Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time to Modify the First Amendment

Ya know … Freedom of the Press was a good idea. The printing press was an integral part of keeping extremes of behavior in check. The operators of those presses that distributed news depended on the acceptance of the people for their livelihood. Tell lies or publish things too off-the-wall and the people wouldn’t buy your publication. You were gone. The survivors were therefore largely honest and straight forward.

Other than the short heyday of Yellow Journalism in the William Randolph Hearst era, the true press had some real integrity and responsibility.

Even up until the mid-1960’s this was still the case. Your job as a journalist was to tell who, what, when, where, why and how; and, your editor would chew your head off if there was an obvious slant to what you wrote.

Then came 1968 and Happy Talk “news” at the ABC broadcast outlets. Professional Journalism was on its way out. The honored profession about which the Freedom of the Press was written would soon be gone – at least in broadcasting and the yellow news outlets.

Here we are, 40 years later, and the Happy Talkers have degenerated to a bunch of chittering morons feeding us masses of garbage sensationalism, crappy grammar, twisted language structure … and now, blatant irresponsibility.

Today’s big story? The two leading “big box” stores, Sam’s and Costco, have put a limit on how much rice you can buy. It’s a crisis!

Isn’t there anyone at least 40 years old and in charge at these “press” media outlets? Is anyone responsible? Remember the society-clobbering, press-created "crisis" of gasoline and toilet paper we endured 35 years ago?

For you younger folk, here’s what I’m talking about:

1973: Members of an oil cartel in the Middle East started cutting back on production and refused to sell oil to the United States. (The reasons are complex.) The popular press hammered and hammered on this story, spinning endless gloom and doom scenarios. One of the clear messages was that at any moment, there might be no more gasoline available.

Suddenly, people were worried that when they got up the next day, there would be no more gasoline for sale. So, if you were down to a half a tank, you darn well knew that you better go fill up.

Do the math. Probably 1/3 of the cars normally ran around with a ¼ of a tank of gas, or less; another third might have had anything from a quarter to three quarters of a tank; and, the final third might have just filled up. Let’s say that this averages to a half tank times several million cars. That was the demand on the U.S. refining and gas distribution infrastructure – and, therefore, that was their capacity.

Suddenly everybody wanted a full tank (times millions of cars.) There wasn’t that much gasoline available.

What happened?

Cars lined up for blocks and blocks, outside every gas station; and, gas stations with no gas. A national plan went into effect wherein you were only able to buy gas on even numbered days if your license plate ended in an even number and vice versa for the odd numbered license plates.

All because of stupid sensationalist and ill-informed “news.”

It was so laughable that the comedians of the day constantly poked fun at the “gas lines” and society’s situation.

Then one night, in December, a super-famous comedian, Johnny Carson, made a joke on his nightly national television show and the public went nuts.

Johnny mockingly told a bit of “news” to his audience. He said that he’d heard that there was going to be a shortage of toilet paper. Pretty funny. Toilet paper fergodsake.

Suddenly, normally sane people were rushing to the grocery store (Costco & Sams didn’t exist yet) buying shopping carts full of toilet paper. By the end of the next afternoon, there was no more toilet paper on the shelves.

The broadcast “news” people jumped right on this “nationwide shortage” and by the end of the second day, there was no more toilet paper in the distribution warehouses.

Carson retracted his joke while the news people pontificated that they were really amazed at how people behaved. About 24 hours later, it was over. But that was a long 3 days in hell.

2008: The news pudding heads are pounding on a rice “shortage.” One of these feces distributors, ooops, I mean news outlets, even had an interview with some old guy who said, “I don’t remember any other food rationing since World War II.”

Screeeeeaaaaaaaam!!!!!! Now they’ve gone from hammering on two stores keeping you from buying more than 100 lbs of rice in any single purchase to, “We’re about to repeat World War II food rationing.”

So let’s get back to my headline.

Since these pin heads cannot seem to police themselves, let’s really go back to World War II. Let’s set up a National Censorship Board to vet what news people want to flood out onto the national psyche. If they’re going to talk about gasoline, toilet paper, or freakin rice … black them out, off the air!

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