Dumbing Down the USA

The Dumbing Down of the USA

Man, what a slide we are on. I thought that the ridiculous and obviously fixed wrestling matches of the fifties were blatantly a ruse. Choreographed or not, people fell for the trick. They not only truly loved their colorful mat heroes; and they truly hated their cheating, and usually darker-shaded, foreign opponents. No blacks fighting whites… for not only no Civil Rights Act yet, but probably still hurting from Jack Johnson’s becoming the first black boxing champion due to his drudging of James Jeffries in the 1910 “fight of the century.”).

In the days before the internet and instant contact, people were dependent on public events to keep informed. Sports events, theatre-going, skating, dancing…… each offering groups of humans the chance to catch up on current affairs  and lifestyle comparisons.

Tickers spelled out world news events and latest sports scores..think of them as an early form of internet. Otherwise, one had their daily newspaper or radio news, taken in with a complete disregard to editorial opinion….back in the day, editorial opinion was fairly reasonable, compared with the deathly mass of phony “news” that now swims freely in today’s editorial pool.

Some persuasive methods were really slick (or sick… your choice). Radio programing matter and sponsor material usually steered their audience right where they wanted them. NBC Blue Network featured Five Star Theatre sponsored by Colonial Oil Company and Standard Oil. On another night they featured The Esso Theatre. SUNOCO sponsored a show called Sunny Days. So there were your oil companies. These were who people thought of when their gauges pointed to the “E.”

Radio audiences also listened to early Soap Operas (sponsored by, you guessed it……Soap Companies… Proctor&Gamble/Ivory/Duz/etc). The audience needed clean rags to cry into, because these melodramas brought on the sobs. These rags should be as clean and fresh as they could be, hence great soap.

By the time these shows were striking their weekly welcoming on-air greeting, families were gathered around their radios awaiting the week’s dilemma. A great escape for those living a colorless life. A really easy way to convince many ears to your way of thinking, by just having actors act out a play. Americans are so easy.

Television not only embraced the radio’s soap operas and gave them a face, but actually one-upped them with gameshows……mindless electronic dots on a screen assembling into a Jack Bailey-type emcee, crowning another “Queen for a Day” with a new washer and dryer. Both sob. So does the entire viewing audience, as they stumble from their houses in search of the advertising product de jour…..possibly free soap for life or new kitchen appliances.

After a long-run variety of family shows…Ozzie and Harriet….The Real McCoys…..Father Knows Best…..Danny Thomas…..Dick Van Dyke….the Waltons….. in which the advertisers had to okay the content of the show…..always cheering the American way and always ending on a happy note, and always fading into another wonderful commercial.

Hey, why make up these families? Why doesn’t someone just show a real family? Realty Television was born with the PBS production, An American Family, that hit the airwaves in January of 1973. It followed the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California through their family trials and tribulations.   Their son, Lance, declared he was gay in episode 2. First time anyone had declared themselves “gay” on TV. First time many people ever even saw a “gay” person. The parents filed for divorce in episode 9.

Needless to say the show was a huge hit for PBS with more than 10 million viewers for the 12 part series. The soap opera came to life, only difference is it didn’t cause the advertisers to have to pony up for star’s salaries….. bringing the production cost down to nearly nothing, yet drawing larger audiences than the network casted shows did, proving the point….it doesn’t cost much at all to steer american public opinion. Remember PBS has no advertisers…..they have personal and corporate sponsors, and they were satisfied with having their names flash across the screen before the sponsored programming. No real dumbing down here……PBS is one of the few broadcasters offering quality programing without having to bend over to their advertisers.(Our government is something else.)

We went through a few decades when the choice in televised network news was just a matter of personalities, not the message. You either followed Walter Cronkite(CBS), Chet Huntley and David Brinkley(NBC), or Howard K. Smith(ABC). Edward R. Murrow(CBS broadcaster) backed down McCarthy and the other “Communists behind every US bush” zealots threatening to isolate and destroy those who chose to question and confront their accusations. And they did this without twitter or the internet. All they needed was a little dose of “Cold War” and the thought of mushroom clouds sprouting up across the American landscape. Granted, there were communists in our midst, just as there were socialists, imperialists, and snake-handlings…tongue-speaking backwood Baptists. Think of the threads of America….allowing you the right of choosing between “Meet the Press” or “American Bandstand.” Go Red, White, and Blue!

But, as Americans, we are always on the go, so we needed our news and entertainment to keep up with us. Thanks to the country we had just destroyed in a world war (Japan), the miniature transistor shrunk the entertainment consoles of the day into smaller HO sizes. All of a sudden our AM radios were portable, accompanying citizens in their every move.

But, who doesn’t want to share their music with everyone else? Who doesn’t want to arrange everyone’s background musical scores? Manufacturers must have had  ESP because they went from featuring small portable transistor radios to offering larger and larger containers and speakers for their products. Enter the age of the “boom box.”

Now, everyone can enjoy whatever music you want them to hear. In solo, this is bearable…. but not by much. When multiple boxes fight for a confined airspace, it is no wonder we became an edgier nation. Way too much massed audio confusion.

Sony confronted this head-on with their Walkman….music became personal again. All of a sudden the life behind the earphones had its own soundtrack again. Individual serenity. This “inward” move was really only an illusion. Another development would soon blow that “inward” movement out of the electronic water. Say hello to the internet………..

Citizens choosing so, now are continually in touch with the world, or at least “shades” of the world the sites they visit decide to portray. As a capper, they are designed to be receivable in the smallest and remotest of devices.

It has become too easy to create web sites and everyone and their slow-cousin with an attitude blogs. It has never been easier to spread news, real or fake, to every corner of the country, or the world for that matter. It is miraculous and terrifying at the same time. Miraculous that the process of disseminating news and information works as it does. Terrifying in the ability of people to spread false statements and innuendos and having their audience actually believe them, passing them on as fact. You want proof? You really don’t need me to answer that do you? One word….. “TWITTER.”

With the ease of creating the appearance of news over the internet, anyone who can “key-peck” can, not only become a “reliable source,” but can amass hordes of rabid-believe-it-all followers. They create “news” their base wants to hear. They become a movement. These people don’t realize that they become part of the marionette that dances to whatever tune these “peckers” choose, but it is just what they are.

To Top it off, There Really Is Fake News Out There

[AM gave way to FM, with improved signals and less FCC restrictions, a plethora of News and views honed in on your antennae wherever you were. Say hello to all the Rushes, the Steins, the Medveds, the Harveys, the Becks, the Hannitys, the Ingrahams, and other Savages trickling down their biased interpretation of news and current events to a more than eager audience. Many news innovations were merged into these “news” talk shows…unbiased truth was not one of them. The flashiest news garnered the biggest audience. Made up news garnered the most of all. The world, whether they realized it or not, was introduced to 21st Century Fake News.]

As a journalist, I was always taught that you let the news give its own report. You had your five journalistic questions to answer for your readers ( who?what?where?when? and why?) and if you had a comment, you let your readers know it was your “comment,” and that could be just an opinion and not necessarily a fact.

There are some very talented reporters, who actually try to work within the dual-ing parties, gleaning as much truth as possible and passing it on to their readers. Then, there are some very talented and mercenary fiction writers who are given lists of daily topics that they transform into attention grabbing headlines and feature stories. If you are familiar with the grocery store tabloids then you are already familiar with their work. The headlines grab your attention….. Who knew Jackie O once gave birth to an alien?…  Tiger Puts Balls in Wrong Place Again…. Girl Scouts Obtain Restraining Order Against Trump.. “They’re prepared to deal with bobcats and bears,” a Girl Scouts spokesperson said. “They can handle a malignant narcissist.” Mitch McConnell Hospitalized with Low White-Vote Count…. White House on Lockdown after Television Is Hurled Out Window….Trump Says Sleeping Only Four Hours a Day Not Affecting His Ability to Cljjryff…..Calls Earth a “Loser,” Trump Vows to Make Better Deal With New Planet…..Trump Says He Does Not Know Jared Kushner Very Well…..HIllary To Serve Time…….woof!woof! The headlines attract eyes; the stories compact lies. The new Journalism, ha! …. Henry Grady is rolling in his grave. This is not what he had in mind at all.

This tabloid form of fake news is now spreading onto the small screen in your house, and you won’t even notice it, unless you really pay attention…… realizing it is pure bullshit. What’s sad is that so many do not realize these as the damaging lies they really are. And the good news, there’s even more coming.

In May, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its plan to buy Tribune Media Company and its 42 television stations for $3.9 billion — a merger made possible by the Trump administration relaxing regulations on broadcast ownership.

If the acquisition goes through, Sinclair would become the nation’s largest broadcast group with an estimated 72 percent of American households living in a place where Sinclair controls at least one of the broadcast television stations.

About 23 million Americans tune into the evening local news, and 12 million watch the early morning local news. The three top cable networks only get around 3 million primetime viewers daily.

People who tune into Sinclair stations for local news often end up getting some conservative commentary in the mix as well. The broadcaster has a history of airing right-leaning segments critical of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. According to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the Trump campaign struck a deal with Sinclair to air exclusive interviews with Trump during the election.

A common misconception is that a network like ABC controls all the stations that it airs on. In fact, ABC only owns and operates eight broadcast stations in the United States. The rest of the stations are independent affiliates, and many of them are controlled by Sinclair.

The agreement is that ABC will provide shows like The Bachelor and Modern Family, and Sinclair will take care of broadcasting those shows from its antenna in Northwest DC.

Sinclair also mixes in its own shows. Most importantly, it is responsible for providing the local news. Its stations employ teams of reporters and producers and anchors who typically produce three newscasts a day — in the morning, the late afternoon, and late at night. Sinclair can order stations to pursue certain stories, or force them to air certain clips. Networks like CBS or NBC or ABC aren’t involved in these decisions.

Sinclair with its prospective expanded reach, could launch a show with a national footprint. Sinclair doesn’t have complete freedom to broadcast what it wants, especially not during primetime. Still, it can air its own content during off hours or negotiate to bump network programs from its stations. And thanks to video compression, it can also use digital sub-channels  to broadcast alternate content alongside its main programs.

If Sinclair wants to launch more shows, it could follow a pattern set a few years ago, when it began producing an hour-long Sunday morning public affairs show called Full Measure, which currently airs on 162 of its stations. If all its acquisitions go through, Sinclair will have 233 stations by next year, and it could beam a show like Full Measure into 72 percent of American households. (About 80 percent of American households have access to Fox News.)

The local news, which still commands a huge audience, could be a key part of this strategy. During the election, Sinclair promoted Full Measure by asking some of its stations to air clips of the show during their local newscasts. If by next year only a quarter of households in Sinclair’s distribution area watched the local news on a Sinclair-owned station, that would still yield over 4 million nightly viewers — which is more than the typical cable news shows attract.

The real proof in what I write:

Real men and women used to hold the reins as their six thoroughbreds billowed through dusty plains, and at the same time, aiming, firing and re-loading their carbine rifle, in thwarting an attack, from the Indians chasing them. In today’s world…. first of all…. there are very few real men and real women. More importantly, no one today can drive a car and talk on the phone at the same time, much less harnessing horses and fighting off Indians.

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