My youngest son and I were in the car today and as I often do, I had news radio coming out of the speakers. When you live in California you need it for the traffic reports, brush fire alerts on the really hot days and the latest comings and goings of the Kardashians. I was kind of half listening and when we hit a spot near the mountains where it all turned to static, we just turned the thing off. "You know", he said, "news today is not like the old days. (He's fifteen.) I mean, all we get anymore is yelling, propaganda and kittens."
The kid has something there. Those of us who grew up with daily newspapers and Walter Cronkite were pretty fortunate in how we got the latest information. Instead of instant tweets and re-posting Huffington Post headlines from our friends (also known as "people we once knew a long time ago") on Facebook, it used to be that when we got the news it really was researched and well presented. If Cronkite said it, you knew it was true. When people would stand around the water cooler and repeat a story they read in the local paper, it wouldn't be immediately followed with someone saying "don't believe everything you read".
Now I don't know of any scientific study of the quality and factualness of today's news versus that from the fifties or sixties, but you'd think with all of our modern techno gadgets and stuff we got, we'd be able to sort the fact from the fiction pretty easily. Yeah...we can usually go with the Wikipedia version of a fact and be happy with that. If you live on the right side of the street you read The Drudge Report and on the left side its HuffPo or Politico. If you need to know who's cheating on whom, you got your TMZ. If you need to know what the weather is going to be, you got an app for it. (Anyone else notice that there are a hundred weather women on television these days for every male? The fruits of the women's liberation movement? A new rampant feminine interest in meteorology? I think not.)
This afternoon I saw a news headline that made my blood boil.
"Michele Bachmann Thankful No Americans Died In Sikh Shooting"
Now lets take a poll: is this story fact or fiction? I'll wait.
Raise your hand if you thought this was true. Hmmm.....read on:
WASHINGTON—In response to the shooting death of six Sikh worshippers at a temple in Oak Creek, WI yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) offered a public expression of her thankfulness that no Americans had been killed in the rampage. "It's a relief and a blessing that not a single American died in this event," Bachmann said of the incident that claimed the lives of six Americans who practice the Sikh faith. "All of us can be grateful for that. Had the gunman targeted a church or synagogue, this violent act could have been much, much worse. There's no telling how many Americans might have died." Bachmann concluded by calling on citizens nationwide to direct all their thoughts and prayers to the family of wounded police lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was shot multiple times while rushing to help victims.
Fiction. The Onion. Satire.
But....doesn't it sound like something she'd say? Really, it does. Just like if Palin comes out tomorrow morning on Fox (not quite) News and says "I can see Sikhs from my front porch". Or if Donald Trump takes to Twitter and writes "An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @barrackobama's birth certificate is a fraud." Wait...that's true...he sent it out this afternoon. August 6, 2012. Again Donald? We're back to that old topic? Wikipedia says he was born in Hawaii, so it must be true.
And now it's time for kittens.