Opinion Editorial




 by James Strauss


What are you watching and listening to?
How is that supposed ‘information’ affecting you? If you believe you are incapable of being influenced by what you are being told, because you have good common sense and some intellect, you are mistaken. I once prepared for an insurance presentation, that was to be held the following morning, before twenty potential customers at a conference. The attendees at the conference already held large group medical contracts with the company I was representing. My goal was to get each of them to agree to add an additional ten percent increase in premiums to their contracts with my company. The contracts hadn’t had a service organization, or provision for it, in their existing condition. I worked all night to come up with a five-page proposal that presented the many reasons they should fill out the assignment forms, which would be sitting in front of each one of them when they arrived.

My proposal was brilliant. The following morning I was accompanied by a much older salesman who had been assigned to help me with the details of the presentation. Five minutes before the attendees showed up, the older salesman went around the conference table and collected all my proposal forms. And then tossed them into a garbage can! I was outraged, but could say nothing as the attendees were then filing in.

When everyone was seated, the older salesman, whom I decided had to be drunk, stepped to the head of the table. I just stood next to him, knowing disaster was at hand. He held up his hands to quiet the assembled group, composed of very intelligent and educated men and women, who ran their own organizations. The old man then spoke. “Please fill out the forms located in front of you, and sign them. I’ll collect them in five minutes.” He looked at his watch. I remained standing in a state of shock, as all the leaders of the companies went to work. The meeting ended five minutes later, when the forms were filled out and signed, and everyone left except the old salesman and I. He held out the twenty completed contracts, without saying a word. I took them, only being able to say “thanks,” in return. I never forgot the power exhibited that day, of one man to stand before a group and get them to do what it is he wanted them to do, simply because he wanted them to.

Dan Rather and Rachel Maddow were on television a few days back, mutually interviewing one another. It is quite common today for news anchors, and popular pundits, to make the news themselves, instead of cover it. A surprising part of the interview was when Dan Rather talked about how Donald Trump had taken possession of the media’s attention to such an extend that the other republican contenders for president were diminished into near nothingness. Rachel Maddow fully agreed with Rather’s assessment. The conversation between them went on for some time, giving me the distinct feeling that the public was really dumb to allow itself to be taken in by an obvious blowhard like Trump. Then suddenly it hit me, and I remembered the old salesman and what he had done. Dan Rather lied, and in lying he completely shifted the emphasis, like the old salesman had shifted it that day in that boardroom. Neither the public, nor Donald Trump, nor any of the other sixteen candidates running for president, had anything to do with “taking the media over.” Anymore than those prospective contract signers had any chance to evaluate whether they should add a servicing entity as an additional paid benefit to their policies.

The media itself, and the most powerful figures deciding who and where coverage would be focused, decide who or what ‘takes the media over.’ I watched two of the most powerful individuals in all of media broadcasting presenting lies about who was really in charge of controlling who and what was covered, and who and what would be emphasized, supported and/or decried by such coverage. Dan Rather and Rachel Maddow lied their butts off, and almost nobody noticed. The public watching that show did what I almost did. They figuratively filled out the forms, and signed them. Many watchers probably felt some degree of guilt about being partially responsible for Trump’s ridiculous success, because they too watched his stunts and hurtful presentations.

I control the selection, amount, and direction of the written material that makes it into the pages of the Geneva Shore Report, this small local newspaper. I cannot completely escape my own prejudices, no matter how much I try. I can only admit to those I recognize, and try to work with, and around them. I could delegate decisions about what to publish, or how to handle what the paper publishes to another, but then that person’s prejudices would simply replace my own. Human beings, one and all, are alive because of prejudice. Humans, you and I included no matter who you are, like some things and dislike others. Those likes and dislikes are called prejudice. If you like climbing mountains without using ropes and equipment, you are probably going to die from a fall. If you like taking drugs, and continue to do so, there will be mental, physical, and/or psychological consequences that will eventually limit and/or impede your success in one, or many, aspects of your life. If you like making money, and saving it, you will probably thrive financially. We cannot deny having prejudices, or basing our beliefs and actions upon them, but we can recognize their role in who we are, and what we do, as well as their impact on other human beings. No more effective instrument of affecting and exercising prejudice has been invented, than the pervasive and powerful television set, and the systems built to deliver its’ ‘messages’ into our minds.

The projection of the prejudices and beliefs of the people who use television as their medium, have been disguised to conceal the prejudices being presented. Television news, following the lead of newspapers and radio, present the “news” as if it was factual. It almost never is. Some person’s decision as to what subjects to cover (since there are so many) is in and of itself prejudicial. And story assignment is the very foundation of all news coverage! The greatest violation committed upon the public today is the lying going on about the media being biasfree. The news presents itself as accurate, truthful, and factual. When instead, it is about as accurate as claiming history is the result of accurately observed occurrences throughout time. A common observation is that the winners write the history books. Napoleon is credited with saying “history is a set of lies agreed upon.” The entire media of today should kneel, and seek a deep understanding of what that sentence means. To fail to question the news, any news, is to be one of the twenty contract signers in that room, unaware that there was a choice being offered to them, so when that choice is removed, they are complicit in their own bamboozlement.

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