Archive for December, 2006

Cow One is not Cow Two

December 22nd, 2006

I‘ve written a slew of Christmas blogs, stories and memories.  This week’s blog is about S. I. Hayakawa and his book, Language in Thought and Action.  It was written in the late 40’s, and hadn’t made it to the general college curriculum until the 1960’s.   As a freshmen college student my impression of the book was that it was about thought and mind control through the use of disinformation. 

Si_haykawa"The original version of this book, Language in Action, published in 1941, was in many respects a response to the dangers of propaganda, especially as exemplified in Hitler’s success in persuading millions to share his maniacal and destructive views. It was the writer’s conviction . . . that everyone needs to have a habitually critical attitude towards language — his own as well as that of others — both for the sake of his personal well-being and for his adequate functioning as a citizen.  Hitler is gone, but if the majority of our fellow citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue."

What took me back to former Senator Hayakawa’s book was the happenstances of this week’s reported events.  At a Holiday Party, I had the distinct misfortune of sharing a passionate conversation with someone who agrees with only about 1% of my personal views of the world. He was very upset that anyone would have accused Marines of having massacred citizens of Iraq. Just a few days later, it was publicized that the Marines were held for trial for that massacre by the Marine Corps.

According to an indictment approved Dec. 13 by a grand jury in Orlando, the brother-in-law of a former PA Congressional candidate was arrested on child pornography charges .

Finally, I received a telephone call from a reporter from a prominent Washington newspaper who wanted to write a story about his view of perceived inappropriateness of a relationship between our Congressman and two lobbying firms in Washington D.C.  This story emanated from our own area.  Someone from the Johnstown area called the reporter to initiate this slanted, investigative reporting. He freely admitted that to me.

Reporter_1 What struck me about all of these stories was not their content.  After all, sadly, soldiers have been accused of inappropriate massacres since the beginning of mankind and of war.  Although child pornography is upsetting to all of us, it was not the disturbing nature of that story that was bothersome, it was the lack of coverage of the story.  Finally, my perception of the very solid role lobbying groups have played in helping our area begin to emerge from near economic ruin to some infinitely small amount of economic viability was not the issue here. Rather, it was the blatant attempt on the part of the reporter to block out the truth, to turn the truth into his perception of truth, and it was about his lack of desire to hear the truth.

What brought back Dr. Hayakawa’s book was the way the different wings of the press handled or attempted to manipulate these stories.  Some papers decided either that they weren’t stories or that they were very little stories.  Some thought they were important BIG stories, and some tried to make stories out of nothing.

As someone who has had to respond to the press for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that, when you run into a sensationalist, it is rarely a pleasant experience.  You can always be sure that your words will be twisted and turned to his liking.  You can usually tell in the first thirty seconds where the reporter is going with the story, and when they constantly reject the truth in your statements and push and push toward their point of view, you quickly realize that it is NOT going to be a good or honest story, not a true story, not an accurate story. 

The part that made me most uncomfortable and has continued to make me uncomfortable is that our media, and many times our legal system doesn’t seem to care about the truth, the correct or honest answers, or the moral high ground.  They care about THEIR story, their slant, their spin, their political view.  They care about readers, and sales and settlements.

So, as S.I. Hayakawa said, "Cow one is NOT cow two."  Look carefully at the cows.  Decide what you’re seeing, and try to objectively differentiate the realities between them.  I had five witnesses in my office during the story with the Washington reporter, and that’s what thirty years has taught me.


Closing in on us FAST…

December 16th, 2006

As the Holiday Season swings into full gear, it always becomes a time of anticipation and reflection. It just seems like yesterday that I was asking for that Allied Van Line toy truck as my last Santa present, which, by the way, he screwed up and gave me a Wyandott Moving Van instead. It took fifty years, but now I can say that it was the thought that counted.

Allied_vanlines_toyThe Holidays were always a time for hot chocolate, cookies, turkey and ham barbecues?  What do I know?  It was just our tradition?  The family would go to midnight church services and come back, open one present each, eat, and go to bed to await the coming celebration. It was lots and lots of work for the moms, and lots of curses for the dads as the presents were constructed, reconstructed, or deconstructed.

Dad and mom didn’t drink, but on this very special occasion, a tiny glass of Mogen David elderberry wine was consumed and for the next twenty minutes all they complained about was how hot their cheeks were.

Well, this year we have plenty of things to be thankful for…starting with our health.  We have plenty of things to look forward to as well, but, of course, the usual Holiday tensions abound.

Tonight, three more holiday gatherings, and a continuing argument by some of our contracted employees over holiday work coverage.  We have political maneuvering going on in every direction over numerous topics, and it’s my job to sit back, take a deep breath or seven, sort through what’s real and what’s not, dig to the bottom of the story, and make a decision based on the facts.  Yeah, that’s the holiday spirit.

No_room_1Wonder if the guy who said, “There’s no room at the Inn” ever had any second thoughts?  Nah, it was planned that way.  As a former Quaker, Presbyterian, Catholic, and secular humanist, my mom always thought that everything was predestined.  So, maybe this is a cute little play that is just moving along one page at a time.

Well, let’s enjoy our families, our friends, our loved ones and our neighbors.  Let’s forgive and forget.  Let’s look forward to a better New Year, and be good, for goodness sake.

A song from the seventies always replays in my mind by the brother and sister group, The Carpenters:

Carpenters_special_edition Sometimes not often enough
We reflect upon the good things
And those thoughts always center around those we love
And I think about those people who mean so much to me
And for so many years have made me so very happy
And I count the times I have forgotten to say “thank you”
And just how much I love them