Thank you, Brian Williams!
NBC Nightly News scooped Entertainment Tonight! in what surely must be the highlight of Mr. Brian Williams' career with the story of the sudden death of Michael Jackson.
He must be so proud.
While on Jan. 11, 2008, an event unprecedented in American history went unreported by the good Mr. Williams. Ninety-two people were arrested at the Supreme Court for asking our government to stop using torture and grant habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees; 45 of those arrested were inside the court, which had never, ever before happened in the history of this country – protesters being arrested inside the courthouse. Williams and NBC Nightly News were silent about this event.
Likewise when the news broke on Aug. 1, 2008 that Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist, revealed that the Bush Administration recently held a meeting in Vice President Cheney's office to discuss ways to provoke a war with Iran. Williams was out to lunch on this story as well.
But the death of Michael Jackson? Well, that was the lead story on Thursday night's broadcast. Williams told us that the story was so big it pushed the death of Farrah Fawcett to the number two story. Wow!
And we can expect more as the media milks this story for all it's worth. You can see the future headlines now: “Fight over Jackson's Kids – who gets custody?" “Fight over Jacko's estate," “The secrets Jackson took to the grave."
And as the children grow up we'll get such treats as, “Jackson children left in poverty – have to attend public schools.”
Not that the death of Jackson and Fawcett shouldn't be covered, or even covered in a big way. The problem is that IS what gets covered. Period. The citizenry (translation: you and me) relies on the press (the new term is “the media”) to get information that helps us to make decisions about our government, what we'll tolerate and what we won't.
Walter Cronkite reported the news, the truth of what our government was up to, even when it made him unpopular. He told the stories from Viet Nam about how our military was burning down villages and killing the citizens (translation: that's the “you” and “me” in Viet Nam) that helped the American people to mobilize against the government in a very big way and end the war.
Can you imagine what an end to the wars and occupations would do to the bottom lines (translation: profits) of defense contractors like Haliburton? My guess is that Cheney as well as the rest of Bush & Co. are still raking in obscene amounts of money on the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afganistan.
Maybe if we saw the same kinds of stories and footage of the Iraq War as Cronkite showed of the Viet Nam War, the Iraq War might be over by now.
The latest Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act (they affirmed part of it but left it open for a later field dressing) will have much more of an impact on the average American, especially African-Americans, than the death of Michael Jackson ever will. (And I can't tell you how much it pains me to write that.) But again, nothing “in depth” on that topic from Williams and/or NBC.
And I have not heard one peep about the privatization of police forces in some American cities. Mercenary companies like Blackwater (yes – that Blackwater, the folks who shot up 21 Iraqi civilians in a little “faux pas”), are being hired to provide law enforcement in cities such as Oakland, Calif. We're losing the idea of the “peace officer” to the militarization of local law enforcement with about the same accountability they had for the above-mentioned incident. That accountability was almost zero until they were pressured by our government at the behest of our citizenry. I cannot begin to tell you how frightening that is or what it portends for the rest of us.
Maybe Williams should go back to guest-hosting “Saturday Night Live” - he was pretty good at it.
The late, great political observer Molly Ivins, while referring to us monitoring the government, once said that our job as citizens was to keep an eye on the shell with the pea under it. The government being the one running the shell game.
If America collapses or descends into a fascist, totalitarian regime, we can thank Williams and NBC Nightly News for providing the extra shell.