October 24, 2015
As everyone knows, journalists tend to take themselves seriously, and American journalists in particular, very, very, very seriously. Dan Rather was such a man, and I use the past tense because although he’s still very much alive, he’s no longer a big shot. Dan used to read the news on American television, and was referred to as an “anchor.” Anchors in America make much more money than the president, and match CEOs of big corporations in raking it in. Walter Cronkite, Dan’s predecessor at CBS, was always referred to as the most trusted man in America, a role the avuncular Walter reveled in. Dan took over in 1980 and got into trouble right away. He was kidnapped by a taxi driver right in the middle of Manhattan and driven crazily around town. Then he was let go unharmed without a word. Some time later two men accosted him on Fifth Avenue, sort of kidnapped him, and kept asking him, “What’s the frequency? Give us the frequency.” Then they let him go unharmed and uninformed about the “frequency.”
These kidnappings made headlines but got me thinking that maybe Dan the Man was a bit of a showman. Then, after close to 25 years in the driver’s seat, in 2004, Dan accused George W. Bush on 60 Minutes of avoiding the draft in the Vietnam era by serving in the Texas Air National Guard. He also said that W. was lax in flying and often went missing. Dan and his producer were accused by the Bush administration of making the whole thing up, and the neocons pushing for the Iraq War that was already one year in the making went ballistic. Dan and the producer were fired by CBS.
It was the end of a show-business career, one masquerading as journalism, that is, but not quite. Ten years later Dan is back, as a movie this time, played by Robert Redford, and the fired producer by Cate Blanchett. The film is called Truth, and it tells the producer’s story rather than Dan’s. This is as it should be; after all, the producer produces the goods, and the blow-dried dummy on the screen reads them out. I hear the film is terrific—Dan the Man portrayed by Redford with dignified folksiness, and his producer as a high-strung journalist operating in a cutthroat climate.
I haven’t seen the flick, only read the reviews, but what bothers me is its message. The cutthroat atmosphere always portrayed in the movies that hacks operate under is of their own making. American TV hacks invented the gotcha news item, the snippet that is repeated ad nauseam. If that’s journalism, then I’m George W. Bush’s coke dealer. Which brings me to what is really wrong with the Dan Rather story. According to my knowledge, the only time he got a story right was when he got fired for it. Dubya drank a lot and took lotsa schnoof up the nose, and obviously used family connections not to serve in Nam and maybe do a John McCain. The man he picked to be his veep, Dick Cheney, took five deferments in order not to have to shoot real bullets against the little yellow men in black pajamas. Yet these two clowns filled their administration with neocon sofa samurais to the brim, which then led to the disaster and chaos that the Middle East finds itself in today.
As I write, the media are going ballistic over the Donald. The elite of this country are aghast, shocked, and appalled that a man of Trump’s character could be leading in the polls. They’ve even tried to discredit his hair, and to disqualify him from running, by claiming it (the hair) is foreign-born. I’ve known him for many years and like him enormously. He is what he is and takes shit from no one. He doesn’t coddle people, especially those who call themselves press. The latter are like sharks. They can smell blood and pounce, and the more one tries to mollify them, the more they pounce.