Facts Is Facts Or Is They?

One of the most intriguing observations I’ve made over the course of my misspent career (to me) is the manner in which “facts” alter with the passage of time and the new contexts that history tosses in.

Example: When I wrote these words in the local newspaper in August 2003, they meant one thing, without irony, but today, they mean quite another:

War was just a necktie party
August 8, 2003

… Lynchings are illegal, no matter how bad a guy the lynchee is. This diabolical spin that being against the war equals being in favor of Saddam Hussein would be laughable, were it not so forcibly advanced by the same hypocrites who wailed, squawked and pounded their chests for the “rule of law” when their case was, at best, a technicality, and their motives were demonstrably the opposite of the Simon-pure righteousness they so endlessly and loudly espoused – and still espouse.

We began by attempting to murder Saddam in cold blood in an undeclared war, and we conclude by playing “wanted: dead-or-alive” sweeps. But, really, it was a necktie party and remains a vigilante’s approach to law …

So, too, last night, as I watched the History Channel’s “end of the world” double feature, with the first show/hour devoted to “The Antichrist.”

I was gratified that they explained how the whole “rapture” schtick was the 19th century invention of an English clergyman, even though it’s become wildly popular in the U.S.A. Naturally, they needed a contemporary American evangelical to explain it.

And, without a hint of irony (I guess they don’t watch these things at the History Channel) they presented it exactly as filmed a couple of years ago. The evangelical was from a “megachurch” in Colorado Springs.

And history has altered that context. One cannot but think of the strange continuing scandal with the attempted theocratization of the Air Force Academy. But that was merely a minor issue. The big bomb was (if you were paying attention) that the “spokesman” for the rapture/apocalypse crowd was the Rev. Ted Haggard— complete with footage of him addressing the faithful, and an explanation of how he was president of a national coalition of evangelical churches.

But we might recall from last fall that Ted Haggard sort of fell from grace with his methamphetamines-and sex-with-a-gay-hooker-in-Denver scandal.

And the entire nature of the “historical” program was altered into a near-state of absurdity. The History Channel was now running a documentary on surrealism that had been more or less “straightforward” a year earlier (no pun intended).

But that wasn’t the pièce de résistance.

Good old 60 Minutes—which USED to be pretty good, before the Kreeps in the Front Office got ‘hold of it—had kreepy Katie Couric in the opening credits, and her sole duty was to introduce Andy Rooney. I have zero doubts that she was shoehorned in at 60 Minutes to give her quick “journalistic” credibility. I even recall some extremely revolting segments she’s done in the past couple months.

But Katie’s no journalist, as she proves every weeknight.

Don’t doubt for a moment that sticking her into 60 Minutes was a decision made by the Entertainment Brass, and was NOT an idea from the venerable old CBS News warhorse. Sure, it’s corrupt, but it is a minor corruption in a long series of missteps of a news division fallen on hard times—whose salad days are, increasingly, long gone.

The proof was the extremely OFFENSIVE little last piece (the George Tenet interview took up the first two segments of the show, with highly suspect sound edits that clearly cut him off in mid-sentence time and time again).

Steve Kroft did the whole “why are we letting crazy people buy guns?” obligatory “think” piece as a response to the shootings at Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago. Well and good. Lord knows every other idiot news organization has run a variation of the standard he said/she said “gun control” story, and there was nothing particularly ennobled or new about this.

He could have just about phoned it in: the congresswoman from Long Island whose bill COULD have PREVENTED THE TRAGEDY. The spokespersons for the one side. Even the NRA kind of backing (at least not opposing) the idea.

And then, in an extraordinarily creepy and journalistically corrupt moment, they RERAN an interview they’d done a couple years ago with a mental health organization spokesman for the “she said,” portion of the “debate.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, having made the remarks in ONE context, it was utterly corrupt, bordering on libelous, to present them in real time, almost AS IF the spokesman were making them IN THE CONTEXT of the Virginia Tech shootings. Because of the NEW context, he comes off as a thoughtless, insensitive, potentially monstrous boob. Or worse.

Kroft makes a couple of disclaimers (for instance, the organization has changed its name in the intervening span of months or years), but it is merely putting lipstick on a pig. It’s no more “journalism” than mashing up Bush or Cheney’s speeches to make them say stupid and/or crazy stuff for a comedy bit is—which I’ve been known to do, but AS comedy, NOT journalism.

The “Tiffany” network’s legendary news division looks more and more and more like a cheap, rhinestone-encrusted tiara in the coiffure of a third-place beauty contestant with head lice.

And, finally, as if to add the necessary counterpoint, I will remind you of last week’s essay “All Wind, No Wood, Part II” in which we discussed the mythological meaning of “Coyote” in the context of Native American tribes, and his preeminant place as the oft-times bumbling, sometimes evil trickster god, corresponding vaguely to Loki or Hermes in European mythology.

Got that? Now, in that context, consider this official news release of a couple weeks ago from the US Geological Service, overlooked by the fine “journalists” at CBS, perhaps, but noted herein:

Media Advisory : Coyotes in the Washington, D.C. Area: Free Public Workshop
Released: 4/16/2007 10:43:58 AM

Typically thought of as a symbol of the West, coyotes have expanded their range to include the Washington, D.C. area, the last major urban area in the continental U.S. to become their territory. Based on Dr. Gehrt and Dr. Riley’s work in Chicago and Los Angeles, where coyotes have lived among people for years, the workshop will discuss how people can get along with coyotes, how to keep them from becoming a nuisance, and how we can keep them wild.

Not a symbol of MY West (see “Smokey and the Bandits” for more), perhaps, but it might be the symbol of Washington D.C.s IDEA of the West. Now, in that context:

Happy Walpurgisnacht (see Faustus by Goethe, or “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker—actually the deleted first chapter of Dracula). Or, in the more common parlance, Happy May Day Eve.

It sure feels witchy, anyway.

Courage.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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3 Responses to Facts Is Facts Or Is They?

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    It seems like the calendar says we’re moving forward, but you can tell from looking around that we’ve only been moving on.

    For example, remember how a smart bet in the seventies would have been that we would have put the whole pot issue behind us long before now. Instead, we’ve digressed to a debate over “Medical Marijuana”, and we can’t even make any real progress on that.

    You don’t get a smart country until you stop doing dumb things.

    You want to know why we’re all messed up over what to do about global warming, Iraq, environmental degradation, etc., etc., etc.? It’s because we’re dumb, flat out dumb. I mean, if getting off of this whole destructive drug prohibition kick is not a no brainer, what is?

    You don’t build a house by putting up the walls and roof, and then dig the foundation. Likewise, you don’t set a country that professes allegiance to human freedom on the road to a fantastic future by implementing suppression. This country can be a lot of things, but it’s not possible for us to be what we say we’re not, and then be any more than that.

    Start with the small stuff, build on that, continue making one correct decision after another, and then we’ll make some real progress as a nation.

    And vice versa.

  2. harto says:

    U.S. women in prison 1980-2005

    Nothing to add, save this: the explosion of prisoners in this country is directly tied to a “war on drugs” launched by the GOP as a tactic to draw all attention in the 1986 off year elections. Prior to that, drug use had been declining across the board.

    (Crossing my fingers and hoping that the graphic and link translates)

  3. harto says:

    OK: the link works, the graphic didn’t make the cut. Click on the link to see the graphic.