — easy pickings for the more world-wise, image-managed folk with clear(er) ideas of what they want, where they’re headed, and how to get there. Harry, sadly has been compelled to make some difficult choices. In the face of a growing awareness that fence-sitting, in aid of having his cake and. . . was not working out.
Equally, in this ‘Age of Divisiveness’, simply making a quiet call and getting on with the business of same is not an option. ‘Herd loyalty’ must be declared, good guys and bad guys named and shamed, and a public spin spun. And with such widely aired and shared proclamations, victims and villains are all the more clearly drawn — and available to be adopted as icons, symbols, and spokespeople for causes in this increasingly partisan world.
But first the drama needs to tick the relevant boxes, to provide traction and points of attachment for movements, lest the viewing audience fail to connect the dots in the intended fashion.
Let the dot-connecting begin. . . A little something for everyone.
- Racist innuendo.
- Mental health allusion.
- Echoes of one or two prior tragic scenarios
- Cult control / and attendant helplessness and isolation
- David and Goliath narrative
I like to think of myself as neither a rabid monarchist nor a barking populist. What I do find increasingly disturbing is the ease with which ‘responsible news sources’ (and others!) are able to be manipulated and ultimately exploited to self-serving ends. All the usual suspects hopped on with all the usual biases and slants. CNN and MSNBC scrambled to interview BLM and psychiatric sources. Fox and its ilk championed (gulp!) the polar opposite.
And so to the opening question. The ‘right answer’ can include:
- In depth coverage
- Assignment of opinion to editorial pages
- Balanced reporting
- Paced, measured absorption of material
- Fact checked substance
Perhaps Method # 1 has something to recommend it after all.