As everyone knows, journalists tend to take themselves seriously, especially American journalists, who take themselves very, very seriously. Dan Rather was such a man, and I use the past tense because although he’s still very much alive, he’s no longer a big shot. Dan used to read the news on American television, and was referred to as an ‘anchor’. Anchors in America make much more money than the President, and match CEOs of big corporations in terms of what they rake in. Walter Cronkite, Dan’s predecessor at CBS, was always referred to as the most trusted man in America, a role the avuncular Walter revelled in. Dan took over in 1980 and got into trouble right away. He was kidnapped by a taxi driver right in Chicago and driven crazily around the town. He was released unharmed without a word. Some time later, two men accosted him on Park Avenue, sort of kidnapped him, and asked him, ‘Kenneth, what’s the frequency?’ Then they let him go unharmed and uninformed about the ‘frequency’.
These kidnappings made headlines but got me thinking that maybe Dan the Man was a bit of a showman. Then, in 2004, after close to 25 years in the driver’s seat, Dan accused George W. Bush on 60 Minutes of avoiding the draft in the Vietnam era by serving in the Texas Air National Guard. He also said that Dubya was lax in flying and often went missing. Dan and his producer were accused by the Bush administration of making the whole thing up, and the neocons pushing for the Iraq war that was already one year in the making went ballistic. Dan resigned and the producer was fired by CBS.
It was the end of a showbusiness career — one masquerading as journalism, that is. Ten years later Dan is back, in a movie this time. He is played by Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett is the fired producer. The film is called Truth, and it tells the producer’s story rather than Dan’s. This is as it should be. After all, the producer produces the goods, and the blowdried dummy on the screen reads them out. I hear the film is terrific. Dan the Man is portrayed by Redford with dignified folksiness and his producer is played as a highly strung journalist operating in a cut-throat climate.
I haven’t seen the flick, only read the reviews, but what bothers me is its message. The cut-throat atmosphere that hacks operate in, as portrayed in the movies, is of their own making. American TV hacks invented the ‘gotcha’ news item, the snippet that is repeated ad nauseam. If that’s journalism, I am George W. Bush’s coke dealer. Which brings me to what is really wrong with the Dan Rather story. As far as I can tell, the only time he got a story right he got fired for it. Dubya drank a lot and took lotsa schnoof up the nose, and obviously used family connections to avoid serving in Nam and maybe ending up like John McCain. The man he picked to be his veep, Dick Cheney, took five deferments in order not to have to shoot real bullets against the little men in pyjamas. Yet these two clowns filled their administration to the brim with neocon sofa samurais, which then led to the disaster and chaos that the Middle East finds itself in today.
As I write, the media are going ballistic over The Donald. The elite of this country are aghast, shocked and appalled that a man of Trump’s character could be leading in the polls. They’ve even tried to discredit his hair, and to disqualify him from running by claiming it (the hair) is foreign-born. I’ve known him for many years and like him enormously. He is what he is and takes shit from no one. He doesn’t coddle people, especially those who call themselves the press. The press are like sharks. They smell blood and they pounce, and the more one tries to mollify them, the more they pounce.
Here’s an example: I was having dinner about 15 years ago with Gianni Agnelli, the legendary Fiat owner, the mother of my children, an Italian friend and Ivana Trump, long divorced from Donald. Ivana was being a pain in the ass, advising Gianni how long the boat he was planning to build should be. Agnelli, who had a way of lowering his head and deeply frowning when he had to listen to bullshit, was saying nothing and allowing her to bang on. I was slightly tipsy but very, very bored. ‘Come on, Ivana,’ I told her. ‘Gianni owned boats before you gave your first blow job, he needs no lessons on that.’
Everyone at the table was shocked — except for Ivana, that is. Agnelli had chosen to suffer in silence for the sake of decorum. Decorum is the excuse these phonies who represent us use for telling lies about the migration crisis. Decorum is the excuse American politicians use for lying about race and the fact that African Americans have been left behind because of the collapse of the black family. How can teenage black girls have five children by the time they’re 20 and expect to live a happy life?
The Donald tells it like it is, shows his middle finger to the fourth estate, spends his own money and owes nobody nothin’. And his second wife told the media it was the best sex she had ever had. That must count for something.
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