'Lost' In America

On Sunday, Dec. 14, “Good Morning America” devoted about 10 minutes to a segment about the theft of baby Jesus statues from nativity scenes on church lawns. As they pointed out, these thefts are not a new crime. In fact, once the subject of an entire episode of the original Dragnet television program in 1953. But today, churches are using GPS tracking devices secreted inside their statuary to find the thieves and retrieve their Jesuses.

Perhaps we should have installed such tracking devices in the hundreds of billions of dollars we handed out to banks, insurance companies, and assorted Wall Street institutions. Because, as we (meaning, our government) now admit, we don’t know where it went, or how it has been used. And the army of journalists – supposedly our surrogate watchdogs – have apparently forgotten “Deep Throat’s” famed “Follow the money” admonition.

On that same Sunday, on that same “Good Morning America” gave about a minute to the arson attack on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s church. This was more serious than the theft of Christmas statues and hopefully will be ultimately prosecuted as a hate crime, with everybody involved getting stiffer sentences than, say, O.J.’s. But I’d wager it won’t be. Imagine, though, the difference in federal law enforcement zeal and media coverage had, say, President-elect Obama’s church been sent on fire. Or even just had its nativity scene purloined. We would need a GPS device to locate any other news.

Very similar incidents are often reported very differently, depending on who was involved, and how they fit into the media’s own agenda and view of the world. It’s a more subtle expression of bias than many others, but it is as pervasive.

For years, Sen. McCain was painted by the media as a courageous maverick for often defying his Republican Party, crossing the aisle when compelled by his principles and convictions. A hero. The same laudatory language was strangely absent when discussing Senator Lieberman’s defiance of his Democratic Party to support and campaign for Senator McCain. Try and find any evenhandedness, with or without GPS technology.

Last week, Senate Republicans found enough backbone to refuse to throw billions down the Detroit automakers’ black hole. They’d come to grips with the absolute, irrefutable fact that the money could not be repaid; that GM for one is by all reasonable standards already bankrupt and beyond financial redemption in its present form. GM needs a new diet, preceded by an economic enema. It’s as obvious as an empty spot in a nativity scene where a baby should be.

But the Republican President threw these senators under the Hummer, abruptly changed his position on diverting TARP bail-out money intended for endangered financial institutions to the car makers, making any negotiated concessions from UAW leadership unnecessary. Sorry to say, we needed a GPS tracker attached to the President’s integrity.

This often discouraging year now seems more an episode of “Lost” than anything. We have lost much, including truth and honest debate, and factual and complete reporting anywhere in the media, on just about any subject of significance. Like Diogenes in search of the honest man, I watched about four hours of Sunday morning news programs on all four networks on the 14th. The best reporting was about the use of the GPS technology to find stolen statuary. The worst was, well, everything else. 

Maybe all of this is as old as that Dragnet episode. Or older. From Mark Twain: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”  But the prejudice does seem to grow more dominating, doesn’t it?

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at www.NoBSBooks.com, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at www.DanKennedy.com.