Friday, May 05, 2006

Sometimes you get the bear...

...and sometimes it’s a security guard from the university. You may have heard this story as I’ve mentioned it in some of your comments, but so the rest of you can share in my wisdom (and so I don’t have to write an intelligent post) I’m now going to relate the story of my friend the security guard, a bear, and the local media in Birmingham. If you’ve already read it – suck it up and read it again, you pussy.

I had long labored under the popular assumption that the United States has one of the least restricted presses in the world (if not the most free) but I’m beginning to believe that is more American arrogance. We did have much less government interference a few years ago, but incidents under the current administration have conspired to drop us from 17th to 44th place worldwide. That’s right – Bosnia, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong are all ahead of us now, although we’re maintaining a slim lead over Bolivia and Uruguay. That’s too bad, because the American media already has problems unrelated to the federales. I think the biggest problem with the American press is that they’re not America’s truth hounds as they would have us believe. Their primary goal is to make money, which means they need high ratings, which means sometimes the unvarnished truth just isn’t enough to get the job done. To quote Jane’s Addiction, “the news is just another show with sex and violence.” (guitar riff)

I once temped at a local CBS affiliate in Birmingham. A lot of conservatives wouldn’t watch their news because they viewed them as rabble-rousers, but I respected them above the others because they had the grit to report abuses of power by local politicians and the tenacity to follow up unlike the other stations which had the attention span of a newborn puppy. I worked in the sales office which I quickly discovered outranked the news room. When a local company with a big advertising budget sponsored Prom Promise (some kind of thing to get the drunken kids home safely on prom night, which was nice), they called their sales rep and asked that the station mention it in their nightly news for some free publicity. The sales rep called the news room and simply ordered them to include the story in that night’s broadcast – not a request, just a simple command: “Do a story about” (nameofcompany). Likewise, a story about a student abused by a local community college came to the attention of the sales team, but the college also advertised with them so they had that bit of truth axed. Mind you, I saw these two incidents while I was filling in for the regular secretary who was out less than a week.

Some years later, a sick bear (authorities assumed it was sick due to its odd behavior) wandered into town; several sightings were reported on the East side. It was eventually trapped in a fenced-off pipe yard by animal control, the police, and my friend who was guarding the yard. After the bear had been tranqued and taken away, the reporters interviewed my friend. When asked, he told them he was a security guard working for a private company. The reporter for either ABC or NBC asked “Oh, can we say you’re from the university? It would sound better.” The CBS reporter rolled his eyes and said “So much for realism”, but my friend laughed and said he didn’t care. Later that night while watching the CBS news, my friend noticed they too altered it to say he was from the state University (a source of serious cash). Like he said, if they’re willing to lie about little details like that, there’s no telling what they’ll do with a major issue.

Which brings me to today’s questions about the immigration boycott on Monday. The American press started to do their usual thing which was to blow it out of all proportion in order to turn it into a more important (and better selling) story, but by Tuesday they became strangely quiet and moved on to other news. I didn’t think the boycott would work since they never do and, if there’s any effect, it’s generally the opposite of what was intended (endangering your job and hurting your education isn’t the way to further a cause, people), but I wonder if they made any impact at all. Despite the reports of protests and businesses shut down in the news, what I saw was – nothing. Every place was open and running at full capacity, none of our immigrants even called in sick, and the morning and afternoon commutes felt the same. My questions for all of you are: What effect did you see? And what did your local media tell you?

If you’re wondering, I don’t support making it a felony to be in this country illegally, although I do support immigration reform (especially requiring immigrants to learn our language and culture) and not letting just everybody in here. I don’t like the idea of stuffing our already overcrowded prisons with more people we have to feed and clothe using the public’s tax dollar. Our government would do better to require all immigrants to become legal and also to fine the crap out of organizations that make money from extorting them. Personally, I think it’s great that this is such a wonderful place that people risk their lives and jail to get in here. Take that, most of the rest of the world. =)


Christian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Angie said...

I know many friends are builders, electricians, etc. that had to shut down on Monday. I, personally, saw no difference. My only issue with illegals is the strain it puts on the infrastructure (police, schools). If they paid income tax I wouldn't care. Force them to become legal or force the employers to start deducting taxes from their wages. I'm just tired of footing the bill for everyone else.

Seven said...

The media not being truthful? Get outta here....blasphemy.
I am sure they are virtuous in every way!
I think Angie outlines the rational position of the majority of legal Americans I talk to. It's not a cruel position to expect everyone to pay the fare.
The real problem here lies with the disaster of corrution that underlies much of the Mexican government and culture. If Mexicans had a decent 'rule of law' country with economic incentive to live in they would not need to come here.
I suggest they take their protest energy south and use it in their home country. I don't say this in anger or prejudice, but rather in simple analytical practicality.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I received an e-mail from my cousin about what it takes to live and work in Mexico. I'll forward it to you...I don't know if it's bullshit or not but if it's not...well, it's amazing the shit you have to go thru just to live and work there. And to own land...well, you might as well just forget about it.

Enemy of the Republic said...

We have a corporate press; when I was young and dumb, I thought it was governmenally regulated, but now I think it's all about the benjamins and the pretty blond bimbos and whatever other bullshit comes to mind. I don't watch the news. I read Newsweek which is probably bad enough and sometimes I listen to NPR, but I get enough daily lies at my job and in my home life--why look for it?

Angie said...

Rick - Have you noticed the new Mexican law making small amounts of narcotics legal? I think it's just a ploy to anger the U.S. gov & try to get us to back off the immigration laws.

Grant - It was a well written piece but I decided to leave the media issue alone. They anger me beyond comprehension mainly for the issues you pointed out.

Tai said... in Canada?
Yeah, like the media NEVER lies.
No matter what.

What did you expect?
We ARE Canadian.
Morally superior, idealistic, honest etc etc.

Saur♥Kraut said...

I didn't see much. Grant you (ha! pun intended), it was quieter. But it possibly had nothing to do with the protest. I was on the road a lot that day, and the roads were more navigatable, the lines weren't as long, and restaurants had slightly less customers. But when a spooked waitress asked me if I thought the boycott was affecting their business, I said NO. Their customers are mostly old, white people.

Death Warmed Over said...

A friend I work with is rehabing a house and is using a crew of mexican painters. None of them showed that day. In a show of solidarity, I read the paper all day and sat in my truck. The diference was, I got paid.

Anonymous said...

interesting note on the media. I think America has one of the most effective propoganda machines in the world. They encouraged liberality, free speech and patriotism. It creates an amazing society of pride in which the people actually stand up and blindly defend their country - while thinking they have freedom.

[i'm feeling cynical today]

SJ said...

How could you "bear" working there? I need a "beer" just hearing about that.

Really? The media is not motivated by truth? Wow now that's a surprise. I think I should join the media was this supposed fault that kept me away from them.

messiah said...

so... to sum it up, you're kinda saying the difference between playboy and the average news magazine, is that the articles in playboy are accurate?

Liz said...

Hope you had a happy cinco de mayo!

Grant said...

angie - I agree. I also think companies employing illegals should be fined to the point that it's no longer profitable.

rick - most people I know feel the same way - they just want everyone to contribute and do their fair share.

pq - I didn't know the work flowed that direction. :p

enemy - I try to stay informed so I'm not just another dumb redneck, but then I'm struck by the futility of it all since the media is so untrustworthy.

tai - you have moose bits in your teeth. :p

saur kraut - I didn't see anything, although I work in a cube farm and most coworkers are more Corporate America than their ethnicity.

death - yeah, that's the ironic thing about such boycotts - if they have any effect at all, it usually harms themselves or the wrong people.

fatty - having travelled, I can definitely say other countries have more effective propaganda. Our media mostly bashes our government, regardless of who's in power or what they're doing. The ones who think America is far better than the rest of the world are usually the uninformed who don't watch the news anyway.

sj - your country comes in at 106, so although they might not be honest, it sounds like they're stuck with government regulated lies. The thing to remember is that the indext doesn't say who has the most accurate press, it just says whose press is most free from interference. Even though the government mostly leaves ours alone, they lie because they're motivated by sales.

messiah - Playboy has articles?

liz - thanks. Same to you.

Enemy of the Republic said...

For what it's worth, this is where knowing another language comes in handy: Spanish is my second language, so if I really want to know what's going on, I read the Spanish language papers from Spain, Argentina, Venezuela and the like. Online makes it easier, but I used to subscribe to El Paiz, a newspaper from Spain. Now no paper is perfect, but I am annoyed beyond belief with the American press, particularly on issues involving Iraq. They kissed Bush's ass for years, applauded the war and now they've grown a pair and lambast the whole thing because it's de rigour. I learn more from blogs.