Monday, December 31, 2012

Ruth's Radio Report 2012

Ruth: 2012 may have been the year 'news' radio finally succeeded in running off the bulk of the audience.  E-mail after e-mail would arrive from people noting how sick they were of the media coronation of U.S. President Barack Obama -- and these started coming in back in September. 

That was national programming, that was local programming.

Dallas community members begged me to give Krys Boyd's Think (KERA) a listen.  I did.  I heard nothing to praise as a supposed 'discussion' on the two major party presidential campaigns took place with both guests, and the host, agreeing Mitt Romney was an awful person.  A point Ava and C.I. would make later, taking on a different broadcast of the same show, was that this aired in an area where Mr. Romney would do very well in the vote (he carried Texas).  So, to them, it was very surprising that supposed public radio, local, regional public radio, was not representing local voices.

And that really describes the problem with public radio today.

The audience is not recognized.  The truth is not told.

Supposed public affairs programs will (and did) book a man who wrote an almanac of made up facts, but they will not cover the issues that matter.  They will laugh and giggle and all try so hard to offer their own version of The Daily Show, but they will not do their job.

They will choose sides.  They will reduce, in an hour long 'discussion,' issues to the most cartoonish and simplistic terms.  They will not elevate the audience because they are too busy flattering the audiences built-in prejudices.

And this will all take place while we, the U.S. taxpayer, foot the bill.

Is it any wonder that the common theme of e-mails to me about radio this year can be boiled down as follows:

Look, Ruth, I want to stay informed.  That is why I have tried to keep listening to NPR/Pacifica but I just cannot take this whoring/nonsense.  Life is too short.  I am switching over to a music station and will spend the rest of this year with tunes.

And who can blame them?

 Or who can blame them for their growing fear of what the media will be like in a few short weeks when they get the visuals for the coronation they have been 'reporting' for months now?

We have a Drone War going on.  We still have U.S. service members in Iraq.  Even after 'withdrawal,' President Obama will be leaving U.S. service members in Afghanistan.  The U.S. government continues to allow torture and practice extraordinary rendition -- most recently with  Mahdi Hashi.

But instead of calling that out, we get programs with guests like the disgusting Glenn Greenwald attacking Kathryn Bigelow's new film  Zero Dark Thirty.  My grandchildren and I saw the film December 25th at the AMC Loews on Third Avenue in New York.

I loved the film.  I was surprised by how much.  But I was also surprised to learn that others did too.  There were serious conversations about torture taking place as the film ended and people began leaving the theater.  I see that some serious critics can also praise the film.

Ty Burr (Boston Globe) noted:

The most thrilling aspect of Kathryn Bigelow's black-ops procedural is how unmelodramatic it is -- how smartly it avoids hollow flag-waving and the sort of Hollywood suspense clichés that even get "Argo" in the end. The film doesn't just follow the decade-long narrative of how Osama bin Laden was located and killed, it tracks an evolution of intelligence-gathering, from punishing force to reason and instinct to the surgical application of military might. The torture scenes early on are meant to be controversial: We're in that room with the new CIA recruit played by Jessica Chastain, as horrified as she is and thrown back on our own response. "Zero Dark Thirty" is a drama of one woman's stubbornness, but, more than that, it calmly shows us bureaucracy, breakthroughs, cruelty, commitment, the reality of collateral damage, and a national desire for revenge slaked at last. And then it asks, well, how do you feel about that?

Susan King (Los Angeles Times) reported earlier this month that Ms. Bigelow's film "was named best film of 2012 by the African-American Film Critics Association."  Dana Stevens (Slate) explained that "this is a vital, disturbing, and necessary film precisely because it wades straight into the swamp of our national trauma about the war on terror and our prosecution of it, and no one -- either on the screen or seated in front of it -- comes out clean."

Is that what the Greenwalds are rejecting when they attack this movie?

The opening torture scene?  It is graphic and it is disgusting.

If Glenn Greenwald cannot grasp that it is not an endorsement of torture, that probably tells us the kind of porn Mr. Greenwald is into.

I have largely ignored the sexism involved in the attacks in this report because I believe Ava and C.I. addressed it fully in "Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch."  I want to note one section of that article:

'Explaining' why he felt it was okay to attack Bigelow, Bret Easton Ellis wrote, "The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man.  Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola's work you're aware of a much softer presence behind the camera."
Does he not get how sexist and insane that sounds?

He is not the only one who does not get how sexist his words were.  In the last week, I heard two different NPR programs cite that belief by Mr. Easton Ellis as if it were factual and non-sexist.  The sexism behind the attacks cannot be ignored nor can it be ignored how casually NPR embraces sexism.

Should that surprise us?  In the last years, Ann has teamed with Ava and C.I. to call out the gender imbalance when it comes to guests on NPR programs.   With Talk of the Nation, they found "30% isn't 50% (Ann, Ava and C.I.);" with The Diane Rehm Show, they found "Diane Rehm's gender imbalance (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" to be only 34.48% of guests were women;  and with Fresh Air, they found "Terry Gross' new low (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" was 18.54%.  With these kind of figures for public radio which is mandated to strive for diversity, is it any wonder how casual the acceptance of sexism has become?

Back to Zero Dark Thirty, the film is attacked by three U.S. Senators as well.  Three U.S. Senators who, Third has pointed out,  make criticism about the information being inaccurate and the film embracing torture when, in fact, if information is a problem, that falls on the Senate which can release any information on these secretive operations, and, if torture is being embraced, that falls to the Senate which should have demanded the Justice Department prosecute torture and should have held open hearings about the U.S. government's use of torture.

If I were Senator Dianne Feinstein, for example, I would be thrilled that the focus was on a film and not on my own actions as Chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee for the last five years.

Equally true, the C.I.A. is denouncing the film.  If that was supposed to make me avoid it, sorry, it only made me more interested in the film.  But then I do not worship the C.I.A.

It really is amazing what people will allow themselves to get righteously indignant over.  As the year wound down, we saw that they would get appalled by a film, World Can't Wait would even stage a protest, but the reality that the film conveyed, the actions of the U.S. government, they would not protest, they would not criticize.

It is so much easier, in this endless coronation, to attack a film and a director for putting on the big screen what the U.S. government has been doing for years and continues to do -- so much easier than attacking the criminals in charge.  Yet again, we want to kill the messenger.

Ruth also covered radio in 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008, .

Other 2012 year in review pieces include "2012 in Books (Martha & Shirley)" and Ann's  "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" which we reposted "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)."