Hi, fans! Are you sad, angry, or outraged? Are you scared for the future?
Well, I have the remedy. Turn off the news. Turn it off now. Turn it off completely. Turn it off forever.
Top Stories Tonight: no one you know will ever die of typhus, cholera, or tuberculosis! Electricity is incredible and available to everyone! There is a new Mom & Pop restaurant opening up and it’s a great place to have a romantic date! Your local garage sells used tires for a reasonable price! By the way, owning a car is a fantastic freedom that we should not take for granted!
If news people cared about us and had a sense of perspective, that’s what the news would sound like every night.
But the media does not care about us or want us to be truly well-informed. National news topics are all the same: horrible, depressing, frightening, and unlikely to have any effect on your life.
Some people will shake their head and lament that news has become darker and more sensationalist than it used to be. I disagree. National news is a fundamentally negative force. It always has been.
Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” is an uncompromisingly grim film about the media and the evil of newsmen.
Young Kirk Douglas is devilishly good as newspaperman Chuck Tatum. He is a great writer with a nose for the big story. He has been fired from the big city papers due to his personal flaws (drunkenness, adultery).
When we meet him, he is broke, unemployed, but still supremely confident. He saunters into the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin office and demands a job.
A year into his miserable small-town gig, Chuck Tatum finally finds the story that is going to bring him back to the top. He happens upon a local looter (Leo Minosa) who got stuck in a cave while searching for Native American artifacts.
Tatum knows a human-interest story when he sees it. Within 48 hours, people are flocking to the remote mountain to be part of the action.
The key lesson of the film is that the media doesn’t just cover events; it exploits and manipulates them.
Tatum learns that Leo can be saved in less than a day by shoring up the tunnel. That just will not do. Tatum pressures the locals into drilling down from the top of mountain to get to Leo, because that method will take about a week.
Tatum learns that Leo’s bombshell wife Lorraine is about to leave him and skip town while she has the chance. That just will not do. Tatum pressures her to stay and promises that she will be able to make money off all the gawking tourists.
Soon Lorraine is flush with cash, happy, and starting to have a crush on alpha male Tatum. That just will not do. The story only works with Leo’s wife teary and sad. So Tatum makes sure to wipe the smile off her face.
That’s the media for you: its job is to wipe the smile off your face. Its job is to take this wonderful world and make it look hateful and scary.
Fortunately, there are a few newspapers left that tell you real news – local news – good news. And you are wise enough to be reading one of them.
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