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September 8th, 2011

10:35 PM

Cause and Effect?

Remember the good old days when you could talk to someone who didn’t share your political beliefs in a SANE manner? Yes, you scored some points, the other person scored points of their own, but the two of you felt respected and respectful of each other. Not today. Not as of 2008 or even before that. Now political debates are at a fever pitch. The moderate is on life support. The extremists have the floor and probably run the joint if you let ‘em - which one party has and as far as the other party, all they have are a bunch of kids screaming for ice cream and candy and when they don’t get it, they throw a tantrum and cry some more.

At one time, I thoroughly respected news in general growing up in the days of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw. I grew up watching 60 Minutes, 20/20 before it went semi-tabloid, but the standard for journalism that I have always respected was Nightline, the original with Ted Koppel and PBS’s the McNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They didn’t have to sensation to attract attention, it was the stories of everyday people trying to make a difference in this country that mattered. Once upon a time, news presented information that allowed the viewer to make up their own minds about a particular tale of interest or subject matter. While news allowed a broad scope of the world we live in, there was another wave of television that caught my attention, at times very amusing but as we see now, should have seen coming.

The rise of Wally George and Morton Downey Jr.

Yes, good ole Wally George. For those of you not aware, Mr. George had a talk show called Hot Seat which aired on KDOC, Channel 56 for nearly ten years. Mr. George’s program was ‘conservative’ in nature (though most real conservatives felt his show was an act) inviting guests who were preferably liberal in nature. He would have arguments with these guests and if they didn’t share his patriotic passion, a loyalty to the Reagan administration, or anything that contradicted his point of view, he would first shout at his guests, appeal to a bloodthirsty crowd, and then had the guy booted out with the crowd almost at a frenzy. Entertainment Tonight, other media outlets covered Mr. George and for most of the 1980’s, Hot Seat enjoyed considerable success.

Until Morton Downey Jr came along. Mr. Downey’s program apply named, The Morton Downey Jr Show enjoyed success on its own when it premiered back in 1988. Many of the right wing politicos you’re watching now appeared on his program, google it for yourself. While Mr. George sat behind his desk and had his security guard (always standing behind co-host David Kennedy) throw someone off stage, Mr. Downey would just cuss you out and threaten to beat you up. Yes, he would. Google or YouTube it. The irony is, both George and Downey were at odds with each other. I can’t tell to this day whether it was a stunt or not, but listening to Mr. George’s radio program on a local L.A. radio station, it seemed no love lost between the two. Both have left us unfortunately, but it is the opinion of the author that their contributions to our society over twenty years ago has left us with the lack of political discourse now. 

It’s easy to point the finger at FOX News and say it’s because of their programming and/or lack of actual news that has caused the problem of not showing discourse and respect with each other, but where did they get this from? Were it not for Hot Seat and the Morton Downey Jr. Show, I doubt you would see half of the hosts and half the talk shows on the network now. These shout fests made money for the hosts, producers and advertisers. The folks at News Corp may be in trouble now, but they're no fools when it comes to business. They would still run copycats of A Current Affair for all we know. Mr. George’s and Mr. Downey’s programs may have been fun and as one friend told me in college as a participant in the audience for Hot Seat ‘a way to blow off steam’, but watching these programs when they were on, I can see a young college kid like myself emulate the same no nonsense, no compromising positions both host took. I could see someone adopt their philosophies as their own.

I could care less now about what political party one belongs to because it’s healthy and educational to see things from another point of view. As a writer, I enjoy that because it gives me the opportunity to debate and relate what they have to say. In the days of old, I could speak to someone, have a passionate conversation, switch the topic to how the Dodgers were doing and all would be well. Not…today. Too much at stake for ratings for the networks. News and commentary hosts are too busy trying to make us see their perspective. Too many analysts trying to decipher the next political speech or strategy like we’re not aware of what this side or that side is trying to do. Too many preachers, not enough pews. It doesn’t matter who’s driving the bus.

I had a post in mind called The Angry Blue Planet and who knows? I might just put it up one of these days. However, there is a cause and effect to all this. The cause of years and years of ‘tough talk’ from the red party (we all know if the blue side found a shadow, they might run away from it) manifested itself just a night before this post. During the Republican Debate held at the Reagan Library, Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas was applauded for not creating 234 jobs as in many in these days and times desperately need one, but for executing 234 prisoners. Some in doubt because they may be innocent. While time and good reporting outside of corporate influence will bore that out, the fact the crowd cheered the loudest at that announcement should convince you of one thing. We the American People have become zombies in the sense nothing else matters but the taste of one’s own blood. Those executed may have deserved it but to rank that as importance to an economy that is in need of repair…..says a lot.

We have become the Romans. Our empire may be crumbling, but the Christians must be thrown into the lion’s pit no matter what. Nero may fiddle as Rome burns,  but as long as the Christians or any other opposed to Rome’s rule faces the consequences…..zombie thinking in action. We don’t think on our own anymore. We’re devoid of feeling. We simply don’t care.

Welcome to the Wild West.

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