Media Follies

By Michael I. Niman
Buffalo Beat, March 1, 2001

 Dale Earnhardt Snuff Video

            By now we can all picture the scene.  Race care # 3 fishtails, t-bones the wall crumpling its hood, and gets knocked amidships by a second car.  Bang.  Racecar driver Dale Earnhardt is dead.  Wow.  Real death in prime time.

            Then we saw it over and over and over and over.  Some newscasts featured Earnhardt dying three or more times in a one half hour broadcast. Then there were the Earnhardt death specials.  You can pretty much gauge your TV consumption or addiction by how well you can call up this image.

            It’s a snuff video.  TV “news” producers can’t pass on it.  It’s the ultimate “reality TV.” It’s gross and disgusting.  What’s seared on our minds is tragedy and horror (Earnhardt is the 3rd Nascar driver killed in 12 months) packaged, sold and sponsored as entertainment.

            But isn’t this what TV sports coverage of Nascar is all about?  So called “highlights” almost always consist of high-speed crashes.  Nascar is TV’s ultimate blood sport.

            Then there’s Channel 2’s “local tie-in.”  Poor Earnhardt was a Bills fan.  Now there’s some hard news.

 It’s Gulf War Time Again

            It’s been a long three months.  Bush loses the presidential election by a hair.  A supreme court with close ties to Daddy Bush and Ronald Reagan install Junior as President.  He yabbers on for a day or two about consensus building, and then turns around and starts appointing radical conservative to his cabinet.  Then young George, though he was AWOL for most of his own military service, sends the air force in to bomb Iraq.

            Flashback.  We’ve got a President Bush, a war with “Saddam” and Colin Powell calling the shots.   It’s like the last eight years was just some weird scam to pass NAFTA, WTO accords and other corporate friendly legislation -- A strange dream with a southern drawl and a cast of bimbos.

            But watch the news on TV and you won’t get a hint that anything is amiss. Life is just an infinite stream of sick children, new products, promising drug therapies and drive by-shootings.  Basically it’s the same old fare, no matter what’s happening in the world. 


            Clinton’s pardons are disgusting.  No disagreement here.  He freed a host of white collar corporate criminals while leaving Native American rights activist and internationally recognized political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, to rot in jail, thus symbolically continuing America’s Indian wars into the new millennium.

            News coverage of the pardon controversy (surprisingly, they haven’t yet dubbed it “pardon-gate”) is important, but it should not come, as it has been, at the expense of reportage about the Bush White House.  Clinton is history.  Let’s move on.  We have an illegitimate president now in the White House – That is the biggest political story of our lives.  Early reports from the final Florida media recount are giving Gore a larger lead (with some counts in the neighborhood of 50,000 votes) than many of us could have imagined.  This is the story the rest of the world is talking about – the American coup.  This is the story the American corporate media should be focusing on.  Republicans need to stop whining and accept the fact that this story will not go away.

 Bush League Media

            The fact that the major networks and newspapers are choosing to stay focused on Clinton, and not Bush, hence giving Bush a Honeymoon in the White House, should come as no surprise.  Editor and Publisher magazine reports that newspapers endorsed Bush over Gore by a ratio of more than two to one.  Newspaper publishers, they reported, were more likely to personally vote for Bush over Gore by a ratio of nearly three to one.  And TV stations were fattened up this electoral cycle by the infusion of $665 million dollars in paid political ads – an increase of 66% over the previous presidential election year.  It’s no wonder nobody in the “mainstream” American press wants to utter the word, “Coup.”  

            The Buffalo News Prepares Us for War

            The media is now preparing us for war.  ABC news, last week, aired a “Prime Time” report on Saddam.  Bottom line: he’s weird, ruthless and leading his people into war.  The Buffalo News, on Saturday, reprinted a Knight Ridder story on their front page, alleging a sort of coming together of bogeyman nations with Yugoslavia, China and the Ukraine giving military assistance to a newly empowered Iraq.  The message: get ready for Iraq to shoot down an American warplane.  The source for this story, however, was “anonymous,” or more specifically, “U.S. officials familiar with the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity.”  The headline, “Yugoslav aid believed to boost Iraqi defenses” is a passive voice construction.  Who “believes?”  As it turns out, no one.  

This is cheesy journalism at its worse.  The “unofficial government leak” routine is a textbook ruse for planting unverifiable stories or propaganda in the press.  An Associated Press photo of a Muslim student in Malaysia burning an upside down American flag accompanied the Buffalo News story.  The photo has little to do with the actual story, but the imagery is guaranteed to incite readers to anger against the Sinoyugoraqiakian hordes. 

This story marks a decline in the quality of Buffalo News coverage from earlier in the week when News stories were well balanced with reports from both Iraqi news agencies and U.S. officials as well as from U.S. allies around the world who condemned the bombing raids against Iraq.  Perhaps The Buffalo News needs to rethink their relationship with Knight Ridder.

Return to

Return to Index of Articles