Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fools Who (didn't) Get Taken Are The Least of The Problem [Anthony McCarthy]

Harold Camping's apocalypse didn't happen and so I need a topic to write about. All of those worldly ills still need to be addressed, all of those issues to be dealt with are still pending.

It's an error of category to think that Camping's second announcement of the end of time is a religious happening. It was a scam and a PR campaign of exactly the same type as those mounted by Glenn Beck, right down to the Armageddon theme. So, now we can look at it and ask some questions as to what, if anything, should be done about it other than the flood of futile derision that is as useless a distraction as those signs and billboards announcing the end came yesterday.

Mass communication of the kind that radio and TV bring, verbal and pictorial communication that doesn't require much effort or thinking is what makes the size of these scams possible. That's been known since the first decade of radio. Its propaganda potential was one of the most obvious things about it, which is why as seemingly unlikely a President as Herbert Hoover saw the need to regulate its use. It was never regulated tightly enough to prevent its abuse in the United States, demagogs, con men and every other kind of crook has used it all along, many of those pitching their con with religion but many others with "cutting edge science". Long time readers of my posts will remember "Dr." Brinkley who quite literally cut.

Some of the reports I heard said that Camping made more than 70 million dollars from his Family Radio network despite his victim base being quite small in the world of broadcasting. I haven't seen figures to compare his audience to that of Beck or the myriad of mostly secular right wing gold and survivalist peddlers that infect the public airwaves. I don't see any reason that such an operation couldn't be regulated to prevent the worst of abuse but, as con men always find a way, their lawyers would find work arounds to get money from a targeted audience of dupes. So that's probably not the level at which it can be restricted.

I don't know if it would be possible to at least restrict the licensing of stations and networks to put a buffer between license holders and the oily crooks that use them. Forcing station owners to reject the worst of it or to lose their licenses would seem possible, having a broadcast license isn't a right, after all. I would also favor doing away with the artificial distinction between broadcast and cable. Cable has grown to the extent that all of the malignant potential of broadcast has gone over wires.

The People and their right to effective, realistic self-government is superior to any commercial "rights" held by corporations and other crooks. I think that eventually the choice comes down to forcing the media to serve the public or the death of democracy. One thing that can't be split into ever tighter bandwidths is the attention that voters have to absorb accurate information. Any kind of lie or distraction that takes up their time should be considered as deducted from the limited daily requirement to allow democracy to function. That's the choice that we'll eventually have to face unless we want to face an entrenched despotism in which we're all set up to be victimized in just the same way that those pathetic Rapture-rubes have been. Not facing up to that as the real lesson of Camping's con job puts us all into that category.