The News

by wjw on August 15, 2008

So here I was at the Worldcon, okay? And every so often, while I was dressing in my hotel room, I’d check CNN or MSNBC or see what was going on in the world.

And the number one headline:

John Edwards Admits Adultery!!!!!

At least half the newscast was taken up with this, and interviews with Edwards and sundry.

Headline number two:

Bernie Mac Dies!!!!

Sad news from the world of entertainment. I liked Mr. Mac. I’m sorry he passed.

Headline number three:

It’s the Olympics!!!

Politics, entertainment, sports. The Olympics are big. I understand.

Story number four:

Russia Invades Georgia!!
New Cold War Begins!!
Putin Precisely Copies Hitler’s Invasion of Sudentenland!!
Trillions to be Wasted in Military Expenditure Worldwide!!
Millions to Die in Futile Conflict Throughout the World!!
Ukraine is Next!!
Fate of World Imperilled!!

Why exactly is this Number Four in the list of things Americans need to care about?

Was it that all the really stupid news directors are put in charge on the weekend?

Or is it that they think we are really stupid?

Or what?

I really need to understand this. Please explain.

Chris McLaren August 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm

The real answer is pretty long, but the short version is pretty close to “they want to keep Americans stupid and distracted, so they’ll go along”.

(And, of course, for “Americans” you can pretty much substitute any Western Democracy, to various degrees.)

Rebecca S. August 15, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I think it’s that they think we are really stupid. And often we are. I suspect that as far as the mainstream media are concerned, we get the news we deserve–or at least that the way news is presented is determined as much by what people watch, respond to, and say they want as it is by the Powers That Be.

Anonymous August 15, 2008 at 4:40 pm

i don't know where chris mclaren lives, but at least in finland and the rest of scandinavia (and i suspect england & the rest of europe to) the war in georgia is front page stuff and the first thing in the news every broadcast – it has been so during the whole conflict.

– m.prest

Dave Bishop August 15, 2008 at 4:51 pm

I think that rebecca s. is right the nature of many ‘products’, including news, is determined by endless polling and ‘market research’.
Until recently I worked in British Industry and two mantras were chanted at us constantly: “We must innovate!” and “We must ask the consumer what they want!”. It never seemed to occur to anyone that these two propositions were contradictory. If you ask the average consumer what they want, they don’t want innovative products, they just want more of the same.
But I suspect that the shape of the original ‘Ur’ products (or ‘Ur’ news) were determined several decades ago by cynical bastards who not only had a low opinion of their customers but were determined to manipulate them as well

JRS August 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm

It’s far simpler than all that. They put up the news that they think will glue our eyeballs to the commercials the best. Sex, Entertainment, and Sports first, depressing news about a war we can do little about? that goes further down. The wonder is it was there at all.

And they DO think we’re stupid.


Anonymous August 15, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Stop distracting this from the real issues, Walter! What does PARIS HILTON think of John Edwards’ adultery?


(who hopes that irony comes through on the web)

dubjay August 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

I know that news directors will never lead with an Iraq War story, because so many viewers are either so depressed or exhausted by the war that they immediately turn off the set or switch to another channel.

Maybe they think that extends to =all= war?

Laurie Mann August 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I run a Web site named Dead People Server (, which I update regularly with news of interesting people’s deaths. Sure, it’s mostly folks in show business, but I often list writers, humanitarians and inventors.

I really didn’t have time to update it while I was at Denvention and then in the mountains, but then forgot to take down the suggestion form or note on the site that I was away.

As a result, I got about eight pieces of E-mail (some of them pretty nasty) about my failure to list Bernie Mac and about four pieces of E-mail for forgetting to list Isaac Hayes.

During the same period, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died.

Nobody wrote to me about him.

Now, he’s been out of the public eye for a long time, but he was a Nobel prize-winning writer. He wrote the first piece of modern Russian literature many of us ever read (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denesovitch).

Heck, even I forgot to add him until today, and I had heard of his death when I was in Colorado.

Some of this is an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of problem.

Foxessa August 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm


The media is owned by the same interests as control the puppets they pay to get put in office. The Corporatists.

It's censorship by not discussing what matters to the rest of us.

It's propaganda by broadcasting what they are determined we should think.

Most news outlets have no desks in any of the places where 'news' that affects us takes place. They get it from the corporatists and write it down, broadcast it, etc. News by press release. Like reviewers so often do in the review of one's book: cut&paste the press release (which is why you need some control over what goes in that press release).

But you know this, like all of us know this.

Love, C.

Laurie Mann August 16, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Well, it’s censorship when a government agency decides that Walter Jon’s blog needs to go away. Or “Making Light.” Or “Huffington Post.”

It’s not paying attention when individuals stop discussing important topics.

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