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From Facts To Fairy Tales: A Television Man’s Take on the New McCarthyism

Television news always seemed the perfect career choice for me, especially after my boyhood meeting with the local CBS anchor team. Raised in the pre-internet era, I worshipped all things TV. My mom spoke English when she arrived from Berlin in her twenties, but she desperately wanted to sound more like an American. So after I was born, we watched television and learned the language together. She loved Sesame Street.

Mom was also a model of beauty. The night she took my sister and me out for dinner, and the all-male television anchor team was seated at the next table, they were taking as much notice of her as we were of the local celebrities. My child-of-an-alcoholic mind was also noticing something else, even though I was only maybe 10 years old at the time. Both news anchors, the weatherman, and the sports guy were all drinking wine.

While a couple shared bottles of wine among four grown men isn’t excessive during a meal, time was ticking and they were going back to work to do the news. How did they have the talent to memorize all their lines so flawlessly by 10 o’clock, I wondered?

Before dinner was done, naturally they had invited us to come to the station to watch the news live in the studio. And that’s where it hit me right between the eyes — the Teleprompter. After watching these half-buzzed guys get fawned over at the restaurant, and then return to read the news off the magic mirror, I knew right then that’s how I wanted to make a living.

One broadcast journalism degree and a decade of soul-crushing corporate news jobs later, run ragged as a reporter, anchor, editor, producer, and manager, I gave up on my ‘dream’ career. I flipped a firm middle finger at my employer of eight years, the local FOX affiliate. An industry paper, The St. Louis Journalism Review (SJR), ran “Channel 2 Employee Raises Serious Questions” in February 1998.

The SJR editor warned me I’d likely never work in the news business again. But it was tough to care at the time, about anything more than moving beyond beating my head against corporate walls. I did spend the next few months freelancing for the SJR, helping to critique local news. Sure enough, it wasn’t just my former employers. Unearthing crappy journalism in local television, even back then, was about as challenging as exposing the next Donald Trump bad-hair day tomorrow.

I dropped out altogether. For the next nearly 20 years, I worked in the service industry, drank myself into the blackout blues every night, and didn’t write more than the grocery lists I’d leave at home every time I went to the store.

Ironically, a one-time pension buyout offer from my old FOX job (I didn’t even know I had the pension) allowed me to take a year off work, step back from the everyday stresses of making a nickel, and get myself sober. At the same time I finally put down the bottle, the Democratic National Committee was conspiring with the media to rig a U.S. election, which inspired me to pen my “Waking Up At 50” piece earlier this year in the Ghion Journal.

Fast-forward seven months now, and the latest round of media lunacy has fully leeched into our collective consciousness. The Russia! Russia! Russia! nonsense that was once just a bad joke, has firmly taken hold. Silly me, giving Americans too much credit again. Was I the only person paying attention in history class when they taught us McCarthyism was a stain on our nation, a lesson never to be repeated again?

This is probably the point where I have to remind readers that I did not vote for Trump, and find virtually everything about his person to be repugnant. That being said, until the President of the United States is actually found to be a traitor or a puppet of a foreign nation, we should all give the guy the benefit of the doubt in that regard. Perhaps he really is just yet another crazy-ass American who is incredibly easy to dislike.

Russians are now constantly being accused of “sowing the seeds of discord” in America. Really? Does anybody sow more discord in our nation than our own media?

Remember when the corporate media spent years force-feeding us with bullshit from NBC reality star Donald Trump and others, claiming President Barack Obama wasn’t a ‘real American’? Remember when the media went stupid to keep reminding us ‘some people say’ Obama is a Muslim, and others are convinced he’s a Communist?

Remember when the pundits constantly called George W. Bush the dumbest president ever and used every chance to embarrass him with his own misspoken words?

Remember when the media insisted that because Bill Clinton got a blow job and lied about it, he was somehow an unprecedented disgrace to the presidency?

Remember when the media relentlessly reminded us that Reagan was just an idiot B-movie actor and corporate shill who had no business being president?

Remember when the media never said shit for personal attacks about George H.W. Bush or his wife? Yea, well Bush was CIA. They tend to not dump dirt on their own bosses.

But, remember when the media crushed Carter for being the Georgia peanut farmer who wouldn’t be able to comprehend the Middle East? Oh, and he’s got a drunk redneck brother with his own Billy Beer brand to boot.

No, I don’t personally remember when the media helped bring down both Nixon and Agnew after their administration accused news executives of belonging to an elite fraternity that did not represent real America.

And I was a toddler when the media tore apart Johnson during Vietnam. When he was asked why his administration didn’t censor the news like in other wars, he said it was “because we are fools”.

Even Kennedy, who received widely popular personal coverage from the press, wondered how the New York Times could approve of 90 percent of his policies, yet write what he considered to be 90 percent unfavorable editorials.

Our corporate media are forever sowing the seeds of discord, dividing us not just through politics but through the cult of personality, nationality, religion, age, race, sex, sexual preference, and every other way imaginable.

“The problem is politics is made a sport, almost as much a sport as football or baseball. When it comes to politics, adults and politicians do more finger-pointing and play more games than children ever do. Too often are we rooting for the pride of a team rather than the good of the nation.” ― Criss Jami, Healology

The current homegrown discord includes an enormous amount of false, McCarthyism-style stories generated about President Trump, all through anonymous sources:

  • CNN reported Trump aides were emailed information from Wikileaks as part of a collusion effort (turns out the information was already publicly available at the time of the emails).
  • Virtually every major news outlet has claimed Trump is going to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller (this has re-surfaced multiple times, and in mid-2017 was not ‘if’ but ‘when’, according to The Atlantic)
  • ABC claimed Trump instructed Flynn to talk to Russians during the presidential race (this false report even caused stocks to plummet before corrected reporting revealed this occurred after Trump won the election)
  • Trump-related bank records were allegedly being subpoenaed from Deutsche Bank (a reporting blunder from both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal)
  • NBC insisted Trump’s lawyer’s phones were being “wiretapped” (actually there was simply a monitor of Michael Cohen’s call logs, no bugs)
  • Trump delivered a live press conference on ABC, and the graphic at the bottom of the screen read “Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty to 5 Counts of Manslaughter” (there are no excuses for this)

As with all false reports, corrections and redactions invariably get fewer views and carry less weight than the original stories, so the bogus stuff tends to stick and inflame, especially when it comes in mass quantity from every angle.

If our media’s motivations were truly to help unite us against Russia, they could simply inform us that, while we might not all agree with what President Trump says, the security apparatus that controls the country (read: Deep State) is currently:

  • Fully enforcing new sanctions against Russia that were enacted under the Trump Administration
  • Working to continually expand NATO along Russia’s borders, despite U.S. assurances to the contrary at the end of the Cold War
  • Establishing a strengthened U.S. Air Force presence in Eastern Europe, along Russia’s western flank
  • Pushing renewed arms sales with Finland, along Russia’s northern flank
  • Arming Ukraine, something President Obama refused to do, along Russia’s southern flank

However, uniting the citizenry is clearly not one of the priorities of the press at the moment. Apparently, that’s reserved for Pearl Harbor and 9/11 moments. In the meantime, media make their money keeping us hooked on their poisonous blend of fear, negativity, and manufactured controversy. This mass appeal to our base emotions teems our minds with toxic thoughts, deepens our divides, and keeps the status quo… Click To Tweet

Taking divisive party politics and masquerading it as news paid off handsomely for FOX during the Obama years. Unfortunately for both the profession of journalism, and for the nation, MSNBC has decided to apply the same don’t-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-a-good-story news model, and the rest of the mainstream media isn’t far behind.

I used to angrily react to people who would accuse the media of a “liberal bias” because my personal newsroom experiences were constant battles from the left against corporate conservatism. In hindsight, I sympathize on some level with people who claim the media has a liberal bias, because what they really mean by that is a Democratic Party bias, and that’s a fair point from a Republican perspective, although “centrist bias” would be the better fit for today’s media.

Personally, I’ve never been happier with my now decades-old decision to run away from the corporate news beast. The ‘work’ of that collective is more embarrassing than ever. Pushing an unproven foreign conspiracy, while simultaneously suppressing and dismissing known American election-rigging as the work of foreign hackers? That’s hardly the consensus of a critical free press — that’s the fairy tale of a fraying establishment.

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts, as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.” — Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Feature photo credit: Ball Racing ©2010

Tim Nuell
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Tim Nuell

Tim is a former reporter and a news producer who pursued the profession of journalism to seek out corruption and speak truth to power. After realizing that mainstream media's objective ran counter to Tim's purpose for pursuing a career in the "fourth estate", he exited the field of media and pursued life away from the limelight. Tim offers views and perspectives about culture and politics through the prism of media.
Tim Nuell
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