For those of you still stuck in the Propaganda Age who have TV and watch HBO, there’s a new series hoping to suck you in called “The Newsroom.” For those who also don’t mind questioning me-first, feel-good American culture, it seems like it may promise a small ration of down-home, hard core nutrition for thought, without so much sugary spice thrown in that the taste gets lost. Maybe, just maybe, it could turn out to be a relief from all the sincere, but nearly useless Smiley Faces who believe that just thinking nice thoughts will save the world without having to do any awful, hard, dirty work, or make torturous, life-long sacrifices & other icky stuff.
The first season starts off with a gratifying bang. “America is not the greatest country anymore,” the man announces. The most depressing thing about that as honest as a steel-toed boot kick in the crotch revelation is that it appears to be staged and stated like it’s going to shock people. That it can be a revelation at all is a wonder, as if anyone who’s ever paid any attention hasn’t been fully aware of the problem since they had any mind to be aware with.
A machine gun spray of hard facts is delivered during the premier’s opening few minutes that really shouldn’t be “news” to anyone. America is racing to the bottom in quality of education, concern for its people – and their rights, global citizenship qualities (along withcommon decency), and most other things that matter in life – those very things Americans are so very wrongly convinced that they have so much more of than anyone else. As the actor says, America is still Number One in some ways: per capita prison population, people who believe in angels, and military spending – all of which just make the point. America is not a land of liberty, its people prefer superstition over science, and it supports a ruling class that has all but disappeared into the predictable, ancient thuggery of empire.
Then, right at two and a half minutes into his monologue, the lead character changes tack and does it himself. “It sure used to be,” he says. “We stood up for what was right,” he continues, as he sits down in the muck of America and wallows in it.
Here’s the news, even for The Newsroom guy hoping to get our attention: America never was some kind of Shining City on a Hill. Or rather, the shine has been just fine, but it was never more than glisten from the fresh blood of America’s victims, continually used for repainting guard towers built on a hill made from their piled corpses.
For every American that “made it” to the crowing heights, there have been dozens of unwilling sacrifices consumed to make it possible. Excusing for a moment the stolen continent itself, American liberties and prosperity have from the beginning almost always been paid for by the vast suffering of its human prey, facts American history tries hard not to mention and that American culture buries beneath some of the most virulent greed and endemic, blinkered arrogance the world has ever known. Those concepts don’t have to be explained too carefully to be understood by what’s left of the ravaged, compromised native population, or the majority of the descendents of the Africans America brought here in chains by the millions for over 200 hundred years.
The United States of America weren’t even founded with as much equality and opportunity in mind as it would have the world believe. Originally, the only fully franchised citizens were white, Christian, adult male property owners “in good standing” with their communities, which in most cases meant attending the right churches, being able to quote the right Bible verses, and being willing to gang up on all those who didn’t meet those criteria – including their own wives and daughters. In the first days of the United States, there were places where barely 6% of the population was eligible for citizenship, and well over half of the people were literally not even considered to be real humans.
Reciting his script, the fire-sparking imitation TV news commentator points out that America used to prize knowledge instead of run from it. Other than the actually, by now kind of tiresome wake up call for those that have the snooze button taped down, that point about knowledge is the one saving grace in the last half of The Newsroom’s opening diatribe. Indirectly, it may be the first half of a fair statement about America’s one saving grace as well: we know better.
The second half of the statement is delivered just over halfway into the first episode by the show’s leading actress: “America is the only country on the planet, that since its birth has said over and over and over, that we can do better.” Unfortunately, too many Americans have said that based on a concept of “better” that relied on almost everyone except themselves doing worse.
That leaves the rest of those whose “better” is bigger than themselves – bigger than America, to do more than be rapaciously compensated American actors in a new, slickly polished, dramatic formula HBO TV series. Instead of praying their way into another Dark Ages, there are many in America anxious to use what we’ve learned, develop the tremendous treasure of knowledge we’ve gained, and work to make the world a better place for all the humans that live here, not just the ones whose butts sniff like a close relation’s. If there’s any hope to be had, it comes from those whose fragile Smiley Faces aren’t destroyed by studying hard words like the ones opening The Newsroom, or like those in this commentary, either.
Have good cheer! It’s worse than you know, maybe worse than you imagine, too. But accepting personal responsibility, resolving never to give in to The Rot, and being willing – eager – to participate in real revolution may yet produce a Great People like America never could.
Links directory (Really, visit them! The article text that the links link from is in parentheses at the end of each line. And yes, the music is commentary. The lyrics for all the tracks have their own links so you don’t miss any of that not always very subtle messaging.)
- HBO – The Newsroom home page (The Newsroom)
- Reuters (Stephanie Simon, 2012 June 01) – Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools (racing to the bottom in quality of education)
- BuzzFlash (Jacqueline Marcus) – Billions of Tax Dollars for Drones While Kids Starve and Cities Go Broke (concern for its people)
- mediacitizen (Timothy Karr – 2012 July 13) – Freedom = Censorship? (their rights)
- Esquire (Tom Junod, August 2012) – The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama (global citizenship qualities) Prize quote from the article, near the end: “[President Obama] welcomed the Jonas Brothers [to the podium at the 2010 White House Correspondents’ Dinner] and said, ‘Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don't get any ideas. I have two words for you — Predator drones. You will never see it coming.’”
- Information Clearing House / RussiaToday (2012 July 07) – President Bush Should be Criminally Investigated for Torture (common decency) Note that it takesRussiaToday to publish an interview with Philippe Sands, a Professor of Law at University College, London, the author of “Torture Team”.
- Oxford University Press (John Tirman, 2011 June) – The Deaths of Others (its human prey)
- Bill Moyers & Company (Bill Moyers, 2012 June 29) – Messing With Texas Textbooks (prefer superstition over science)
- James W. Loewen homepage (facts American history tries hard not to mention)
- Cimorelli – Call Me Maybe (YouTube, 4:33 min – cimorellitheband) (For those) Lyrics
- Danzig – Am I Demon (YouTube, 5:04 min – wolf138) (questioning) Lyrics
- The Newsroom, Season 1, Episode 1 (YouTube, 1:12:52 hr – HBO) (first season starts off)
- The Newsroom, opening 3.5 minutes (YouTube, 3:27 min – James Bouder) (a gratifying bang)
- Stoneface & Terminal feat. Ellie Lawson – Breaking Through (YouTube, 3:26 min – ELLIEtelly1) (Instead of praying) Lyrics
- Rihanna – Where Have You Been (YouTube, 4:14 min – RihannaVEVO) (anxious to use) Lyrics