War: What Is It Good For?

What he said.

Al and I have been talking about this since I switched from the Weather Channel to MSNBC yesterday morning and heard Brian Williams say, "now we have two things we want to show you: first, a live shot of downtown Baghdad. And as you can see, nothing's happening there. Second, the podium in the White House press room, where we're waiting for Ari Fleischer to make an appearance. And of course, as soon as he does, we'll let you know." The network then proceeded to fill the screen with the live shot of nothing happening in Baghdad while Brian chatted off-camera with a supposed expert on what might happen when the 48-hour deadline was reached.

"Ever since 9/11, I can't watch news coverage of events like this," Al said when I related the above. "It just makes me sick." Not to mention frustrated and angry. Shut UP if you have nothing new or useful to report! News is so cheap to produce that in the U.S., 24-hour news networks are popping up like weeds, and news "magazines" have replaced at least an hour of entertainment programming per night. Has anyone considered that the reason these programs are cheap to produce is because the quality is so low? This lowering of journalistic standards has basically chased Al and me away from television news entirely, but as nj notes, NPR is no better. They recycle the same news and broadcast tedious White House press briefings in their entirety, too: they just do it without the benefit/handicap of boring B-roll or goofy computer-generated graphics in the background. As I listened to one of these press briefings on the drive in to work this morning, I thought, "I'm glad we have a press corps that's asking questions of our leadership, because that leadership might run amok if unchallenged. But must those questions be so inane?"

My frustration with the social terrorists that the media likes to call protestors has already led me to stew silently at home rather than take to the streets to argue for reason (because, let's face it, most of those protestors aren't arguing for reason—they're screaming 30 different messages at the top of their lungs while blocking traffic during rush hour). Now I fear that my frustration with the "news" media will lead me to ignore the war. This is a shame, because I really do want to understand what's going on.

Frustration with the social terrorists isn't the only reason I've stayed home. I'm keeping to the sidelines until I can articulate what I really think about the war and its alternatives. In short, I feel ill-informed. For all the shouting in the streets and the 24-hour news and analysis, I don't feel any better equipped to form an opinion. And that's saying something, because I'm usually full of opinions and not shy about sharing them.

So, what is this war good for? I don't know. Certainly not for fans of quality television programming, for the environment, or for our relations with the rest of the world (or for my productivity at work). And whether it makes the world a safer place or a more dangerous one remains to be seen. On the plus side, it seems to be keeping a lot of people busy, and as everyone knows, we Americans are happiest when we're busy. The evidence is all over CNN.

Posted by Lori in news/media at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2003