CHARLOTTE, N.C. Those of us who have been around a while remember that well-known television comedian from the early 1950s, Orson Bean. Bean — who was the father-in-law of Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart.com — recently appeared on Breitbart News Daily with Alex Marlow. He offered some choice comments about television, social media and sports.
Does the internet really support freedom of expression?
In his interview with Bean, Marlow noted that social media has given people more independence than ever before. In particular, he cited consumer access to internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Both offer forums where individuals can actually communicate directly with celebrities, entertainers, athletes and politicians in ways once entirely inaccessible.
For that reason, the internet has made contemporary media incredibly interactive to an astonishing degree. Through the use of smartphones and tablets, once impersonal interactions can become deeply personal. That holds true even though the medium itself may remain distant and aloof.
On the downside, entertainers frequently take to a free microphone or concert event to expound their political feelings. But in doing so, they apparently forget that their audience either tuned in or paid to be entertained, not preached at.
Orson Bean opines on the tiresome NFL protests by very rich players
Sports figures take advantage of similar opportunities to express their political stances. They currently do so in the NFL by dropping to a knee during the National Anthem in protest against something or anything. In the process, these “knee jerks” have polarized sports to such a degree that the games we play are no longer entertainment. Increasingly, they seem like extensions of biased cable news networks.
That’s where Orson Bean chose to elaborate.
“If there should be one place where you should forget politics, forget whether you’re liberal or conservative, whether you hate Trump or love him, it should be the ballgame. Instead, they have to rear the ugly head of politics into it by kneeling instead of standing, and all of that stuff. So it’s all changed, and not for the better.”
Bean had more to say.
“TV used to bring people together in the days of Kunta Kinte [of TV mini-series Roots fame]. [But today] it’s separating people.”
The decline and fall of news and entertainment media coverage
Clearly, media news coverage in recent decades has declined disastrously. Once relatively impartial journalism and journalists seem to have lost all sense of social and historical perspective. Orson Bean is spot on. Today, it is impossible to get an unbiased new report on virtually any subject, based upon which news service you follow.
What is called “news” today has become so polarized, in fact, that viewers who watch a story break on a liberal broadcast outlet will get an entirely different perspective if they switch to a conservative channel — although there are few of these to choose from.
Back in the U.S.S.R.
When Yuri Andropov was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (November 1982 – February 1984), the Russian people were keenly aware that the Soviet media broadcast primarily broadcast pro-regime propaganda.
But Russians craved valid information. Russian citizens sometimes even risked serious punishment by making direct contact with Westerners to learn what was really happening beyond the Iron Curtain. Usually, one such encounter would be daring enough for someone. So Russians learned to rely on other second, third and fourth hand accounts from friends and relatives to piece together the truth.
Eventually, by 1989, the house of cards once known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) crumbled. But the average Russian citizen’s information-gathering process that led to the fall of the Soviet Union was an eerie prediction as to how the average American citizen today must research alleged news sources to get at the actual truth.
Why does everything in life need to be about left-wing politics?
In a free society like ours in America, it should not have to be that way.
Turning back to sports, Orson Bean noted that NFL teams and players, as well as the media that covers them, have in many ways eroded the joy of competition and fun. They have turned spectator sports into just another venue for uninvited one-sided political outbursts by biased athletes and reporters making obscene salaries that make their diatribes ring hollow.
Bean went on to say that the ongoing experiment we call the United States of America is a miracle. He continued his throughts by expressing his opinion that the election of Donald Trump was also a miracle.
However, Bean reminded us of present realities.
“Miracles aren’t necessarily good for everyone. The parting of the Red Sea, great for the Jews, not so hot for the Egyptian soldiers.”
Let’s play ball, not 24/7 politics
With regard to the NFL, it’s clear that football controversies need to be confined to the absurd number of replay reviews that interrupt the flow of the games. Broadcasts and news reports should refrain from giving prominence to pre-game antics and virtue-signaling that occurs before the opening kick-off.
Athletes need to compete, not “demonstrate.” Entertainers should entertain, not lecture. Actors should spend their time pretending to be someone else, not demagoguing for far-left politicians. All should be relegated to official press conferences or personal social media messages. There is no reason to support foisting this kind of political grandstanding upon the masses who pay athletes’ exorbitant wages in exchange for a few hours of pleasure with their friends and family.
Orson Bean is now in his 90s. But his observations about the world of today are still relevant.
We all need to ask: Why do politics and money have to be at the root of everything we hold dear? It’s gotten to a place where many now believe there will never again be any “joy in Mudville” at all.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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