Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Why has Mary Robinson Never Appeared on 'Biography'?
by Joyce Walker
Have you ever wondered why Biography never features humanitarians like Mary Robinson of Amnesty International, respected statesmen like Robert Byrd, or courageous activists like Kathy Kelly?
There has always been a scarcity of information geared toward the feeding of inquiring minds on Commercial T.V., but the takeover by mega-media moguls seems to have caused a blight in the programming offered to us the viewers.
Some of us remember when Discovery and The Learning Channel actually lived up to their names. And I remember how encouraged I was at the integrity demonstrated by CNN during the Gulf War by their airing Wolf Blitzer's controversial telecasts exposing the military's bombing of civilian sites. In the past, The History Channel aired memorable programs which would not make it past the current political censors.
I really like a good action movie, especially one with a super hero, but I wonder, can the people at National Cable and Telecommunications and Time Warner really believe a constant diet of cops and robbers, weaponry worship, and pro-militancy viewing is healthy for adults or children in this country?
The mind games the media is playing with the public are criminal - or ought to be. While they play up the violations of targeted countries, they cover up the crimes of our own officials and their comrades in arms. I wonder how many people relying on commercial television know about Israel's forty year cover up of their atomic weapons program? Probably not many. But Link T.V.'s recent documentary about whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu, who has been subjected to criminal abuse for sixteen years as a political prisoner in Israel, went all the way back to President John F Kennedy, who was apparently the last president to try to thwart the program. More information is available, but not on CNN.
There is also an obvious attempt by commercial media to cover up the environmental crisis we face as the result of humankind's abuse of the environment. I was surprised when I learned from independent media sources such as Free Speech T.V. that other less wealthy countries are far ahead of us in their efforts to create communities practicing sustainable living. (I don't remember even hearing the term "sustainable living" on commercial television, not even on Discovery or TLC.)
While independent media sources have assumed the responsibility for educating the public about the need for temperance and global cooperation for the sake of our own and our children's future, the "educational" commercial channels feed their viewing public a diet of back to back junkyard wars and home decorating, while their climate "experts" claim that global warming isn't really happening, and if it was, it might actually be good for us.
The movement to create alternative news networks is attracting many talented and committed people. There is also a strong, organized effort to move the Federal Communication Commission in the direction of its original charge, that of protecting the public's interest. We ought to add our efforts to this fight.
I am sure there are people of conscience among the ranks of the powerful media complexes, and that someday they will wake up and regret their lost opportunities to play a creative instead of destructive role during this crucial point in our history. But commercial T.V. has lost my trust. If it were not for the few programs I rely on for honest information, I would abandon the television medium altogether.
(Not that they would notice, because they've shown how little they value me by their indifference to my viewing wants and needs.)
But I've decided to do what I can to protest their deception. I'm going to start the new year by not turning my television on all day - and I'm going to send an e-mail to the offices of Time Warner and National Cable and Telecommunications to let them know what I'm doing - firstname.lastname@example.org could probably care less, but it will do me a world of good to black them out during one of their most profitable events. I wonder, if you and I promote this type of protest, whether it might catch on. If it did, then maybe Bob would notice.
Joyce Walker (email@example.com) is retired from social work and related criminal justice work and has experience in newspaper feature writing. She is a short story writer and an advocate for corrections reform.