News ≠ Entertainment (
by Jeff Wilfahrt
Jun 12, 2014, 8:34 AM

Octogenarian question

Should you ever attend the birthday gathering of an octogenarian ask them this simple question.

Over the course of your life what single thing stands out as affecting society?

  • Betty, now deceased, said is was the polio vaccine. That figures because she was a woman of childbearing age when it raged in the ’40s and ’50s.
  • Phyllis, now near 100, said it was herbicide and pesticide. That figures because she led a farm life.
  • Leo, now near 90, said it was two fold, air conditioning and TV because they took people off the front porch and isolated us all in our four walls. This answer seems the most titillating.

Somewhere along the line news became equated with entertainment. No specific date, just a slow seepage into the American psyche.

There seems to be an irony that both the left and right in America converge on a desire for this to be a better place to live. And it could be. The problem is rooted in our collective resignation that news equates to entertainment. A certain falsehood.

Whether it is CNN, FOX, MSNBC or local stuff like Almanaclack it is now about personality and not really about news or anything resembling substantial inquiry.

Picking on TPT’s Almanaclack for a moment have you ever noticed how Wurzer and Eskola never contest or inquire with or for data to back up claims made on their couch? Last Friday’s interview (and the term is used loosely) with candidate Johnson serves the point. He made the same ridiculous job creator to job linkage argument and was allowed to do so without a question of proof or data. Might as well have been a comedy routine wherein outrageous claims get made and produce either grimace or glee. Free political ads are what TPT’s  Almanaclack has become for guests of all stripes.

Be it Facebook, Twitter or the omnipresent cell phone human beings retain a deep desire to communicate. But it is not done face to face any longer. The front porch is gone. Everyone is cocooned in air conditioning and staring at a screen, be it TV, laptop or cell. Looking for that news stained as entertainment.

Benghazi, four dead. End of story. Beirut, two hundred plus troops dead. End of story. Granada, eight lives dead in the sea. End of story. Cantor loses. End of story.

Iraq and Afghanistan rage on but no focus on the story of it being unpaid conflicts. Reduced to entertainment value. In Europe they show the dead and wounded being loaded onto airlifts. Not here, might detract from the entertainment element. Besides, the old folks remember the images from Viet Nam in the ’60s. Showing the contemporary pain and loss would be yesterday’s news, fit for fish guts, not for the American public. Heck, if we saw it we might unite to confront the government that has let this drift on and on. Speaking of drift you might want to read Maddow’s book titled just that, Drift. It explains an awful lot of how we came to be where we are about death and destruction.

Can’t really blame the media, like the larger food industry, if we’ll eat corn syrup scale up the production. Diabetes be damned. And so it is with news… load it up with sugary entertainment. News be damned.

If we collectively wanted a better America we’d drop all the media towers. Maybe we could use some products from Alliant Techsystems to do the job. Home grown stuff all that explosive ordinance.

The six or so months it would take to re-erect those towers might be just sufficient time for us to straighten out our approach to things, a chance to separate news from entertainment.

It was the early 1980’s. His name is Wally. We stood together on one end of a horseshoe throwing pit. He, a hog farmer in Minnesota, was asked if all the trepidation over the collapse of the family farm was true.

“You know Jeff, if you turn off the TV and the radio it ain’t half bad.”

If there’s no octogenarian at hand ask yourself and the neighbor where in this world would you rather live? It’s probably right here.

Let’s drop the towers and see what happens. At least shut the damn things off for a while and sit on your front porch. Let the summer heat soak in and maybe you’ll get a chance to bullshit with a neighbor a little bit and get some legitimate news about their lives. They are after all your fellow denizen.


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