Friday, June 27, 2008

What Do I Expect?


When I was growing up, I never did like it when, in response to something that went wrong (something with which I was concerned), an older person would say, "Well, what did you expect?" This sentiment was memorably rephrased in Robert Towne's script for Chinatown: "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

I don't think Jake ever learned the lesson, the lesson being a blend of cynicism, nihilism, and fatalism, nor have I. I keep expecting cable-news and metropolitan newspapers to report in much greater detail on the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan (along with what looks like the impending exhaustion of American forces there); on the demi-monopolies of media-ownership (I think there are basically only 6 or 8 large owners now, such as G.E., Viacom, and Murdoch--mainly I'd like to see a mainstream report on this just to see how quickly the reporter would be fired); on the alleged fact that most of the oil from Alaska and Canada gets sold to . . . China; on what life is like for wage-earners in the U.S.; on the vastly disproportionate number of African American men and women in prison; and so on.

McClatchy, which owns a ton of newspapers and which bought Knight-Ridder (who did some of the best--only?--American reporting on Bush's "build-up" to the Iraq invasion), just fired a bunch of people from its papers, including the Tacoma News Tribune. One person I know who was fired may be one of the most community-service oriented citizens I've every met here. Another was heavily recruited from the Midwest just six months ago. The editor, of course, wrote a lachrymose column on the firings, said the paper still had 100 reporters in the South Sound, and said everyone was committed to hitting the "reset" button. Whatever the hell that means. I wish he'd write a column in which he tries to defend the benefits of media conglomerates and hostile take-overs, and how the story of media conglomeration is one "his" paper will not and cannot cover objectively. I also think that because of the proximity of the military bases (Air Force and Army), the paper has never been able to cover all aspects of the war, including protests, AWOL stories, the abandonment of veterans upon their return to the States, and torture. The paper has never analyzed its own complicity in taking the bait Bush threw it. (The News Tribune prints the newspaper at Fort Lewis. I think that represents a conflict of roles.) I found the reporting on the port-protests to be especially thin, biased, and incomplete. The paper flat-out missed some great stories within the story.

I know. What do I expect?

I expect Hollywood to make a good movie one of these days. I'd even settle for a movie based on a script that Robert Towne has lying around. Forget it, Jake. It's Hollywood. Maybe Adam Sandler will play the lead role in The David Hasselhoff Story. Maybe Pixar will do a documentary on veterans' affairs, war-protests, poverty, or torture. It can be narrated by a Pixar-lated, virtually stuffed animal.
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