Amoeblog

The signs are everywhere, a return … 7 days left

Posted by Whitmore, October 28, 2008 06:40pm | Post a Comment

“Anyone who isn't confused doesn't really understand the situation.” - Edward R. Murrow

A quick, and possibly incomplete thought. I’m really curious where all this politicking is going and when this all gasses out. The 2008 fear mongering model takes me back to the bedtime stories my grandfather used to terrify me with as a kid. Tales of the 1950’s with boogeymen everywhere, and wealthy, fat, comfortable and despicable men at attention behind their podiums and pulpits schooling Joe Average American about the greater wickedness set to pounce from every shadow in every godless Gotham, where clusters of un-American denizens like communists or socialists or blacks or Jews or Catholics or immigrants or musicians or artists or poets or newspaper editors are seeking flesh, preying on the weak of mind, weak of spirit. I thought Joseph McCarthy was dead. Now, decades later, my grandfather’s peculiar bedtime stories and his stranger than truth, boogeyman capers seem to be making a comeback. But hey, don’t call it a comeback! Call it a taxi, somebody’s been on a bender, just get these friggin’ idiots outta here … sleep it off man, or at least stick your finger down your throat and get that shit out of your gut! We can all use a little less contemptibility in our innards. W.C. Fields, the great philosopher, said it best, “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”

"We will not walk in fear, one of another"

Posted by Whitmore, October 19, 2008 09:16am | Post a Comment

I usually don’t write about politics. I find that the best political writing should employ (exploit?) a subtle and sophisticated hand, especially in these days of tightrope walks and frayed nerves that seem to deal better with cardboard emotions than sheets of facts and figures. I am seldom subtle and, unfortunately, never sophisticated. I’m better off subjecting readers to unintelligible flights of fancy and weirdness than operating a scalpel around the lesions of politics lessons.

But even after witnessing this long, never ending line of fear mongering from the right, I was simply bowled over by the most recent hysteria coming from Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann who suggested that major newspapers should investigate other members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.” (Of course my first thought was, “I thought the media was controlled by the leftist elite, so how could such an investigation actually work … the left will protect their anti-American progeny!” Then again, I think it's only fair that we should start the investigation with Rep. Bachmann -- you know, she who throws the first stone...just to make sure her aim is true?)

Joseph McCarthy. Not exactly our finest moment as a nation. And now, well here we are ... But then out of nowhere, my rarely seen sunny-optimistic side crawled out from beneath my bleak crusty disposition, swatting away my pesky depression in one mighty blow. I suddenly remembered a quote from Edward R. Murrow’s show See It Now and the special episode entitled “A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy” that aired on the evening of May 9, 1954.   

Continue reading...

wires and lights in a box

Posted by Whitmore, October 18, 2008 11:27am | Post a Comment


This week marks the 50th anniversary of Edward R. Murrow’s seminal address about the future of radio and television, delivered in Chicago on Oct. 15, 1958, in what is now known as the “wires and lights in a box” speech. The legendary CBS newsman warned attendees at the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention to make the most of the new electronic media, and not allow only “escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.”  

“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box”

Here is the text of the complete speech.

I suspect Edward R. Murrow would be deeply appalled at what passes as news and news commentary today. Then again, I think he probably had a premonition of it all crashing on down the turnpike. …

Below is a portion of that speech performed by David Strathairn as Murrow in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck.

See It Now, March 9th, 1954

Posted by Whitmore, March 9, 2008 09:58pm | Post a Comment

On this date, March 9, 1954, America's most respected journalist of the day Edward R. Murrow narrated an episode of See It Now, a news magazine broadcast on CBS television, called "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy."  Murrow had produced several episodes looking into hysteria of the Communist witch hunt of the 1950’s, but this program in particular was a monumental step toward the collapse of the demagogic and Constitutionally reckless Joseph McCarthy. Often referred to as television's "finest hour”, Murrow takes apart McCarthy’s campaign, showing it to be nothing more than unsubstantiated accusations and persecution towards anyone with a different point of view. By mainly playing recordings of McCarthy himself bullying witnesses and making cockeyed speeches, See It Now showed what they felt was the most dangerous risk to democracy-- not suspected Communists working in the government, but McCarthy’s actions themselves. The broadcast received tens of thousands of letters, telegrams and phone calls running 15 to 1 in favor of Murrow.

As Murrow said in his ending:

"No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

Continue reading...