June 22, 2008

Media's "Cracked Bells and Washed-Out Horns"

LA Times to cut 250 jobs, including 150 news jobs

"Once a bear is hooked on garbage there's no cure." -- Gary Snyder

ALL ALONG OUR WATCHTOWERS where our Princes of the Media tell us our views, things are looking very shaky for their latter-day plutocracy. Their ratings tank, their circulation implodes, and revenues auger into the ground like a one-winged Gulfstream. Like the once-popular Yogi Berra Restaurant, people are staying away in droves.

Extreme measures seem to be called for and extreme solutions are tried. Some once-brilliant network exec has a new thought to save the ratings, "sex!" Katie Couric's perky points are whipped out, rubbed with ice-cubes and back lit by the blaze of Baghdad. It doesn't help. Husbands cringe and wives run screaming from the plasma-screen wall. Faced with the continuing disaster, another never-brilliant New York Times publisher has his only idea for the 600th time: "Bash Bush!" Times editors from the last time the Publisher waved his stuffed moose around convene for their 5348th Sulzberger Suckupathon and decide to "save the newspaper" by..... redesigning the web site! Ad sales and staff continue in their mutual suckage. Heroin suppository prescriptions are renewed.

Across town, employees of cable news networks whose viewer-ship has fallen to rival the circulation of "The Nation" ponder a future without houses in the Hamptons, and their forthcoming inability to land jobs as spokesmen for Ginzu Knives at the North Dakota State Fair. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or, as we used to say in the 60s in the drug-drenched pits of Berkeley, "If you are going to have a revolution, get ready to do revolting things."

Backs to the ratings wall, they pull out their thermonuclear weapon, and video tapes

of Nancy Pelosi go into heavy rotation on CNN while the beheading of a woman in Iraq doesn't get airplay outside of the blogosphere. Outside in the cold distance, a Chris Matthews howls like the tree in the forest with nobody around to hear him. Does he howl? I can't tell you. I'm not there to listen.

Every so often, Matt Drudge trudges up from the numbers swamp with more tale tales of viewers gone down into the quicksand of 'We couldn't care less.' We'd listen to Matt more carefully, but lately it has always been the same old riddle where you start from the middle.

"There must be some way out of here,"
said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion,
I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
know what any of it is worth."

Out beyond the coastal media enclaves ravaged by the black plague of the spirit, normal Americans yearning to know about and hate the enemy that has killed thousands of them and plans to kill tens of thousands more still tune in in the hope of a shred of the truth, a fraction of a fact. Instead they are informed, from unnamed sources deep within the CIA, that their enemy is the President who has kept them safe for four years. They click away and don't click back, and the soon to be made redundant reporters, newscasters and producers wonder why. After all, everything they have been spewing over the air and through the newspapers for years has been correct. Everybody they have lunch and dinner with, everyone that they cheat on their spouses with, everyone that they take "social drugs" with, everyone who has also been spewing the same stuff, says so. How can the people, the little people who don't even have an account with a car service, be so stupid, be so wrong?

"No reason to get excited,"
the thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us
who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that,
and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
the hour is getting late."

But the people aren't wrong. As a great ad-man once said, "The consumer isn't an idiot. The consumer is your wife." The people are sick of it all. Sick of the same old two stories being told to them over and over. Sick of the blather and the disaster and the doom which they know, in their gut and in their heart, to be only a shadow, a dark shadow, of the real story.

It's not really a question of whether or not the old media could get their sad act together, get their fat ass in gear, get their revenue base back, come on in, have a cigar, and call it 'riding the gravy train.' They could. Fox News, every season, proves that. Nor is it a state secret how to do it. Fox News shows you how, 24/7/365. No, it is more a question of whether or not the established elements of people that make up the failing media can, themselves, get the audience back. And the answer to that, now and into the future, is, "No."

All along the watchtower,
princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
barefoot servants, too.

No, they can't because they simply don't have the intellectual tools to do so. They might have been able to at one time much earlier in their careers, but by now they are so ossified in their age and in their hiring practices that they have no chance at it. Old liberal media has been failing to reproduce at replacement rate for years. And when it has hired, It has not hired new, fresh minds into its institutions, but has been buying up the clones produced by such mainstream media bio-labs as the Columbia Journalism School. This is not surprising since they've been retiring into teaching positions in theses sorts of schools for decades. Positions in which they create little journalists out of their whole and moldy cloth; kids that turn out just like them.

The result is that, even as the media generation forged in the sixties and seventies begins to retire, their replacements in their institutions are merely clones of themselves. Sometimes they are even their own children since nepotism is the way of the media companies. They are kind to their children, they have to be since in many cases the kid is the one child that survived the great liberal abortion festivals that marked the early marriages of these people. The end result today is, like an ancient cosmology that was turtles all the way down, these liberal media monoliths are staffed with liberals all the way down. And that means that their daily bleatings in search of love will continue. It means that their cracked bells will never stop ringing.

And those bells will ring even louder in the next few months as the liberal media, bleating in lock-step with the Left and the dwindling liberal Democratic party, tries to beat a war-weary electorate into shrugging submission; into a desperation so deep that they will do anything to make this cast-off cartel of crap shut up, even vote them into power. And so they will ring out their cracked bells of doom, of surrender, of despair and the decline of America into delicate things.

Nothing else has worked and nothing else is to hand. So ring out the message of cracked bells, Let the citizens of these states know that for you to shut up, they've got to give power over to the party whose plan is to kill them after taxing them half to death. Boys and girls up in your trembling tower, jerk on the ropes. Ring them bells. It just might work. We don't like long wars, we like quick wins. Maybe we'd like a little peace and quiet around here for a change. Or maybe, just maybe, we'd like you to shut up and listen to us. God knows more and more of us try harder and harder not to listen to you.

But don't think that we're stupid. After all, we're smart enough not to listen to you. And don't think we don't see your plan. It is so hard to miss since you seem, in your dotage, to have hidden it in plain sight, forgetting we've all read Poe's "The Purloined Letter" in high school. Let me see if I can explain it clearly, even to you. Please try not to quote me out of context.

Outside in the distance
a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
the wind began to howl.

The program of this dying media -- which has chained itself onto a drowning political philosophy -- is quite simple: To take the rest of us down with it. And you plan to do it by carping on doom to such an extent that one literally will not be able to hear oneself think. Doombells in the coming months will ring everywhere at a volume louder than a U2 concert seeking to save Africa from the Africans. Stick you head out the window on Mainstream Media Street and listen. Do you hear it? Yes, there it is.

The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn
-- Dylan

The bells, bells, bells, bells, bells of the Bush-bash are clapped over the citizen's ears wherever and whenever he foolishly glances at a newspaper's front page, or mistakenly clicks on a major network of a Sunday morning. Stock markets improve, jobs are so filled up that there are jobs Americans won't do because they have jobs they are happy to do. A deep problem of many Americans looking to buy second (or third or fourth) homes is that interest rates aren't as magical as they were a year ago. The 18% mortgage interest rates brought to you by Jimmy Carter's administration are consigned to the shadows while Jimmy Carter, America's official Buffoon to the world, is actually given space for his opinions on how to handle Iran, the price of oil, and the national economy. And the ratings tank, tank, tank, and the circulation of newspapers creates ever widening unemployment in the news rooms, and still the cracked bell beatings go on in the hope that Americans everywhere will say, "Hurts. Hurts! Make it stop!"

But it won't stop because, like bears hooked on garbage, the mainstream media of the United States knows only two things and tells only two stories.

In the end, the old media is dying off because the only stories they know are "Vietnam" and "Watergate." Everything they've said for nearly half a decade are just variations on those themes and we've become sick and tired on these old moldy tales; a sickness unto the death of the old media.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 22, 2008 6:26 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

This one goes to a certain Liberal newspaper publisher here in my town of residence. Not a bad sort, and he's always reliable in returning my e-mails.

I hope he heeds the wisdom of your words. I doubt that he will.

Damn well said, as always.

I have given up on wondering if you may ever cease to better your previous posts. There is a difference sir, between a talent and a gift.

You sir, are possessed of a magnificent gift. I do truly believe that your works will echo far, far into the future.


Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim at May 9, 2006 7:06 PM

Wow! A truly poetic and visionary rant.

Posted by: Promethea at May 9, 2006 9:15 PM

Ditto on what Jim said. You have a gift.

Posted by: Dan at May 9, 2006 10:13 PM

I just could not/would not log off for the night without one last peek. Bedtime is now put off, for I must distribute as far and wide as my email list allows!

As always, I pray that God keeps you safe and healthy for decades more, so that you may continue to share your wisdom by the gift of your word.

Love you dearly.

Posted by: LARWYN at May 9, 2006 10:38 PM

From the rural hinterland of the UK please accept my profound thanks for today's wonderful exposition. As long as the human spirit continues to manifest itself in the unique mind of Gerard Vanderleun we can be assured that all is not lost. You voice with great clarity the concerns that we less inarticulate sad souls are unable to express. It is good to know that there is still at least one poetic philosopher extant. May the special relationship flourish, despite the attacks that are being currently made to undermine it.

Posted by: Frank P at May 10, 2006 2:44 AM

I apologise for the typo: 'less inarticulate' should have read 'less articulate' and of course the error proves the point!

Posted by: Frank P at May 10, 2006 2:52 AM

"Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me." Sigmund Freud

Posted by: rhamning at May 10, 2006 6:12 AM

I have nothing intelligent to add to this discussion. I just wanted to say I saw Dylan in concert perform "All Along the Watchtower" a couple weeks ago.

Posted by: Luke G. at May 10, 2006 6:48 AM


I'm one of the red state knuckle dragging boobs who hasn't watched the Perkster in 20 years. It's not so much that I can't stomach the media's predominant political view--and I can't--it's jsut that I won't be insulted in my own home.

Let's not worry our little heads about the fine points of political nuance and interpretation. Let's focus on getting the simple things right. Tell me that the DJIA fell 30 points. I could care less that the airhead news reader thinks that rising gas prices caused it. My God, they are dumb, and arrogant, and condescending, and nauseating.

In the words of the poet, "there is some shit I will not eat."

Posted by: Old Dad at May 10, 2006 7:11 AM

Awesome article. And accurate.

I love the way you put words together.

Van der Leun RULES!

Posted by: Richard in Port Orchard, WA at May 10, 2006 7:12 AM

I was about to correct you and say "Watergate, Vietnam, Sports and Weather." However, with the focus on scandal, sports has been Watergated. And with George Bush being the cause of global warming, weather has been Vietnamized.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at May 10, 2006 7:39 AM

I was about to correct you and say "Watergate, Vietnam, Sports and Weather." However, with the focus on scandal, sports has been Watergated. And with George Bush being the cause of global warming, weather has been Vietnamized.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at May 10, 2006 7:39 AM

I 3rd Gagdad!

Posted by: LARWYN at May 10, 2006 10:07 AM

Some parents just can't let go. Their kids grow up and start independent lives. But they refuse to acknowledge that their young now have to make, and correct, their own mistakes. Their children are now responsible for themselves.

How much more terrible when the guardianship is self imposed? When the wardenship is not merely thrown off, but outright ignored? Our watchers watch as we assume the responsibilities of maturity that are ours by right, and have tizzies at the thought of being made irrelevant.

Oh the blow to the ego, to learn you're not even necessary. At a time when you know you are needed as never before. And your charges, your precious lambs insist on wondering out into the noisome wilds; seeking wolves to mug and strip of their possessions.

(Helpless and vicious criminals. Just one of the many contradictory beliefs held by our self chosen surrogate parents.)

Well, as Bob Dylan once said,

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't critisize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old role is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a changin'

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at May 10, 2006 12:35 PM

Well said. As usual.

Sometimes a relentless consistency becomes boring, even when what's repeated is excellence. Not in your case. Thanks for this.

Posted by: physics geek at May 10, 2006 2:32 PM

Well said. As usual.

Sometimes a relentless consistency becomes boring, even when what's repeated is excellence. Not in your case. Thanks for this.

Posted by: physics geek at May 10, 2006 2:32 PM

I love words, and you are an
elegant word smith.

I love danger, and you are a
dangerous man.

I love war, and you are a
fearless warrior.

Posted by: DirtRagsRanch at May 10, 2006 2:46 PM

Outstanding as usual, Gerard. The only problem is that there are still enough uninformed and therefore dangerous people out there to elect a Democrat majority in the House and the Senate in '06 and the White House in '08. If that happens we are all in deep fecal material. The first thing they'll do is raise taxes. The second thing they'll do is initiate articles of impeachment, and the third thing they'll do is retreat from fighting the hard but necessary World War IV.

Posted by: Chester at May 10, 2006 4:50 PM

"Bells of Rhymney" was written by Idris Davies.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at May 10, 2006 7:41 PM

Luke G.

Uncle Bob's been doing great lately (i.e., the past 10-15 years or so).

I saw him last fall (kick-ass version of "Down Along the Cove"), and I'm looking forward to the next time he comes my way.

His last three albums, "World Gone Wrong", "Time Out of Mind", and "Love and Theft" are among the best albums he has EVER recorded.

Bob Dylan a nostalgia act? I think not.

Posted by: rickl at May 10, 2006 7:41 PM

Dear Schuler,

Thanks for the information about Idris Davies. Duly noted and corrected above.


Posted by: Van der Leun at May 10, 2006 8:58 PM

Brought all this back here for Chester and others who are very concerned. There are actions we can plan.

Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker:
The middle class bails on the Democrats

She quotes Martin Frost's piece at RCP as to the percentages of the middle class of all races that the Dems have lost. She ends with this:

... they are now the party of rich elitists, working with the loony left to cater to the losers at the cost of the middle class. And everyone knows it.

We are going to vote and sure we are going to drag any hesitant/lazybones Repub we know.
But we must do more and this is truly important and frightening - if the Clintonistas have their way:

Clinton NSC Team Targets Weldon

In June 2005, Weldon went public with news that Clinton administration lawyers prevented the Defense Intelligence Agency's Able Danger group from blowing the whistle on two al-Qaida terrorists who would later pilot the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has given $500 to Sestak.

Disgraced former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger has given Weldon's opponent $1,000.

Disgraced ex-Clinton CIA director John Deutch gave $500.

Former Clinton Navy secretary John Dalton ponied up $500 to defeat Weldon.

Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta - $300.

Berger's predecessor as national security adviser, Anthony Lake - $500.

Even Hillary Clinton has gotten into the act, contributing $2,500 to defeat Curt Weldon.

Actually, they forgot one more Clintonista:

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon called yesterday for Democratic opponent Joe Sestak to return $350 in campaign contributions from Mary O. McCarthy, the CIA investigator fired last week for allegedly leaking classified information to the news media. {in addition to her $7,500.00 to Dems in 2004 elections}

Sestak's spokeswoman noted, in reply, that the CIA employee had not been charged with any crime and said she saw no reason for the money to be returned "at this time."

The Able Danger Blog has a link directly to Weldon's Campaign. We should not let them win this seat and stop the story of Clintonistas' many derelictions of duty.

Posted by: LARWYN at May 10, 2006 9:07 PM

Brilliant! And I say that even though I am coming to detest Bush (albeit for vastly different reasons than the dead-tree and dead-synapse media do).

Posted by: Rick Darby at May 11, 2006 8:34 AM

Hey check out this awesome response letter to Iranian President by and Israeli student

Posted by: legend at May 11, 2006 10:49 AM

Beautiful rant; seamless, poetic. Thank you...

Posted by: JCworth at May 11, 2006 11:39 AM

Gerard, you must be told your beliefs as written here help keep many of us sane. You are, indeed, gifted. Thank you for being unable to keep it to yourself.

I hear the bells, bells, bells, bells, but I hear not what the ringers intend. What I hear instead is what you stated: their plan to kill us after taxing us half to death. So let them keep ringing, I don't want to shut them up, they're telling us who they are and what they want.

Posted by: Cindi at May 11, 2006 1:01 PM

Well said!

Posted by: David McKinnis at May 11, 2006 2:16 PM

Of course, I see the dilemma as running deeper. The bellringers wish to destroy this country, that's clear enough, but they are far less dishonest about supporting the policies that will undermine us.

On one side, you have the man who rings the bell, foams at the mouth, and screams at the top of his lungs "DOWN WITH ALL CORRUPTION!" On the other side, the man who carefully extends a friendly hand, smiles kindly and says, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing and I only want to HELP." I know whom I'd rather trust - but I also know who's being more open about their intentions, and it's not the same person.

Posted by: Michael Andreyakovich at May 11, 2006 4:32 PM

I agree that the media only tells two stories Vietnam and watergate. The sad part is they always get the Vietnam story wrong.

Our cowardly withdrawl in the the face of adversity was a travesty. We could have and should have won that war. Milions of people killed in Cambodia and vietnam after the US withdrawl died because my country refused to do what John Kennedy said we would do.

"...Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."— John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1961

Posted by: Frank McCollum at May 17, 2006 11:11 AM

VDL, thanks.

Posted by: Geoffgo at June 3, 2006 4:07 AM

Perhaps the media keep repeating the same old same old because the people they are reporting are doing the same? The same old incompetent belligerence, the same old desire to destabilise the governments you don't like without the competence to do it properly, the same old refusal to admit that policies on many things to do with the environment are going to have to change, the same old protection of industries that give politicians money (or that are owned by those politicians in some cases).

If everything that is happening isn't changing, should the reporting of it change?

Perhaps when the government of the USA starts looking past the next election, and starts putting the good of its citizens before their own bank accounts, then the reporting will change. Maybe also, when corporate board members start putting the long-term future of their companies and the interests of their shareholders ahead of their next quarterly bonus, then reporting will change. Fat chance of either.

None of this ought to matter to me, of course; I live in the UK. But one thing Americans are very good indeed at is exporting their bad habits; junk TV with synthetic laughtracks, junk music that glorifies gangsterism and violence, junk movies with much more CGI than story, junk food, big flashy junk cars, government by lobbyists, DRM obsession, no win no fee lawsuits (leading to ever-increasing insurance rates and obsession with Elf 'n Safety) and (perhaps worst of all) Political Correctness.

As an example of what's wrong with America, am I not right in saying that every single American car company is in trouble, and cars from Far Eastern and to a lesser extent European countries are increasingly dominating America's roads? Maybe someone ought to think about why.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at July 4, 2008 1:53 AM

"[A]m I not right in saying that every single American car company is in trouble, and cars from Far Eastern and to a lesser extent European countries are increasingly dominating America's roads? Maybe someone ought to think about why." You are right. Answer: Labor Unions. BTW, looks like that pseudo-socialist paradise, the UK, will soon be returning to the good old days of the 1970s, with multiple strikes, including trash collection, planned for launch soon. Perhaps the IMF bail you out again. Finally, why are your fellow Brits abandoning the island paradise (largest out migration since 1908) in such numbers? Searching for a better life, perhaps? Finally, who was responsible for the death, destruction and misery visited on the world during the XXth century? Answer: Europe. Put a sock in it, pal.

Posted by: boqueronman at July 9, 2008 10:42 AM