Home > Poor Oprah
Poor Oprahby Open-Publishing - Wednesday 29 April 2009
By David Glenn Cox
Oprah Winfrey has traversed America; she is the epitome of the American dream. But for everything that we gain in life, we must give up an equal amount. If we are ambitious we work long hours and forget how to relax and how to allot time for family and friends, because our goals entrap us.
Winfrey, early in her broadcasting career, fought the battles of a being an African American woman struggling for employment in an industry controlled entirely by white men. Winfrey persevered to become the most successful woman broadcaster in America. She is admired, rich and powerful but in her sojourn to reach this pinnacle she has forgotten a few things.
She has forgotten that while it is perfectly acceptable in America to give everyone in the studio audience a new car, it is not acceptable to expose America to the poor. This is America, decadence is encouraged; lavishing wealth on the unsuspecting or building monstrous buildings at the old college alma mater is perfectly acceptable behavior for the wealthy.
Ms. Winfrey recently, in an honest and sincere attempt to enlighten her audience about homelessness in America, ran a story about a tent city in Sacramento, California. Winfrey forgot that the media is about illusion, not illustration. We want a picture of the truth, not the actual truth. Had Winfrey done her story about one man or woman, it would have been perfectly acceptable. One person can be anybody and is allowed under the adage that it could happen to anybody. Winfrey’s faux pas was showing groups of poor and homeless and that is not allowed. Just like American war casualties are never allowed to be shown on TV. Reality is much too frightening for the American public.
The media spoon-feeds us reality; news stories are promoted or discounted, based not on their news-worthiness but on how they color the overall picture presented for America’s consumption. A baby food gruel of good news like, “Stocks Rise on Better Than Expected Ford Numbers.” Ford lost less money than was expected, and it was presented as good news.
Last week David Barstow of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative report on how the broadcast media had used retired military admirals and generals as expert commentators. He revealed how those commentators had been co-opted by the Pentagon to promote the military’s agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barstow’s accomplishment has been met by a media wall of silence. As the broadcast media discussed the Pulitzers on air, Barstow’s name and story were omitted.
Barstow exposed the myth machine of how the media and the military, working hand in glove, promoted a false agenda to the American public. War is good business for the media. CNN’s ratings soared during the first Gulf War and ratings mean money, money, money!
I read a recent headline, “Rats Feed Off British Recession as Trash goes Uncollected.” That was, I will borrow a term from Deek Jackson, not a headline but a head lie, a message designed to evoke an emotional response under the guise of information. The story told of the trials and tribulations in London and how the rat population is exploding due to the economic downturn. The underlying message was “Aren’t you glad that you’re not there?” But we have the same economic crisis here in America. Aren’t the rats in New York or Boston or Chicago as successful or ambitious as their European cousins?
This was Winfrey’s error; when showing the homeless to the American public they must be illustrated as defectives. Grizzled old men, minorities, the mentally ill and the drug addicted with the message being, it’s all their fault. Just as those who are losing their homes and joining those ranks, “should never have bought those homes in the first place.
There is the fundamental class distinction in America; if you are successful you’ve earned it all by yourself, and if you are unsuccessful you deserve what you get. The poor in New Orleans were lambasted for not leaving even though in many cases they didn’t have access to transportation. But the subtle message comes through again and again, this country offers no help mostly because the real problems are ignored by the media. If the problem is ignored by the media then there is no public support to rectify the problem. Hence the homeless are only shown as grizzled old winos, crack heads and head cases.
In Orange County, California families that once owned homes and rented three bedroom apartments are living seven to a hundred-square-foot hotel room. Little white children and their mothers sometimes holding infants line up for soup kitchens and on some days they are turned away. Donations are falling as fast as demand is rising. Eight hundred thousand new notices of foreclosure have gone out in the first three months of the year.
All across America the problem is exploding yet the media only deals with it in the abstract. They do not dare put a real face on it because to do so would be to expose the grand lie, “Americans are the most generous people in the whole wide world,” when nothing could be further from the truth. This issue, this crisis which has been ignored has been drowned out by sniveling and wailing and gnashing of teeth over tax increases that would put levels for the rich back where they were before the federal deficit exploded to record levels.
But even more than generosity, where is our integrity as a nation? What does a nation owe its people in the largest man-made economic calamity in a century? According to the media, nothing! And even more than nothing, their contempt and derision. Move along, be gone from here! Go and hide because if I see you hanging around here again, I’ll run you in! On a highway billboard sponsored by FEMA was the stark message, “Make an emergency plan” translated, you’re on your own sucker, don’t look at us! What a novel idea, four million Atlantans with individual emergency plans.
Poor Oprah, she tried to do a good thing; her heart was in the right place. But she erred when she forgot about how America treats those not so rich and powerful. After Oprah’s program aired city officials moved quickly to rectify the situation. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson ordered police to clear the tent city from the vacant lot, promising that the city would make every effort to find alternative shelters.
But they had shelters, Mayor; what they need are jobs! They’ve heard the promises before, but what good is a promise that takes away what you have now and leaves only an assurance that you’ll have more later? It is the American dream and these people don’t believe in dreams any more than they believe in Oprah or in Santa Claus.
Meanwhile the spoon-fed scratch their heads in wonder. Now why would someone want to murder their whole family or shoot at policemen?