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News 24/7

By Phillip J. Hubbell
web posted March 31, 2003

If you have been watching the news media of late you may have noticed that the entire world has come to an absolute standstill while we all watch 24/7 coverage of the happenings in and around Iraq. There have been no high profile murders, robberies, rapes, abductions, fires or celebrity breakups. The only two things on television are the fate of Saddam Hussein and American Idol.

Kimberly Locke on American Idol
Kimberly Locke on American Idol

Nothing else. America is left to clutch at the edges of our seats wondering the fate of Baghdad, Ruben, the Republican guard, Clay and the ever lovely and limber Kimberly. All other concerns and worries have been set aside. The 24 hour news powers, Fox, CNN, and MSNBC, hardly pause to take a breath as they tell us over and over the same set of events.

I am a news junkie. I keep at least one TV tuned to Fox News whenever I am home. I read the little crawler under the picture and often lose track of the story on the main screen. The great thing about all this new technology in the news is that Fox News eventually begins quoting itself on their crawler. If I can't follow the main story because I am so busy reading all the other stuff on the bottom of the screen, I can simply wait a few minutes until the main story becomes the old story that they are still repeating as the main story while I read it. But I digress.

What bothers me most about the 24/7 coverage is the fact that this war, like all wars, consists of long periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of terror. Unfortunately for the viewer, the news services, like nature, abhor a vacuum. So they fill the long periods of boredom with repetitive renditions of the terror without mentioning to the viewers that the helicopter crash they are reporting is the same one that went down yesterday or the day before. They even have special news alerts to inform us that something we learned about three days ago hasn't undone itself in some sort of space time fluctuation brought on by the mother of all sandstorms and the miracle of digital satellite uplinks. A person with a short term memory problem soon becomes convinced that the United States is running out of helicopters.

I suspect that most of the 24/7 news outlets are short of people with cameras. They have the two cameras in the studio, one at the White House, one at the Pentagon, one west of New York, and the rest are in Iraq or Kuwait. If anything happens any place where there isn't a camera, no news story. It didn't happen. ABC and CNN have better cameras in the desert. Fox looks like they are filming with a laptop webcam and transmitting the picture over their cell phones. I watched one story on the main screen for almost an hour before I realized that the weird spot in the middle of the picture was the top of a tent fluttering in the wind. It looked like a picture of an amoeba with the digital signal breaking up.

Listening to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is pretty evident that the United States and the United Kingdom are winning this war big time. Listening to the news stations, we are either bogging down in a quagmire like Vietnam or getting ready to have to place a new helicopter order. If you listen to the Arab nation's news outlets, we are purposely killing off the Iraqi civilian population so we can resettle the Jews there and have then all work for Texaco under the direction of the Vice President. What amazes me is that the Arab newscasters can deliver this twaddle to their audiences and not break up into hysterical laughter. I was listening to an excerpt from one of the Arab nation's news programs and there was a guy in traditional Arab dress talking on camera about the push by the United States "colonize" all of the Middle East and steal Moslem oil. It was comical. The laughter dies away when you consider that there is such a large population of people living in the 21st century so easily fooled.

Phillip J Hubbell is the author of Write Winger: Solutions for the Politically Oblique...and a free lance writer in the North Texas area.

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