Peter Cavanaugh

News?

It was another full house at Denny’s last Saturday morning for the June monthly meeting of our Oakhurst Democratic Club and an exceptional presentation by Troy Pope, Editor-In-Chief of the Fresno State Collegian - a student run publication.

It was Troy who gained significant national attention back in February when he ran a front page editorial in the Collegian comparing Donald Trump’s unanticipated ascension in American politics to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany. This brought forth from readers an impressive volley of cheers and a passionate cascade of jeers. A special extra edition of The Collegian quickly followed containing commentary from both sides. There wasn’t much in between.

In discussing “A Millennial’s Perspective on Election 2016,” Pope suggested it was the continuous attention provided Trump by American media across the board that is largely accountable for Trump’s primary victories and his current status. I couldn’t agree more. It’s cuckoo crazy, but completely comprehensible.

When I started my radio career in the late 50s, broadcast news was sacrosanct. In return for being federally licensed to offer programming to a certain geographic area, from a limited number of available public frequencies, owners were required to submit detailed specifics on how the general public would be served by their stewardship. These included binding pledges to dedicate a certain percentage of each broadcast day to public service, public affairs, educational announcements and, most importantly, local, regional and national news.

The FCC would review such commitments at license renewal time by examining station logs that were rigidly maintained at each facility, listing all such programming deemed in the public interest and sworn to under penalty of law. Failure to deliver on promises made could result in heavy fines and other disciplinary measures up to and including license forfeiture or even jail time.

All of this is now ancient history, dismissed, dismantled and discarded by free market forces treasuring profits above all else; an era that many believe began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. “Government” went from collaborator to culprit in a single generation as growing deregulation was embraced and greed deterrence erased.

This is when “we” turned into “me!” “General welfare” as constitutionally defined by our founding fathers gave way to unlimited, often ungovernable self interest. My Tea Party friends would point out that the “general welfare” clause is mentioned twice in the U.S. Constitution : first, in the preamble and second, in Article 1, Section 8.

With accountants in charge, “News” ceased to be justified by concerned consensus as above the common fray and became simply another profit center. This meant that enhanced listenership or viewership created by increased audience ratings - instantly convertible into automatic revenue - became the only goal. All else became meaningless and replaceable.

Traditional “News” morphed into attractive “Entertainment” and is often now a distinction without true difference. ABC/NBC/CBS are competing to fulfill Paddy Chayefsky’s dystopian vision of the future forecast in “Network.” Walter Cronkite has become FOX news.

Through the years in less culturally sensitive times, carnivals and circuses across the land energetically tempted otherwise proper patrons with titillating “Freak Shows” and not without cause. For a few pennies more, one might see peculiar manifestations of - who knew what? Often displaying gross human deformities as items of heightened interest and elevated entertainment, “Freak Shows” packed in the crowds. Such primal attraction in modern times would guarantee outrageous ratings and constant, continuous exposure to mass audience. We’re seeing that now.

Donald J. Trump is the ultimate “Freak Show.” Trump is the Bearded Lady, the Alligator Man, the Half-Ape/Cross-Dressing Jungle Boy - and the Quadruple-Eyed Alien Baby in a Jelly Jar - all rolled into one. There’s never been anyone like him. Thus depicted, Donald Trump is also the ultimate hoax.

In the finest tradition of P.T. Barnum’s “Fiji Mermaid” with the head of a money and tail of a fish, Trump is nothing more than an outlandish joke running askew.

Accepting Donald Trump as a serious candidate for President is disingenuously dangerous, and except for those unbalanced or uneducated, surely must be self-deceptive.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows this Emperor has no clothes.

He’s just a rude, crude dude in the nude - a pile of piggy pink.

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