Monday, November 23, 2009

Helen Thomas’s New Book Is Coming…

…and unlike Sarah Palin’s offering, it will not set records. Unlike Palin’s book, -it is not a PR exercise: it is a book written by one of the most important ground-level observers and formidable assessors of the White House for 50 years. The nation clearly wants to know more about Sarah Palin “spinning” her revealingly dismal interview with Katie Couric, and not a closer look at the working of all administrations that actually occupied the house that Palin childishly covets and petulantly insists she deserves to live in.

The release of these two books offers us a chance to take a real good look at ourselves as a nation. Their respective publication is an indictment of our lack of focus on things that are grounded in reality versus things that are created to appeal to our desires, insecurities and weaknesses: We want pretty people to be good and smart, after all, if they’re not, what does that say about us for liking them?

It would be nice if someone with Sarah Palin’s looks, background and experience; a child of teachers, a beauty queen, a parent, a woman who sought state office and attained it, was actually a capable leader and dedicated public servant –but she’s not. All the pretending and best PR won’t make her into anything other than the bumbling out-of-her-element wannabe that Charlie Gibson interviewed last year. All she remains is the walking remnant of that failed GOP grab at the national female vote made in hopes of capturing Hillary Clinton’s supporters. In this way, she’s as counterfeit and ceremonially significant as RNC Chair Michael Steele. Steele is illegitimate for reasons I trust are too obvious to you (and frankly too embarrassing) for me to go into here.

Helen Thomas continues to speak the truth to power, even though few will listen. Helen Thomas will never be as nice to look at or as pleasant to listen to as any of the women on News Cable Networks, whether it’s the smiling peroxide automatons on Fox “News,” or even someone with indisputable intellect like Campbell Brown. Let’s face it; we just don’t listen to unattractive people, specifically unattractive women on TV.

Imagine if Abraham Lincoln or Mother Theresa’s worth, their very ability to be heard, had been dependent on their looks, or their entertainment appeal?

We are a nation that can’t handle information unless it’s wrapped up in a superficially appealing package. The news anchors, talking heads and politicians get better and better looking with every passing decade. With the advent of Kennedy and Reagan, Presidents had to become bona fide media stars on par with actual media stars in movies and TV: pleasing to the ear and eye, inoffensive to the mind. Their policies, (for better or for worse in either case) were secondary to their looks and “feel.”

We hear less and less important things in direct proportion to the appeal of the speaker.

As for reading? Sarah Palin’s book is setting sales records.
It appears America would rather read the boasts of an attractive, appealing but superficial pretender who quit her duly elected office in hopes of being entrusted with more responsibility and power, than read the critical thoughts and painful first-person observations of someone (I can only hope,) was much closer to the White House than Sarah Palin will ever get to be.



Oso said...

Hi SJ,
I didn't know she'd written a book.I love Helen Thomas.Coulter can go to hell with the racist comments against Helen.
O'Reilly ridiculed Helen Thomas once for something she'd said about events in Afghanistan.A teabagger coworker was laughing about it.I broke down point by point everything she said and how she was not only correct, she was almost prescient about the matter.
The teabagger was momentarily dumbstruck before he reverted back several minutes later to just dumb.

Helen Thomas is a great woman.

Manifesto Joe said...

SJ --

I've worked for news media companies big and small for over 30 years, and what I've consistently seen is a "follower" mentality. They are always playing defense, rather than trying to lead the way. They are so frightened of missing something trivial that they generally ignore the bigger picture.

One big problem is that only the elite people like Helen are well-paid. With all the experience I have, and working for major companies for many years, I am paid about like a cop or a schoolteacher. A lot of the potentially best people get discouraged after 5 or 10 years and bail out, do something else. I took a couple of long breaks -- grad school, and later a stint working on economics textbooks for a college publishing house -- and still ended up back in news media, for mediocre pay and lousy hours. Given the conditions, it's a minor miracle that we get what meager quality we do get.

SJ said...

you wouldn't know any other books were coming out with the way coverage of her book's release and book signings is eclipsing everything else.

SJ said...

@Manifesto Joe,
I read your blog religiously.

Your assessments here are correct. I think the "cheapening" of the news, from the underpaying of editorial talent and reporters to the lack of suppporting "real" investigative journalism is a profound problem that undermines the democratic elements in our republic. If every newspaper keeps shedding its experienced journalists, shutting its foreign bureaus or dropping its local coverage (or goes out of business altogether) if TV news continues the same flattening approach, also ignoring real local coverage... then the corporate influence on our government through K street (which is the force that turns something as obviously beneficial as healthcare reform into something debatable) will be nothing compared to the enormous criminal abuses in store for the nation and the world.

Sadly, I think when CNN showed how profitbale the news could be, it somehow meant in the minds of the powerful elites who buy and create media, that "profitable" is all the news should be from then on.

Woe unto us all.


Jack Jodell said...

Hats off to you for recognizing Helen Thomas (the reporter Dubya hated), and for Helen Thomas being Helen Thomas. She has always been a REAL reporter, something that is ALWAYS needed!

Your point is valid about this becoming a nation more in pursuit of image than substance. That is how we lower the public bar rather than keep raising it. That is how moron drunks like Dubya and John Boehner get elected, and how immature idiots like Palin get a following. This dummying-down of the country can only result in disastrous consequences, so we must continue to speak out, present fact rather than innuendo, and always speak truth to power.

SJ said...

many thanks. If the truth is spoken in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

Thankfully we still have books by intelligent honest people so that the truth, however faintly spoken, echoes loudly for many years to come.


Megaan said...

I added your link on my blog, check it.. Thanks for adding my link..

SJ said...

You're welcome Megaan, thanks for making contact.

Beach Bum said...

...whether it’s the smiling peroxide automatons on Fox “News,” or even someone with indisputable intellect like Campbell Brown.

The peroxide bimbos are the only reason I even stop on Fox Noise for a few seconds while channel surfing.
As for Campbell Brown, she has always been a puzzle to me. I think CNN got the wrong end of that deal bringing her to the network.

SJ said...

@Beach Bum,
I like Campbell Brown most of the time, she can be a tough interviewer at times and will go in directions I don't see the other desk jockeys go with Congressmen and Senators, she also doesn't let them get away without giving her an answer or admitting they're copping out.
Butb I guess my whole point with this post was, in broadcast journalism and definitely in politics, if a good looking person abruptly rises to the top... it's often (though not in every single case) doubtful that they are among the best in their field.
Republicans wanted a woman to grab Hillary's votes last year, they could have gone with:
Christie Todd Whitman,
Linda Lingle, and many others.
They instead went with a female politician who has meteorically failed upwards: Sarah Palin.
The public (all of us) are doing the same again, by buying her fictionalized memoir, that she doubtlessly didn't write herself. We wouldn't know about Sarah Palin, her book wouldn't exist if she looked like Madeline Albright.
When I hear Palin complain about sexism, I'm astounded by the extent to which she is full of shit and yet remains standing.