A rant: Wake up, grow up, and shut up!

muslimskilled2Writers write, and so I write.

I am deeply saddened, shamed, and angry over events in Chapel Hill, NC yesterday. I need to vent or rant, so please bear with me and forgive me for that which you might find as offensive in this post. I’m sorry, but this needs to be said, and said by me, for I am absolutely sick over the defensive, sloppy thinking that exists right here in the USA.

Those of you who know me well likely follow me on Facebook, where I’ve engaged in a long and heated debate with my friends over the phrases “Islamic Terrorism” and “Islamic State.” This was largely brought about by the Paris slaughter of the staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo by men pretending to represent the Islamic faith. My 45 years as a professional observer (a.k.a. journalist), my 3 years as an ethics professor, my understanding of human nature from 17 years as a recovering addict, my education as the former Executive Producer of The 700 Club, my knowledge of Life as a senior citizen, and most importantly, the crossover experience I’ve had with my own family in Amman, Jordan all provide a somewhat different view of the Middle East than most Americans. You’re free to pay attention or not.

I am a student of postmodernism and the originator, writer and publisher of the concepts of postmodern journalism. This, too, influences me, because my studies reveal a different world developing after the invention of the internet. This cultural shift is enormous and similar to what happened in Western Civilization in the wake of the invention of the printing press. We can only imagine the possibilities, if we allow ourselves to view culture as permanently altered.

I need to pause here and explain myself, because it will help you understand the perspective I’m about to offer.

Premodernism (before the printing press): “I believe, therefore I understand.”
Modernism (between the printing press and the 60s counterculture): “I think and reason, therefore I understand.”
Postmodernism (today): “I experience or participate, therefore I understand.”

The big change with the internet is that global communications is now 3-way in terms of culture: Up to down, down to up, and, most importantly, down to down. That is what will change everything, and it’s already doing so. If the people of a any culture can talk to each other AND TO THOSE OF OTHER CULTURES, it removes the absolute authority of those who are in charge. The statement: “In war, the victor gets to write the history” is challenged, because truth among humans isn’t so much relative as it is multi-faceted. If you don’t think so, you’ve never taken a Japanese tour of Pearl Harbor.

So back to Charlie Hebdo. People, please. Acts of terrorism, regardless of where they originate, cannot be Islamic. It is impossible, and I don’t care whose religion or philosophy tells you otherwise. As part of my education, I sat with my Palestinian son-in-law for an evening with two Islamic Studies PhD professors from Amman, Jordan. Here is a quote from one of them concerning my issues with terrorism. “If you ever see a bearded man wearing the kuffiya (head scarf), holding a machine gun, and proclaiming ‘The Islamic State,’ you will know he is a fraud.” They went on, “That is as far from the Islamic State as can possibly be.” We don’t understand this, because we’ve been taught to fear any group that is different from us, especially when our religious leaders fill our heads with nonsense about Islam itself. Why do they do this?

It’s complicated, of course, but in the end, it’s all about poverty, power, money, and other selfish considerations. It’s convenient to dehumanize an entire race rather than learn the truth, but, again, the internet has no choice but to challenge that, because we can all talk with each other now. Everything is connected and the mere push of a button away. How could we not learn? And therein lies the problem, for there are many forces across the globe that would rather we not. This includes, especially, the Zionist extreme in Israel. If you are willing to approach the Middle East with an open mind, then I encourage you to make Mondoweiss (“The War of Ideas in the Middle East”) a part of your daily information diet. Founded and written (mostly?) by those of the Jewish faith, it is a truly intelligent examination of the entire region. If you are a thinker who likes to think, you will have your eyes opened here.

And this brings me to yesterday’s tragic, incredibly sad, and totally avoidable events in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where 3 young people (I call them “kids.” They were 23, 21 and 19.) were executed in their condominium by a 46-year old lunatic caucasian named Craig Steven Hicks. The crime of these people? They were Muslims. Their loving hearts were shut down by bullets to the back of the head. And what for? Their religious beliefs. How incredibly un-American, and yet, we should expect nothing less, given the constant drone of pejorative “Islamic this” and “Islamic that.” To paraphrase Richard Dreyfuss’s character in the movie Jaws, “This was no parking lot dispute; this was an execution, a hate crime!”

May God have mercy on us all. If you’re truly disgusted with the news in today’s world, go look in the mirror, and DO something.

It is clear to me that special interests, regardless of their trappings, are incapable of uniting us as citizens of the planet Earth. We are honestly like the “Island People” of the Pacific cultures. When trapped together on a small piece of land surrounded by water, there is an understanding among the local born and raised that “we all need each other.” That may seem utterly idealistic, given the place we’ve found ourselves at the end of the modern era, but the 21st Century has just begun.

Now, to my dear friends in the Christian Right: you especially have the burden of necessary self awareness in this. You have used the Islamic faith as a puppet in justifying yourselves as contemporary Pharisees. You have forgotten your first love and have diminished the teachings found in the red words. You’ve also been misled into believing that Jesus came to Earth to destroy the very things you now practice. “He pleaded the cause of the poor and the afflicted,” Jeremiah wrote of King Josiah. “Then it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know Me, saith the Lord?” Judgement, the book says, begins with the house of God — those who know Him. Can you not see that you have perverted all of this in order to protect and bless yourselves?

You will not argue against me on this, for I was there during the rise of your glory. Pat Robertson himself taught me how to raise money. “Here’s why people give their money,” he said, “and in this order: How does it help me? How does it help my family? How does it help my neighborhood, my community? How does it help my state? How does it help my country? And, the very last, how does it help others?” This is an abomination to Life, and it/He will surely spit you out at some point. Damn you for your lies and how you manipulate others for your own gain. As I said on Facebook, please wake up, grow up, and shut up, for you are not blameless in world events, up to and including genocide.

Stay tuned as history writes itself with everybody’s help. We will either save or destroy each other. The choice is up to us, each of us. Let us make the right decision.

#ChapelHillShootings #MuslimLivesMatter #Islamophobia

Local” is Losing to Outsiders

cofc2Long ago, my friend Bob Papper, he of the RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey on the state of local radio and television news, said something in a meeting I attended long ago that really struck home. “Television,” he said, “didn’t hurt radio by taking away their listeners; TV hurt radio by taking away their money.” He was talking, of course, about advertising and how radio “money” was shifted to TV, which had a dramatic impact on the industry. This wise observation is something we all should be considering today, as digital innovative disruptions are similarly now impacting even television.

Local television stations are currently meeting bottom line needs largely through cable fees that may not last forever. Cable is under attack from many areas, most notably the ability of customers now to go directly to the studios, the networks, and others, for example, via services like Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu. They can get their programming through digital technology in what is called OTT (over the top), and it threatens to hurt cable by taking away its money, too. This is the sort Darwinian evolution of human advancement, where nothing seems to last forever.

But it goes way beyond that. I’m reminded of the wonderful question asked many years ago by John Hagel of the Deloitte Center for the Edge in a most interesting essay. “What if there is no equilibrium?” He was speaking of a business environment in constant flux due to disruptions that come left and right. I like Hagel’s thinking on this, and the uncertainty within the West’s entire advertising hegemony is evidence that we really don’t know what to do.

So once again, one model is being shredded by another, and the real issue is money. And we’re talking LOTS of it. Chambers of Commerce need to be very concerned about this, for the revolution in advertising impacts local communities in ways that are insidious and potentially very damaging. Advertising dollars being spent by people in your communities are leaving those communities today in record numbers, and all the signs suggest it will continue rising. According to Borrell Associates, a company that studies LOCAL dollars spent online, the lion’s share of money spent by local advertisers online today goes to outside companies, many based in Silicon Valley. Most of that is money used that to be spent with local media companies.

Digital advertising at the local level will grow, by our estimate, 42% this year. At that rate it would account for $2 out of every $5 spent by local advertisers. It’s grown to the level of dominance that newspapers enjoyed for years, until the late 1990s.”

But those dollars are not being taken in by local companies, as they were in the late 90s. Online “pure-plays,” and Borrell notes that there are “thousands of them,” are scooping up bigger and bigger shares of local dollars.

In 2015, these independent companies will account for nearly three-fourths of all digital advertising, elbowing out local-media competitors who have tried for two decades to use their existing sales forces to also sell digital advertising.”

These outsiders pay no taxes. They employ no local residents. They do not contribute to the local community chest. They don’t go to churches, shop at local businesses, or send their kids to local schools. They don’t buy Girl Scout cookies or contribute to any club, service organization, fundraising or charitable effort. They don’t support the local ball clubs or go to the State Fair. They are outsiders threatening the parochial nature of most communities, big or small, across America.

The reason I use the term “insidious” in describing this is because the local businesses spending their money with Google, Amazon, Facebook or whomever are actually contributing to their own downfall. It’s the ultimate shell game. Look here, move there. These businesses can’t help it, because Google works, and it’s cheap. They make everything SO easy. But what good is that ad on Facebook, if it eventually leads to a broken economy where you live? One day, we will wake up and discover that everybody has gone, because the money drain on our communities will force them elsewhere. Think I’m exaggerating?

To paraphrase Ross Perot, “That sucking sound you hear is the lifeblood of your community being drawn by vampires a thousand miles away.”

Local media companies are really at fault here. As Borrell correctly notes, they are all playing in the wrong stadium when it comes to online advertising. It is highly sophisticated, elegant, and oh so complicated. They don’t understand it, think it’s the “same game” that they’ve always played, and insist that their brands will protect them. These are all insidious lies that now threaten the status quo in Anywhere, USA.

As the people at Block say, “Wake up America! It’s time to get your billions back!”

The strange mystery of the Southern GOP

I’ve been thinking a lot about the political “right” these days, and that’s caused me to remember some things from way back. My dad was a Stevenson Democrat and had little use for Dwight Eisenhower. He didn’t do a lot of talking about politics, but he would get riled up sometimes during the televised conventions. He was a labor guy and regarded the GOP as representing rich people, the “silk stockings.” He absolutely hated Richard Nixon, but then, who didn’t in 1960?

Kennedy in Grand Rapids

John Kennedy in Grand Rapids, October 14, 1960.

On October 14th of 1960, John Kennedy was running for President and came to Grand Rapids to campaign and support a Democrat running for governor. The car route went through the far reaches of our neighborhood, so we all walked a mile or so down Silver Street to Burton Street to watch the motorcade as it made its way downtown. Kennedy was mesmerizing, and all of America was in love with him. We weren’t any different, and I’ll never forget that experience. He was perched atop the back seat of a 4-door convertible, and we all had a good view.

It’s occurred to me how far things have swung since those days, when there was a clear political line dividing the haves from the have-nots. The awful deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 led to riots everywhere, and Nixon came in as the law-and-order guy. Gerald Ford was definitely of the silk stocking group, and he didn’t last, but events were stirring in the South that would change everything.

First, Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, was elected President. What a disaster.

Then, the rise of the televangelists in the late 70s and early 80s led to a remarkable shift. There was suddenly no such thing as a “Conservative Democrat” anymore, and moral issues such as abortion and prayer in schools were cleverly exploited by the GOP to build a new allegiance in the South. I played a part in this as Senior Producer of The 700 Club. Turns out the televangelists were also courting the wealthy side of the GOP, further cementing the relationship. You pat my back and I’ll pat yours. That’s not to suggest anything disingenuous on the part of the religious right; it was just very convenient.

Today, I’m afraid that many of my neighbors here in Alabama and in other places I’ve worked since I first set foot south of the Mason-Dixon line in 1979 are still conservative, as they were all those years ago. However, they’ve switched parties now, and I keep wondering when they’ll figure out that “their” party still represents corporate America, the wealthy, and the silk stockings of old. Evangelical Christianity is second nature down here, and one of the most common expressions is “God bless you.” Any politician worth his salt would never challenge the faithful, and that means those awful “liberal democrats” are the enemy. It seems impossible to crack that ignorance, and my dad would be amazed. “Poor people in the GOP? What are they thinking?” It seems to me they are being used by smart people who know what buttons to push publicly while quietly voting to keep the rural poor just as poor as they’ve always been and then blaming the Democrats’ spending.

Let me tell you, friends. There’s such a profound set of lies floating around down here that I just don’t see how it can last.

Fox News: A Most Dangerous Cancer

For years, I have quietly criticized Fox News for their deliberate pressing of the agenda of the Right. Today, I’m prepared to publicly and loudly call Fox News THE most dangerous cancer on Western Civilization and perhaps the whole world. I believe deeply that all of my conservative friends need to examine the matter and their own hearts. You don’t realize what’s happening, perhaps because you believe their propaganda, but more likely because you simply trust they are speaking for you. You support the Right. They are the mouthpiece of the Right. Fair enough.

I believe in point-of-view journalism. I produced The 700 Club in the early 80s, so I’m familiar with slanted news. It’s okay, but your bias must be stated up front. Fox doesn’t do this, and the problem I have is the degree the disinformation has reached, whether it’s deliberate or not.

Last night, Shep Smith described the video of the Jordanian pilot being murdered. The banner beneath him said “Islamic State Execution.” This is a deliberate, inaccurate and highly inflammatory phrase, and it comes from an ignorance so profound that it’s really difficult to comprehend. I don’t care what name this organized crime group goes by, to repeat the phrase “Islamic State” requires a person or organization with so little knowledge of history, the Islamic faith, and contemporary manipulation that it truly boggles the mind.

Moreover, here’s a quote from Bret Briar during his dinner-hour “special” report: “Tonight, we are going to show you some of the images ISIS has put out. The images are brutal. They are graphic. They are upsetting. You may want to turn away. You may want to have the children leave the room. Right now. But the reason we are showing you this is to bring you the reality of Islamic terrorism. And to label it as such. We feel you need to see it.”

Again, these criminals, as the King of Jordan said earlier this week, are NOT Islamic, so their deeds CAN NOT be described as “Islamic terrorism.” They cannot be, people! And again, this is ignorance gone to seed. I refuse to believe that it’s deliberate, for if it is, it’s a conspiracy so deep and widespread as to defy anybody’s logic OR common sense. I have family in Jordan that believes otherwise, so I have to keep an open mind.

But here’s why I think Fox News is a dangerous cancer: If this continues, we will find ourselves plunged into World War III in the place where war originated, and how do you think that’s going to go?

Fox News is war mongering, and I despise it.

An Open Letter to the DEA & DHHS

February 1, 2015

An Open Letter to the DEA and DHHS,

May I ask for a show of hands? How many of you have actually set foot inside a pain clinic? Uh-huh. Thought so. Your dictatorial directive last year that went into effect on October 6, 2014 reclassifying all hydrocodone combination products (HCP) as Schedule II narcotics has sent more than just shock waves through the chronic pain community. So let me take you inside the typical pain clinic, so I can give you an idea of the unintended consequences your action has had.

First of all, as you look around the room, you’ll see that everybody is suffering. It’s not uncommon to hear crying and moaning in the waiting area. Pain is pain, and the audacity with which you have poked these people in the eyes with your thumbs is inhuman. That’s right. It’s inhuman. Secondly, you’ll notice that about two-thirds are elderly, many crippled, in wheelchairs, walkers or canes. These people, for the most part, have made the difficult choice — with the approval of their doctor — to live a life of addiction to pain medication rather than deal with the ravages of chronic pain. These are often the poor and the afflicted, which don’t have the choice of expensive surgeries to perhaps correct the many ways in which they’ve been betrayed by their bodies. They live in an ugly prison, and you, in your suits and ties, have no idea of what I’m talking about. On an emotional level, you’ve made every one of these people feel like criminals just so they can get the medicines that allow them at least a degree of comfort and dignity. How dare you do that to these poor people?

You, of course, will be quick to defend the decision, because, after all, they can still get their medicine, right? You are fools. You have no idea of what you’ve set in place, so let me tell you. Everybody — every single person or profession in the treatment and care of chronic pain — has been negatively affected by this change. You dictate, for example, the inventory a major pharmacy can have on hand. I know an elderly man who was thrown into horrible withdrawal symptoms, because his pharmacy didn’t have enough on hand to completely fill his prescription. Why not give him a few pills to last until they got them in? Because your rules prohibit that. No partial refills. Moreover, you now only allow one 30-day prescription at a time. That means unnecessary travel to the doctor EVERY MONTH, which, if you have chronic pain, is not such a fun thing. You’ve scared the crap out of everybody; especially the big chain corporately operated drug stores, whose attorneys have come down hard on the local pharmacies to insure compliance with your ridiculous rules. That’s right, ridiculous. Independent pharmacies may quietly offer a wee more flexibility, because corporations don’t govern them. The problem is that’s not where most people get their medicine. The entire chronic pain community now functions under the watchful eyes of a seemingly autonomous Federal agency that has unlimited power in the name of “fighting” drugs. Again, what is wrong with you?

Folks, I’m not here to suggest that your motives were evil in taking this step. You certainly have a difficult job. I think you all need to seriously examine your own hearts, though, and I hope somebody from Congress, the Courts or the Administration is listening. Chronic pain sufferers vote, too. We all understand the war on drugs (how’s that going, by the way?), but let me make one simple statement for you to think about:

You’ve severely punished those who have no choice in taking opiates in the name of cracking down on those who do. Why in God’s name would you do such a thing?

I hope the high-5s and the attaboys were worth it. You’re doing SUCH great work!

Regards,

Terry Heaton
7435 S. Catawba Circle NW
Madison, AL 35757

We need to stop underestimating our audience

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

I laughed out loud the other day while watching one of those wonderful Gary Vaynerchuk videos. You should already know what I mean by that, but if you don’t, here’s where to find Gary Vee, as he’s known: garyvaynerchuk.com.

The customers’ bullshit radar is better than ever before,” was the line that put a smile on my face.

You know why we have an audience problem in the news business? It’s because we behave as though they’re stupid. We act as though we’re so much better than those with whom we’re sharing information, and it shows. This is at the heart of a massive cultural change in our world, because the people just aren’t as stupid as the elites of the Industrial Age, 20th Century think we are. And we’re getting smarter every day, and the smarter we get, the more disruptive we get. I wrote about this in The Evolving User Paradigm many years ago.

Vaynerchuk is absolutely right, because people have access to information that used to be protected by and for elites. This is not going to end well for the status quo, and journalists especially — who think of our trade as a profession — are incredibly vulnerable in separating ourselves so arrogantly from the people we serve.

I’ve written before of Edward Bernays’ (The “father” of public relations) 1947 essay The Engineering of Consent, in which he wrote:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.”

The point is that the ruling class of the 20th Century is being disrupted by the Internet and its ability to put information in the hands of everyday people. It makes Bernays’ cleverness much more difficult, which prompts observers like Gary Vee to note that “The customers’ bullshit radar is better than ever before.”

In a recent interview with SFGATE, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley tried to explain a recent uptick in ratings for network newscasts.

Because never in human history has so much information been available to so many people, but unfortunately that also means that never in human history has so much bad information been available to so many people.”

We may not get it right all the time, but at least (viewers) know serious journalists and serious editors are trying to get the news right.”

No they don’t, Mr. Pelley, as the Gallup survey of media trust going back to 1973 reveals a serious decline in trust of the press by the American public. Only 1 in 5 believe these kinds of statements. For the others (80% of us) what Mr. Pelley is selling is, well, bullshit.

But it goes far beyond that culturally.

In this simple statement, Mr. Pelley reveals his bias and represents the central argument of colonialism — that people are stupid and need the brilliance and experience of experts in order to survive and thrive. Along the way, these experts make a very fine living as parts of the hierarchical ecosystem that feeds the masses. Every institution of Western Civilization functions on this tenet, which needs to be the functional reality in order for the elites to manage everybody, whether they know it or not. It’s eerily similar to the way things where in 15th Century Europe when Gutenberg challenged the ruling authority of the Roman Church by printing the Bible and subsequently, a common English language version.

TVNewsCheck ran an article recently about WBIR-TV news director Christy Moreno in Knoxville who regularly asks for feedback from viewers on daily decision-making. Notice the response of the Poynter Institute, that bastion of journalistic tradition.

Purists, such as Kelly McBride, Poynter’s expert on journalistic ethics, however, don’t like the idea, saying the average TV watcher doesn’t have the skills it takes to resolve journalistic issues.

Making ethical decisions about journalism is a process,” McBride says. “When you crowd source a decision, you come out with the lowest common denominator. That’s just the math of it.

So easily do these words flow from Ms. McBride’s mouth (and, let’s be honest here, the mouths of “most” professional journalists) that there’s not even the slightest thought that the idea may be insulting to a person with even average intelligence. This delusional gap between journalist and average citizen is at the heart of the people’s mistrust of the press.

I keep running into TV news directors who view their websites as a distribution point for what we call “Finished Product News,” in other words a completed, fully-vetted story filled with every detail and pictures or video that we have (see my 2007 essay “News is a Process, Not a Finished Product”). It’s not; it’s a distribution point for bits and pieces. Our TV newscasts are our “finished products.” This, too, is a failure to recognize a) that people understand the moving, changing, evolving nature of news in the process of development and b) that they don’t need us to assemble everything for them.

Citizen media pioneer Dan Gillmor and author of the seminal “We, The Media,” once wrote “My readers know more than I do.” He was speaking of his readers as a group, and he spoke to them always with respect and humility. We could use a whole lot more of that ourselves as we deal with both the changing nature of news on the Web and the changing cultural roles brought about by the cultural shift to postmodernism.