Spiro Agnew

>> Wednesday, September 23, 2009

[...] Tonight I want to discuss the importance of the television news medium to the American people. No nation depends more on the intelligent judgment of its citizens. No medium has a more profound influence over public opinion. Nowhere in our system are there fewer checks on vast power.

Zo begon Spiro Agnew, Vice President van Nixon, zijn rede op 13 november 1969, nu bijna 40 jaar geleden waarin hij zich beklaagde over de media.

Waarom is dit een moment om bij stil te staan? Deze rede heeft - nog in embrionale vorm - de kenmerken van de campagne die 40 jaar door rechts tegen de media is gevoerd.

In een deze speech, (13 November 1969, Des Moines, IA) beschuldigde Agnew de media ervan het nieuws vanuit een links perspectief te brengen.
Monday night a week ago, President Nixon delivered the most important address of his Administration[...] The audience of 70 million Americans gathered to hear the President of the United States was inherited by a small band of network commentators and self-appointed analysts, the majority of whom expressed in one way or another their hostility to what he had to say.

It was obvious that their minds were made up in advance.


When Winston Churchill rallied public opinion to stay the course against Hitler’s Germany, he didn’t have to contend with a gaggle of commentators raising doubts about whether he was reading public opinion right, or whether Britain had the stamina to see the war through. When President Kennedy rallied the nation in the Cuban missile crisis, his address to the people was not chewed over by a roundtable of critics who disparaged the course of action he’d asked America to follow.

Nixon en Agnew vonden dat ze niet fair werden behandeld, zeker niet in vergelijking met andere grote politici. Zij zochten de fout echter niet bij zichzelf maar bij de journalisten.
The purpose of my remarks tonight is to focus your attention on this little group of men who not only enjoy a right of instant rebuttal to every Presidential address, but, more importantly, wield a free hand in selecting, presenting, and interpreting the great issues in our nation. First, let’s define that power.


Now how is this network news determined? A small group of men, numbering perhaps no more than a dozen anchormen, commentators, and executive producers, settle upon the 20 minutes or so of film and commentary that’s to reach the public. This selection is made from the 90 to 180 minutes that may be available. Their powers of choice are broad.

They decide what 40 to 50 million Americans will learn of the day’s events in the nation and in the world. We cannot measure this power and influence by the traditional democratic standards, for these men can create national issues overnight. They can make or break by their coverage and commentary a moratorium on the war. They can elevate men from obscurity to national prominence within a week. They can reward some politicians with national exposure and ignore others.
We can deduce that these men read the same newspapers. They draw their political and social views from the same sources. Worse, they talk constantly to one another, thereby providing artificial reinforcement to their shared viewpoints.
Let op, dit is belangrijk, hij beschuldigt een kleine groep journalisten, een voornamelijk linkse elite die veraf staat van de gewone burger, de "echte Amerikaan". Dezelfde elite, gescheiden van het grauw door een grote kloof, heeft nu ook de Atlantische oceaan overgestoken en domineert tegenwoordig ook hier "de MSM" zoals sommigen menen.

Is it not fair and relevant to question its concentration in the hands of a tiny, enclosed fraternity of privileged men elected by no one and enjoying a monopoly sanctioned and licensed by Government?

The views of the majority of this fraternity do not -- and I repeat, not -- represent the views of America. That is why such a great gulf existed between how the nation received the President’s address and how the networks reviewed it. Not only did the country receive the President’s speech more warmly than the networks, but so also did the Congress of the United States.


And in the networks' endless pursuit of controversy, we should ask: What is the end value -- to enlighten or to profit? What is the end result -- to inform or to confuse? How does the ongoing exploration for more action, more excitement, more drama serve our national search for internal peace and stability?

Gresham’s Law seems to be operating in the network news. Bad news drives out good news. The irrational is more controversial than the rational. Concurrence can no longer compete with dissent. [...] a narrow and distorted picture of America often emerges from the televised news. A single, dramatic piece of the mosaic becomes in the minds of millions the entire picture. The American who relies upon television for his news might conclude that the majority of American students are embittered radicals; that the majority of black Americans feel no regard for their country; that violence and lawlessness are the rule rather than the exception on the American campus.

We know that none of these conclusions is true.

Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the Government in Washington but in the studios of the networks in New York! Television may have destroyed the old stereotypes, but has it not created new ones in their places? What has this "passionate" pursuit of controversy done to the politics of progress through logical compromise essential to the functioning of a democratic society?
Behalve de waarschuwing voor De Elite valt nog iets op in deze speech, Agnew waarschuwt dat de media vooral geïnteresseerd zijn in sensatie. [1] In die tijd waren dat de studentenprotesten en rassenonlusten. Tegenwoordig zijn het geen studenten maar Teabaggers en Glenn Beck die het nieuws domineren. Nieuws gaat niet over de inhoud, problemen worden nauwelijks uitgelegd, nieuws is alleen interessant als het kijkers trekt. Waarheid of niet, het maakt vaak niet uit, zoals nu weer blijkt in de ACORN affaire.

Het plaatje is overigens de cover van het boek van Rick Perlstein - ik ben het nog aan het lezen en wil hier later over bloggen.

[1]: Grasham's Law = Bad money drives out good. Mooi gevonden.


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