Remember Howard Beale

This past Friday beheld the start of the third National Conference over Media Reform in Memphis. Bill Moyers was one of the main speakers, and being Moyers, he let the media establishment have it point blank:

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers on Friday challenged
3,000 progressive activists and communicators to take back the telling
of America’s story at the National Conference of Media Reform in
Memphis. He put his finger squarely on the deep vein of discontent with
the way mainstream media is ill-serving American democracy.

Moyers, who is president of the Schumann Center for Media and
Democracy, went through a sordid litany of corporate media malfeasance,
from the lackluster and largely non-skeptical reporting of the Bush
administration’s launch of the war in Iraq to the lack of attention
paid to a domestic landscape of increasing economic disparity and
racial segregation. Virtually uncontrolled media consolidation over the
past decade, he said, has meant a loss of independent journalism and
created “more narrowness and homogenization in content and perspective,
so that what we see on our couch is overwhelmingly the view from the

It is in this environment that the Bush administration can, for
example, can “turn the escalation of a failed war and call it a surge,
as if it were a current of electricity through a wire instead of blood
spurting from the ruptured veins of a soldier,” Moyers said.

On the domestic front, “the question of whether or not our economic
system is truly just is off the table for investigation and discussion,
so that alternative ideas, alternative critiques, alternative visions
never get a hearing,” he said.

“It is clear what we have to do. We have to tell the story ourselves,” he said.

One thing I noticed much further down in the article (the last paragraph, in fact) was a reference to Sidney Lumet’s Network, possibly one of the best movies ever made about the broadcast television industry:

The intense interest in this conference is a reflection of the
thousands of Howard Beales on the left who are as mad as hell and are
not going to take dumbed-down, homogenized, corporatized,
power-subservient media any more.

Everyone remembers Howard Beale telling people to stick their heads out their windows and scream their ire at the world, possibly because that scene happens early in the movie.  Nobody remembers that by the end of the film, Howard has become "the only prime time anchorman to ever have been killed over lousy ratings."  So my meager advice to those who would defend the world from the main stream media might be this: the machine is plenty bigger than you, has no morals whatsoever and has an enormous head start.  In other words, both strive for change and  watch your back.  Always.   

About Jon Frater

A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jonathan Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters, and Robotech Adventures: Lancer’s Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He’s currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan’s first full-length novel.

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