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I Miss Walter Cronkite

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Gold Medalist For Your Columns, July, 2010.


Mr. Cronkite was the last reporter who had the full trust of the American people.  He began reporting in the days when news stations were not operated as entertainment outlets that needed to keep up their market shares.  Back then, news was disseminated purely because the people wanted to know what was going on.  And Walter Cronkite was able to keep that image for the rest of his long and productive life--"the most trusted man in America," as the polls showed.  My parents' generation, and mine, knew that he would never tell us anything that he had not researched himself and believed completely to be true. 


How different things are today.  Even the newscasters we respect are controlled by the political leanings of their employers and the need to grab the public's attention in a more interesting way than their competitors do.  No matter how big a celebrity may be, his or her job can be taken away if he or she doesn't follow orders.  More essentially, our news anchors don't have the time, anymore, to do their own research.  They have to read news copy that has been prepared by an army of other people--and they have no more idea than we do as to whether the reports are accurate.


Maybe everything we hear on the news is simply part of a sociological experiment to see how gullible, petty and judgmental the American public can be--sort of what Sacha Baron Cohen did in his film, "Borat".  Maybe everything we hear has been made up, and we ourselves are the entertainment--being watched by an unknown audience, like Jim Carrey's character was in "The Truman Show."  Like Pavlov's dogs, we have been trained to a conditioned response.  Aldous Huxley's vision has come true; Big Brother feeds us the misinformation, and we swallow it without question.  As soon as the media tells us something about a person or a group of people whom we have never met, we begin making our judgments about them.  We hardly ever stop to ask, "Is this really true?" or, "Are we being given all of the details here?" or even, "To what purpose is the news media feeding us this particular item at this particular time?" 


No, that would require more effort than we have time for.  It's much easier to take everything on faith and to believe that our opinions are based on gospel truth--that, in fact, we are informed citizens who know exactly what is going on.  After all, we were told so by a talking head in a two minute news segment!  Why should we insist on real information, when our imagination can fill in the rest? 


Imagination.  That's the key--for the entire life of each of us is lived within our individual imaginations.  To be sure, we experience physical traumas together; but come back ten years from now and ask us what it all meant, and you will find that each of us interpreted the events differently. 


Example: An earthquake decimated a section of our country, followed by terrible flooding. 


To a fundamentalist Christian, it meant the End Days were upon us.


To a Democrat, if it happened during a Republican presidency, it meant the government responded insufficiently and needed to be changed.


To a Republican, if it happened during a Democratic presidency, it meant the government responded insufficiently and needed to be changed.


I heard on a Science Channel program that physicists seem to have discovered that our whole world is based on nothing more than little tiny pixels, no different from those in a computer game.  This may not be true at all, of course--it may be part of the bullshit being disseminated by Big Brother.  But, if it is true, then every ancient philosophy which declared the world is an illusion--and recent movies like "The Matrix" series, which translate that concept into present day terminology--will turn out to be right!  It's an illusion that is manipulated by each individual mind--not in the sense that we can make things happen any way we want, but rather that whatever does happen can be made to mean different things to different people.  And each of us is right, for each reality is individual!


Even if this turns out to be true, I still miss Walter Cronkite.  He represents a time when people were sure that somebody could be trusted--trusted to respect their interests, and not forward his own agendas, or feather his own nest, at their expense.  Whatever reality he reported was what seemed to be actually happening on a global level.  It was not what he, personally, would make it into for ideological reasons.  It was, purely and simply, what he had observed.

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