My gold-plated Apple wristwatch has put me in Virginia Mason with its warning of a slow heartbeat. A pacemaker is now implanted as boost to my underperforming ticker.
The hospital stay is time when you watch an inordinate amount of television. The 24/7 news cycle throws stories at you. No wonder morning newspapers suffer: You get everything the day before, hour by hour.
The day just ending was a succession of conflict and crisis. It began with Donald Trump mounting a racist attack on Nikki Haley in the New Hampshire primary. There followed The U.S. Justice Department’s “devastating” report on Texas law enforcement response to the Uvalde shooter. Midday brought testimony in Trump sexual assault case, followed by Trump asking Supreme Court to rule for the immunity of presidents. With a government shutdown looming, afternoon saw both houses of Congress enact a stopgap spending bill. The U.S. hit rebels in Yemen with an air strike.
Meantime, much of the country was in a deep freeze. Snoqualmie Pass made network news. Much of the content — even the floods and snow storms — suggested a world going to hell. It was a dizzying day.
Some benefit from this. Donald Trump creates chaos and basks in the attention. Cable TV cannot get enough of him. After puffing DeSantis, Fox News is again pandering to the Donald. The cult-like following demands it. The Murdochs have no morals about delivering lies, despite last year’s $787 million payout to voting technology firm it defamed.
During the heyday of network news, when Walter Cronkite drew 30 million viewers, the CBS Evening News began with a lineup of countries and cities from which its correspondents were reporting. They were, for years, “Murrow’s boys,” colleagues of a Blanchard, Wash., boy who went on to Wazzu and gained fame during the London Blitz.
The news is no longer the province of white guys in ties, Cable TV features a succession of panels, a new one each hour. Christopher Rufo can rail against diversity but women and minorities have their place at the pundits’ table. Vacuous Fox News blondes ridicule Biden. Various people labeled “Republican strategist” and “Democratic strategist” peddle the party lines. Journalists from the New York Times and Washington Post are omnipresent. So is the category of “former assistant U.S. Attorney,” bespeaking litigation’s role in American life.
What’s striking is the shallowness. The networks love to air reporters wading around in floods, being blown by hurricanes or bundled up in the snow. But the cause of extreme weather — climate change — is rarely explored. Likewise the under-reported role of climate extremes in triggering the influx of refugees to Europe and the United States.
It may rail against “fake news” but the political right has achieved remarkable success influencing what’s seen on your screen. Elite colleges get demonized for examining slavery, racism, and nativism. Crime is depicted as choking West Coast cities. The topic of transgender students using girls’ bathrooms gets introduced as part of the country’s political agenda.
What’s shortchanged in what we see? The availability and promotion of firearms that belong on a battlefield, which have caused carnage from Uvalde to Buffalo. Abuse is showered on progressive district attorneys, while gun culture advocates get away with saying their “thoughts and prayers” are with victims of the latest massacre.
We also get versions of the racist “replacement” theory, of hordes of immigrants overrunning white America. I’ve watched White House aspirants fill the airwaves with pledges to “shut down” the border. Who, then, will do our country’s grunt work? Latino immigrants manned Iowa’s meat packing plants while Hawkeye State Republicans caucused for Trump. Our state’s agriculture economy depends on those labeled “illegals.”
And, as this is written, gentle, considerate people speaking a variety of accents are seeing to my care. The “Information Age” has sold us much misinformation. It’s time to turn off the TV.