Wednesday, June 16, 2010

For Watching TV Without Nausea, Try Dramamine

Just to keep things in perspective it's useful periodically to point out that one cannot watch TV without frequent nausea. One tunes in for a run-of-the-mill fifteen-minute broadcast of evening news on "NBC, the Community Minded Station" -- this is part of the station's public-service obligation -- and what does the newscaster Merrill Mueller show us? First governor Rockefeller and his bride returning from their honeymoon, looking merry enough; the Governor's first piece of official business will be a conference on Civil Defense. We cut to the President going into his birthday dinner in a New York Hotel; the dinner is at $1,000 a plate, and brings in $550,000 for the Democratic campaign fund; the President goes past a charming crowd of pickets demanding jobs and rights for Negroes and carrying a Jim Crow coffin; the President turns to grin at the camera. Cut directly to a suburban kitchen where a mother and her two children demonstrate the advantages of certain two-ply paper towels. We are back with the President in New York, dedicating a war-memorial at the Battery, and he is explaining that it is more natural for sons to bury their fathers (somehow this is especially disturbing coming from his mouth, but "it means that every generation must defend our freedom"). ... Next to some stock-market figures and a graph; and so to Gordon Cooper, the astronaut, reviewing boy-scouts in his home town and urging them to become Eagle Scouts, though he never made it himself.
This is from a column on TV that the anarchist man of letters (as he liked to call himself) Paul Goodman briefly wrote for the New Republic in 1963. It's collected in Format and Anxiety: Paul Goodman Critiques the Media (Autonomedia, 1995). Every now and then a liberal will yearn publicly for the days when the news media were the adversary of power, independent and fiercely critical. I always wonder when those days were. As this excerpt shows, very little has changed in the past 40-odd years.