The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

AND NOW–THE NEWS

Once upon a time people waited impatiently at a newsstand when a big story was breaking.  Occasionally a really big story would result in a newspaper’s printing an “EXTRA” edition.  And we had radio to keep us informed, then television and now, of course, the internet.  The speed with which we are able to access news has gone from hours to minutes to microseconds.

But what are we getting?

There is an ad that I’ve seen several times that  features a man and woman speaking.  (It’s obviously not a very effective ad because I couldn’t tell you what product or service it promotes).  But the dialogue has the woman saying, “I heard that on the internet – and they couldn’t put it on the internet if it wasn’t true.”

The man asks, “Where did you hear that?”

She replies, “On the internet.”

For at least the last five years I have had my pool serviced by the same company and the same individual.  I have been so pleased with the quality of the job and the reliability of my “pool guy” that I have recommended him and his company to two other neighbors who are as pleased as I am.

For reasons of anonymity, I’m going to call him Carl.

Well, Carl usually comes to maintain the pool on Tuesdays, although occasionally he will arrive a day earlier.  Only rarely does he come later in the week – and it is usually because of an unusual situation.  Two weeks ago, Carl came on Wednesday.  As it happened, I was having my morning coffee and giving Gracie her doggie treats when I heard the gate open.

Without looking up, I heard Carl coming to the back and I said, “Well, I thought you were MIA.”  Then I saw the reason.  He had two bruises over both his eyes and had stitches in both his eyebrows.

Carl, who was moving very slowly because he had some fractured ribs told me the story – how he was the victim of a house break in the previous weekend and how he and the home invader had gotten into a fight.  He obviously was in pain – which anyone who has ever had a fractured rib knows only too well – so I told him to skip doing the pool and take it easy – but he insisted he wanted to do his job.

Naturally, I inquired about what had happened.  So he told me that the man had broken a window and climbed through it to gain entrance.  Then he had completely destroyed all the pictures and anything else that was breakable.  Carl slept through all of this.  But he got up to use the bathroom and that was when he saw the man.

The home invader was not aware that anyone was in the house, but when he saw Carl he made a rush at him.  In self-defense, Carl picked up the lid from the toilet bowl tank and used it to fend the guy off.  After a very physical scuffle, Carl made it out to the front door with his assailant trying to keep him inside the house.  A neighbor came to his assistance and he escaped the house and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Apparently, the assailant, one Ronald Hetzel had begun his spree inside his sister’s house which is directly behind the wall to Carl’s.  A neighbor reported hearing a lot of noise two hours earlier and called 911 to report it.  The police were dispatched and came out to investigate.  Another neighbor reported that they saw someone go over the back wall and into the yard at Carl’s house.

With five or six patrol cars in the neighborhood you would have thought that they would follow up on that and at least have checked Carl’s house to see if the man had gained entry.  That apparently didn’t happen.  But I am not trying to point fingers at the police and say they could have done a better job.  That might be the subject of another post.

The week after telling me about this assault, Carl showed up on his regular Tuesday and we talked about what had happened at length.  That was when I learned the assailant’s name and looked him up on Google.  I found three different stories covering this home invasion and assault.  One was from UPI; one from the Huffington Post’; and the third from The New York Daily News.  Here are the links to these three news sources:

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/367300/20120726/toilet-bowl-killer-lid-guitar-ronald-hetzel.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/ronald-hetzel-guitar_n_1702045.html

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-07-25/news/32853132_1_homeowner-police-officer-medical-care

If you read these three stories, the first one from ibtimes (courtesy of UPI.com) makes no sense at all.

The most descriptive of them is the second one from the Huffington Post – and the third from the NY Daily News looks like it simply extracted information from that article, copied and pasted it to create their own story.

But there is a common link between all three – that is who was wielding the porcelain toilet bowl cover in this skirmish – and they all got it wrong.  (But it’s wrong according to my friend Carl in the police report – which is probably the source for their misinformation).

Does this matter?  Well, with our focus on maintaining the rights of those who are accused of crimes, it does matter – because little slipups like this can cause a good defense attorney (pardon the oxymoron) to find a reason to get a case thrown out on the basis of a technicality.  Consider the following two headlines:

“American troops kill ten Taliban leaders in secret ops;”

“Taliban kill ten American political leaders in secret ops.”

The first story gets our “Ho-Hum” attention but the second means that we’re probably going to red alert.

A free and informed and investigative press is essential for a democracy to exist.  Reporters like Woodward and Bernstein spent months assembling and verifying their information which ultimately brought down the Nixon administration.  But today, perhaps because we the news reader are constantly looking for new information to keep us entertained, I believe it is fair to say that we have relaxed those standards to the point where what we see and what we get may only bear a minor resemblance to what actually happened.

It is not only up to capable journalists to probe, to question, to ask why and to get to the truth of the matter in the issues they cover.  It is up to each of us who rely on their reporting to make sure that we do so as well and that we do not simply accept what they present us as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If we buy into the statement that, “If it’s on the internet it must be true,” who knows what else they will be able to sell us?

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Comments on: "AND NOW–THE NEWS" (13)

  1. Yes, the free and independent press is necessary but, with very few exceptions we don’t have one, so people like you and I are wasting our time, for which we presumably have other uses, playing intelligence officer, piecing together enough scraps of (corroborated) information to make an informed decision.

    It’s a heck of a way to run a railroad, right off a cliff.

  2. I think the REAL shame here is that we cannot believe ANYthing or anyONE at face value anymore. Not from “our side”, not from “their side”, not from the newspapers, not from the MSM, not from Fox News or MSNBC, not from our elected officials or their sidekicks, not from political ads — and CERtainly not from the Internet. We are becoming a nation of exaggeraters and outright liars — and with no “ultimate source” to go to for truth (in the secular sense), we either become paralyzed by our inability to FIND the truth, or we let ourselves be led by those with dubious motives.

    • I’m going to sneak in here with a plug not for any of us however, but for all of us. I just looked briefly and followed you because you’re a voice of sanity in a world gone mad, so is our hostess and so do I try to be. We don’t always agree but we tend to be in the same chapter.

      I think we (all of us) need to quit looking for the guy on the white horse and mount up and lead. Why? Because there is no one else trustworthy to do it. We’re in a world of trouble on all fronts, and we are not going to be rescued, it’s time to “Build it ouselves, again”

      Thanks for the use of your Pulpit. “Lead, Follow, or get out of the way” is the only way its going to happen, with us common folk doing the leading.

    • You’re right. It is hard to believe what we read or what we hear – not only from the media but from most of the people with whom we interact. (There are, fortunately, exceptions to that statement). Truth is something which most people perceive as a totally mutable thing. I realize that there were unthoughtful and dishonest people when I was a child, but then we viewed them as being “strange.” They were the exception – and today, I have to say, I think they have become the norm and we’re the strange ones. The good news is that I’m okay with being strange. I’m sure you are as well.

  3. I gave up looking for white knights when I learned that Snow White’s song, “Someday my prince will come,” was part of a fairy tale.

    I agree that we have to take the lead because no one else out there seems either willing or capable of it. That is the whole purpose of this blog. To arouse the few who read these words to challenge and expand their perceptions and to take action.

    But I am a realist. This is a process and a slow one at that. We are, despite the enormous economic challenges as well as all the other issues that we face, still far too complacent. But if we continue down our present course that will change – and not for the better.

    Sadly, I think that only after a severe and national disaster will the sleeping citizenry wake up and realize that we have brought ourselves to that place. At that point your voice and mine and those of all the other pragmatic and rational people may have the opportunity to ring out and be heard.

    • I’m very nuch afraid that you are correct. But there is nothing to do but try, and yes, I was preaching to the choir but sometimes, one day this week was one of them, I’m so tempted to just give up. So in a sense I was giving myself a pep talk too.

  4. If I were seeking popularity, I would have written this blog about celebrity gossip. I suspect I would have ten times the number of people following. But what would have been the thought-quality of my readers? And by now I would be totally brain dead from having to write about the material.

    I understand the need for pep talks. I frequently experience that same issue. But I hope that our comments back and forth help the two of us. I know they help me.

  5. They do me too, immensly. I hear you on content too. If I want readers all I have to do is publish all the conspiricy theories that I see, or as you say, celebrities. But, what’s the point of that, for us. I look forward to your posts a lot and always enjoy your reasoning, and your commenters, even on the rare occasions that I disagree. 🙂

  6. I love disagreement because it means the person actually read a post or a comment and has an opinion. I’m not prescient and am willing to learn – and I have gotten the ideas for a number of posts from those who offered a different opinion. There is no position so valuable as one that has to be defended against a reasoned attack. If it survives then it has merit. If not, then it should be modified in light of new evidence.

  7. Yet another helpful insight from you.

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