About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.



Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Names That Matter. MEMORIAL DAY 2011



ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY



by Walter Brasch

Unless you were in a coma the past few years, you probably know who Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton are.
            You heard about them on radio, saw them on television.
            You read about them in newspapers and magazines, on Facebook, Twitter, and every social medium known to mankind.
            Because of extensive media coverage, you also know who dozens of singers and professional athletes are.
            Here are two names you probably never heard of. Sergeant First Class Clifford E. Beattie and Private First Class Ramon Mora Jr.
They didn't get into drug and alcohol scandals. They didn't become pop singers or make their careers from hitting baseballs or throwing footballs. They were soldiers.
            Both died together this past week from roadside bombs near Baghdad.
            Sgt. 1st Class Beattie, from the small rural suburb of Medical Lake, Wash., spent 17 years in the Army, and was in his third tour of duty in Iraq. On the day he was killed, according to the Spokane Spokesman–Review, he had participated in a run to honor fallen soldiers. Sgt. Beattie was 37 years old. He leaves two children, one of whom was three weeks from graduating from high school; four sisters, a brother, and his parents.
            PFC Mora, from Ontario, Calif., a city of about 170,000 near Los Angeles, was in his first tour in combat. He was 19 years old. "He was a very serious student, and education was important to him," Carole Hodnick, Mora's English teacher and advisor, told the Ontario Daily Bulletin. Hodnick also remembers him as having "a charisma about him, and the students just fell in line with him."
Clifford E. Beatttie and Ramon Mora Jr. were just two of the 6,049 Americans killed and 43,418 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in war the past decade, the longest wars in American history.
            You can't know or remember all of their names. But you can remember two.
            Clifford E. Beattie. Ramon Mora Jr. 
Two Americans. One near the end of his Army career. One not long out of Basic Training. A White Caucasian and a Hispanic. Two different lives. Two different cultures. Two Americans.
Clifford E. Beattie. Ramon Mora Jr. Killed together more than 7,000 miles from their homes.
            As you prepare for Memorial Day barbeques, surrounded by celebrity-laden news, remember the names of Clifford E. Beattie and Ramon Mora Jr., and all they stood for. Theirs are the names that matter.
 

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Few Cutting Remarks




      
           by Walter Brasch

            Throughout the country, the taxpayers have been revolting. Shocked by the enormity of the taxpayer revolt, and the untimely retirement of several hundred politicians, today's current legislators, civil servants, and business executives have suddenly became the "people's champions." In a parallel universe, we can report the following, just since the latest election:
            ● Congress got the taxpayers' message, and cut tax-supported junkets to only 15 per member. "The people have spoken," said Rep. Horace Sludgepump from the Bahamas where he was on a fact-finding tour for the Maritime subcommittee. However, Rep. Sludgepump cautions that forcing Congressmen to stay at home and work for a living could bring chaos to the nation. Nevertheless, he promises to cut expenses even further three months before the next election.
            ● The Department of Defense was able to significantly reduce its budget by cutting back on the hours its golf courses and officers clubs were open. Complaining about the cuts were tax-reforming members of Congress whose districts were in the golf club re-appropriation. However, they were voted down by congressmen from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota who were pleased to tell their constituents there would be new naval bases in their states.
            ● The Governor's office announced that although the administration was forced to make severe cuts in education and human services, by strict cost-counting measures it was able to maintain staff salaries, and keep off the unemployment lines 125 administrative assistants, 265 executive assistants, 835 assistants to the administrative assistant, and 1,255 deputy special assistants.
            ● The budget cuts directly affect the nation's 200,000 homeless veterans. But, there's an upside to this. Sixty-three-year-old Cpl. Willie Joe Lumpkin, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, re-enlisted. "After being downsized three times in the past decade and having the bank foreclose on my mortgage," says Lumpkin, "at least I now have a bed and meals." Lumpkin is expected to have shelter in Afghanistan for at least the next year.
            ● The president of Mammoth State University said that it too will cut expenses. Beginning next semester, the university will eliminate the departments of history, journalism, and philosophy, recruit high school students with at least a "C–" average who are willing to pay the increased tuition rates, add low-paid graduate assistants to teach megasection classes formerly taught by full-time professors, and cut the library budget by 35 percent. When asked if those changes weren't severe, the President replied, "We tried to be as humane as possible. We allowed our 1,249 administrators to keep their jobs, have maintained our $6 million football program without restriction, and added three more PR people to better explain the mission of the university."
            ● Slagheap World Airlines announced that in the spirit of national cost cutting, it would cut back its cockpit crew to one pilot and eliminate flight attendants, meals, and life rafts. "This way," said the president, "we won't have to penalize our loyal stockholders by lowering our return on investment."
            ● The Association of American Landlords, which had lobbied extensively against annual safety inspections and property tax increases because they would be unfair to their tenants who would be required to pay higher rents, has also made concessions. Beginning September, in the spirit of tax reform, the landlords will sub-divide all apartments, and raise rents only 10 percent. "Sharing a bathroom and kitchen will bring people closer together," said the Association president from his McMansion Media Room.
            ● Newspapers have been swept up in the spirit of reform. At the Daily Bugle, publisher Ben "Cash" Fleaux, from his villa in Bermuda, announced that his newspaper was forced to eliminate stories about local government, consumer and environmental reporting, and news of the courts when it cut its editorial staff by half in order to maximize profits during the Recession. To compensate, the Bugle is running more PR releases and added more stories about celebrities in rehab.
            ● The medical insurance industry, in keeping with the spirit of cost cutting, today announced it was cancelling coverage for 25 percent of its subscribers. "We hated to do it," said an insurance spokesperson, "but some people insist on getting catastrophic illnesses, and that's unfair to the rest who are healthy and don't apply for benefits."
            ● Finally, Dr. Guy Nacologist, the state's richest obstetrician, announced that in keeping with the spirit of tax reform, he was now requiring all his patients to deliver their babies in eight months, thus saving a full month. When asked if he had also considered lowering his fees, he looked at the reporter, and then pointedly proclaimed that with the increase in country club fees, his patients were lucky he didn't raise their costs by a similar amount.

            [Walter Brasch says that since columnists are the soul of a newspaper, they should be downsized only after the last editor shuts off the lights in the newsroom. He reminds his readers that without their support, he's likely to become unemployed and a burden on their hard-earned tax dollars. His next book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com and other stores after June 20.]
                                                                                       

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Audacity of Hate: Birthers, Deathers, Deniers, and Barack Obama



by Walter Brasch


The latest garbage spewing hate as it circles the Internet in a viral state of panic continues a three year smear against Barack Obama.
The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama's full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn't an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration's best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.
            When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their "cutesy" attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn't born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, "birther" propaganda keeps returning, even when independent state officials and analysts proved the claims false.
            The issue simmered on Fox TV and talk radio until Donald Trump, the man with the planet-sized ego and the bacteria-sized brain, inserted his persona into the issue, while pontificating about becoming the next president. The media, exhausted from having to cover the antics of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, turned their news columns over to the man who would be God—if only it paid better.
The Wing Nut Cotillion, with Trump getting the headlines, then demanded Obama produce a long-form birth certificate—which he did while leading a combined White House-CIA-Pentagon effort to find and destroy Osama bin Laden. The truth still hasn't quieted the conspiracy nuts.
Not willing to accept truth and logic, the extreme right wing, grasping for anything they could find, have attacked the raid that killed bin Laden. Among their screeches are that bin Laden isn't dead . . . that he was killed a week earlier or even years earlier . . . that Obama had hidden the death until there was a more political time to reveal it . . . that it was George W. Bush (who publicly said six months after 9/11 that he didn't care about bin Laden) who deserves all the credit . . . and that while Navy SEALS should get credit, Obama is too weak to have overseen any part of the mission.
And now from the caves of ignorance and hatred comes a much-forwarded letter, which the anonymous author says "shouldn't surprise anyone." Written as fact, the letter informs us Barack Obama: "never held a 'real' job, never owned a business and as far as we know, never really attended Harvard or Columbia since those transcripts have never been released and no one remembers him from their time at either school."
The email of hate further "enlightens" us that "Being a community activist only gives someone insite [sic] on how to assist the less fortunate and dregs of society on how to acquire government housing and government benefits without ever contributing one penny in taxes."
That's right. The Whackadoodles Wearing Tinfoil Caps crowd has escaped again.  
Among those community activists who worked with the "dregs of society," apparently on ways to scam the government, are St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals and the environment; Jacob Riis (1849–1914), a journalist and photographer who exposed the squalor of slums and tenement buildings; Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement that advocated nonviolent action to help the poor and homeless, and who the archdiocese of New York, at the direction of Pope John Paul II, began a process leading to beatification; and Jane Addams (1860–1935), who fought for better conditions for children and mothers, was active in the progressive campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt and who, like Roosevelt, earned a Nobel Peace Prize. Those who rail against community activists for not having "real" jobs would also oppose Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), who tirelessly established the nation's most effective organizational structure to help the poor and disenfranchised to gain a voice against political, economic, and social oppression; Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998), America's foremost pediatrician, for leading antiwar campaigns; Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), who helped get farm workers respectable pay and decent working conditions; Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who, with hundreds of thousands of others, forced a nation to finally confront its racism.
They would oppose innumerable leaders of the feminist and gay rights communities who got America to confront their other prejudices. They would oppose more than 500,000 Americans who joined Americorps and went into communities to improve education and the environment, and who help those who live in poverty in the country we claim to be the wealthiest in the world. They would think that social workers, among the lowest paid in society, are fools for not getting a "better" job.
All were community activists.
Not dregs because they have "real" jobs are the bankers and Wall Street investors who brought about the housing crisis that led to the worst depression in the past seven decades. Also exempt from contempt are the business owners who downsized, right-sized, and shipped their production overseas, throwing millions of Americans out of work.
Barack Obama, castigated for not having a "real job," worked more than a year as research associate and editor at the Business International Corp., three years as director of Developing Community Projects, a church-based group for eight Catholic parishes, and summer jobs at law firms. Other "not real" jobs include being an author, civil rights lawyer, and a professor of Constitutional law at one of the nation's more prestigious colleges. Frankly, it's rather nice to have a president who actually understands the Constitution—as opposed to the rabble who misquote, misstate, and misappropriate it all the time.  
Those propagating the email of hate believe Obama couldn't earn degrees from Ivy League colleges; the subtext is as clear as their refusal to believe in an integrated nation. So, I contacted the registrars at Columbia and Harvard. In less than 10 minutes, the registrar at Columbia confirmed that Barack Obama received a B.A. in political science, and the registrar at Harvard Law School confirmed Obama received a J.D. These are public records. Anyone can ask the same questions, and get the same answer. Logic alone should have shot down these accusations. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review, something as easy to verify as his graduation, and he passed the Illinois bar exam—which requires graduation from college and law school, and a personal character test—also a matter of public record.
Even if Obama provided official transcripts, which are confidential, the wing nuts of society will claim that, like the birth certificate and the death of bin Laden, the transcripts were faked.
The truth is that the politics of hate, combined with media complicity and Internet access, has led not to a discussion of issues but to character assassination, with bigotry and ignorance as its pillars.

[Walter Brasch's latest book is Before the First Snow, literary historical fiction that explores the counterculture between 1964 and 1991. The book, to be published June 20, is available at amazon.com]







Saturday, May 14, 2011

Promises, Promises; OR, Why It's Legal to Lie to Voters


          
by Walter Brasch

            With less than a week before the election, Marshbaum has been campaigning furiously.
            "A chicken in every pot! Natural gas drilling will save the universe. Free health care for everyone!"
            "Marshbaum!" I commanded, "you can't make those kinds of promises."
            "You're right. I don't want to offend the health care industry. There's a lot of campaign money there. I'll just make up something else."
            "You just can't make up campaign promises."
            "Sure I can. It's easy. How about 'Vote for Marshbaum and win a date with Bette Midler?'"
            "You don't even know Bette Midler."
            "I like her movies," he said casually.
            "It has nothing to do with her movies," I said.
            "Think someone doesn't like her singing? I sure don't want to offend anyone. I could make it a date with Angelina Jolie. How about Brad Pitt for the women? Justin Bieber for teens?"
            "MARSHBAUM!" I screamed. "Get reasonable!"
            He thought a moment. "You're right. Angelina and Brad are probably out wasting their time doing some kind of charity work. How about 'Elect Marshbaum and you'll never pay taxes again!'"
            "That's ridiculous," I said. "No one will believe you."
            "Doesn't matter if they do or don't as long as they vote for me."
            "But you'd be lying to the people," I said.
            "Look at campaign posters," Marshbaum commanded. "They all say the same thing. You can just change the candidates' names and faces and no one will even notice."
            "People don't vote for someone based upon posters," I said.
            "You think voters actually read those newspaper articles or go to debates? It's all name recognition. You have more posters and ads than the next guy, and you win. You get three words on a poster. Try 'fair,' 'tough,' and 'experienced' Add a picture of the family for newspaper and TV ads, and mix it in with campaign promise not to raise taxes, and you have election assured."
            "There's probably some law that prevents politicians from lying."
            "Even for being a journalist, you're rather dense," said Marshbaum. "The FCC says it's OK to lie."
            "The Federal Communications Commission gives its approval?" I asked skeptically.
            "The FCC says that radio and TV stations can't refuse to run political ads even if the station management knows the ads are outright lies. Law says if a station takes even one ad from one candidate for federal office, it has to take all ads from all candidates for that office, even if the ad is highly offensive."
            "I'm sure when Congress wakes up they'll change this insane law." Marshbaum just laughed. "Most people don't believe most of what they see on TV anyhow," I sniffed.
            "Don't like the FCC and Congress? The Supreme Court said it was OK to lie," said Marshbaum.
            "The Supremes said lying to the people is acceptable?" I scoffed.
            "OK, not the U. ­­S­. Supreme Court, but A Supreme Court."
            "Which one? In Kabul?"
            "Albany. The New York Supreme Court."
            "Marshbaum, not even New York's court could be that incompetent."
            "Got it right here," he said, taking a wadded paper from his pocket. Case of O'Reilly v. Mitchell. Guy named O'Reilly sued a politician named Mitchell in 1912 and charged him with making promises that weren't kept."
            "A promise is a verbal contract," I said. "I'm sure you read it wrong. The Court undoubtedly upheld O'Reilly's claims."
            "Wrong, Newsprint Breath," said Marshbaum arrogantly. "Court said that politicians lie all the time, that promises in a campaign are just that. Promises. Verdict for the politician. Case closed."
            "But that occurred before World War I," I said. "Undoubtedly, some court overturned it."
            "It's precedent," Marshbaum said. "It's on the books. And the ruling was based upon the First Amendment rights of free expression. Just like the FCC ruling. How about 'Vote for Marshbaum and he'll wash all your dirty laundry?'"
            "Marshbaum," I said disgustedly, "there's already too much dirty laundry in the legislature and Congress."
            "Problem solved," said a smug Marshbaum, "when the voters see my plan to give everyone a free clothes washer and dryer, they'll overwhelmingly vote for me."
            "You can do whatever you want, but just remember that some politicians actually tell the truth."
            "Name one who did and got elected!" he demanded.
            "Honest Abe," I replied.

            (For the legal scholars out there, the case of O'Reilly v. Mitchell is cited as 85MISC176, 148NYS, 88 SUP, 1914. For those who aren't lawyers, reflect upon Hitler's belief that "the victor will never be asked if he told the truth." Walter Brasch's next book is Before the First Snow, available in pre-orders at amazon.com)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scratches on the Blackboard of Animal Cruelty


by Walter Brasch


Take a pigeon.

Now put that pigeon, along with thousands of others, into small coops that don’t give the bird much freedom to move.

Don’t worry about food or water. It won’t matter.

Take some of the pigeons—who are already disoriented from hours, maybe days, of confinement—and place a couple of them each into spring-loaded box traps on a field.

About 20 yards behind the traps have people with 12-gauge shotguns line up.

Release the pigeons and watch juveniles disguised in the bodies of adults shoot these non-threatening birds. Most of the birds will be shot five to ten feet from the traps; many, dazed and confused, are shot while standing on the ground or on the tops of cages. Each shooter will have the opportunity to shoot at 25 birds, five birds each in five separate rounds.

About a fourth of the birds will be killed outright. Most of the rest will be wounded. Teenagers will race onto the fields and grab most of the wounded birds. They will wring their necks or stuff them still alive into barrels to die from suffocation.

Some birds will be able to fly outside the killing field, only to die a slow and painful death in nearby yards, roofs, or rivers. A few will live.

Now, do it again. And again. And again. All day long. At the “state shoot” in Berks County, about 5,000 birds were launched from 27 boxes on three killing fields.

And, just to make sure that you’re a macho macho man, why not stuff a bird onto a plastic fork and parade around the grounds? How about wearing a T-shirt with language so nauseating that even Cable TV would have to blur the message.

By the way, make sure you collect your bets. Illegal gambling, along with excessive drinking, is also a part of this charade that poses as sport. The shooters don’t make much, but thousands of dollars will exchange hands.

These are the same psychopaths who probably twirled cats by their tails, and used birthday money to buy BB guns to pluck birds from fences and telephone wires. In their warped minds, they probably think they’re Rambo, their shotguns are M-16s, the cages are bunkers, and the cooing birds are agents of Kaos, Maxwell Smart’s long-time nemesis.

This is what the NRA is defending as Americans’ Second Amendment rights. And why the Pennsylvania legislature has been afraid to pass a bill prohibiting pigeon shoots.

For more than three decades, Pennsylvanians have tried to get this practice banned. For three decades, they have failed. And when it looked as if there was even a remote chance that a slim majority of legislators might support a bill banning pigeon shoots, the House and Senate leadership, most of them from rural Pennsylvania, figured out numerous ways to lock up the bills in committees or keep them from reaching the floor for a vote. In 1994, the House did vote, 99–93, to ban pigeon shoots. But 102 votes were needed.
But now a bill to ban this form of animal cruelty may be headed for a vote in the full legislature. SB626, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Allentown), forbids the “use of live animals or fowl for targets at trap shoots or block shoot” gatherings. It specifically allows fair-chase hunting and protects Second Amendment rights.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally got a spine, and voted 11–3 to send legislation to the full Senate to ban this practice. Six Republicans and five Democrats voted for the vote; all three negative votes were from Republicans, including the Senate’s president pro-tempore. Many of those voting for the ban are lifetime hunters; many are long-time NRA members. They all agree that this is not fair chase hunting but wanton animal cruelty.

But, the NRA, with its paranoid personality that believes banning animal cruelty would lead to banning guns, fired back. In a vicious letter to its members and the media, the NRA stated that national animal rights extremists, whom they have also called radicals, are trying to ban what they call a “longstanding traditional shooting sport.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) disagree. In 1900, the IOC banned pigeon shoots as cruelty to animals and ruled it was not a sport. The PGC says that pigeon shoots “are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting.” Also opposed to pigeon shoots are dozens of apparently other radical extremists—like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “Each pigeon shoot teaches children that violence and animal cruelty are acceptable practices,” says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president for the HSUS.

The vote will be close in both chambers, mostly because of the financial power the NRA wields in the rural parts of Pennsylvania, and the NRA’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard screeches to its members. On his blog, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia), a member of the Judiciary committee, wrote that when he supported a ban on pigeon shoots in previous Legislative sessions, he “got more hate mail on this than any other issue I’ve been involved with.” He stated he “got e-mails from all over the state telling me that I obviously hated America and that God, who wanted the pigeons he created to be slaughtered as quickly as possible, was very disappointed in me.”

Failure to pass this bill into law will continue to make Pennsylvania, with a long-established hunting culture, the only state where pigeon shoots openly occur, and where animal cruelty is accepted.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning reporter who attended several pigeon shoots. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at amazon.com
 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The News, It Is a-changin'


by Walter Brasch

It was a little before 9 a.m.
I was chatting with two students.
Another student came in, and asked if we had heard a plane had hit a building in New York City.
We hadn't, but I assumed it was a light private plane, and the pilot had mechanical difficulty or problems with wind turbulence.  
A minute or so later, another student came in. It was a passenger jet, she said.
The first student had read the information in a text from a friend, who had received it from another friend, who may have heard it somewhere else. The second student had read it while surfing a news site on the Internet. In a few moments I became aware of how news dissemination had changed, and it was the youth who were going to lead the information revolution.
A half-hour later, in an upper division journalism class, we were flipping between TV channels, and students were texting with friends on campus and in other states.
By 12:30 p.m., the beginning time for my popular culture and the media class, every one of the 240 students heard about the murders and terrorism that would become known as 9/11. Most had not seen it on TV nor heard about it from radio. There was no way I was going to give that day's prepared lecture. The students needed to talk, to tell others what they heard, to listen to what others had heard. To cry; to express rage. And, most of all, they needed to hear the conflicting information, and learn the facts.
For the first century of colonial America, news was transmitted at the pace of a fast horse and rider. But even then, most citizens read the news only when they wandered into a local coffee shop or tavern and saw the information posted on a wall. The first newspaper, Boston's Publick Occurrences, lasted but one issue, dying in 1690. The next newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, wasn't published until 14 years later. Fifteen years passed before there was another newspaper. By the Revolution, the major cities along the eastern seaboard had weekly newspapers, with news from England taking up to three months to reach the American shores and be printed. News from one colony to another might take a couple of weeks or more. All of it was subject to censorship by the colonial governors.
By the Civil War, reporters in the field could transmit news by telegraph—assuming that competitors or the other side didn't cut the wires. Even the most efficient operation took at least a day to gather, write, transmit, and then print the news.
Radio brought World Wars I and II closer to Americans. Photojournalists—with film, innumerable developing chemicals, and restricted by the speed of couriers, the mail service, and publication delays—gave Americans both photos and newsreel images of war.
Television gave us better access to learning about wars in Korea and Vietnam.
And then came the Persian Gulf War, and the full use of satellite communication. Although CNN, the first 24-hour news operation, was the only network to record the destruction of the Challenger in January 1986, it was still seen as a minor network, with audiences of thousands not millions. The Persian Gulf War changed that, along with the nature of the news industry. CNN built an audience during Operation Desert Shield, from late Summer 1990 to Jan. 16, 1991. On that evening, the beginning of Desert Storm, CNN was the only American-based news operation in Iraq. From the al-Rashid Hotel, its three correspondents and their teams transmitted news and video as the U.S. sent missiles into Baghdad.
Two decades later, individual media have almost replaced mass media as sources for first information. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, and innumerable ways to text message now link individuals and groups. Individuals can also transmit photos and video from cell phones to You Tube and dozens of other hosts, making everyone with a cell phone a temporary reporter or photojournalist. It also leads to extensive problems in discerning the facts from rumors and propaganda. The media—individual and mass—have united a world's people.
In Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt, it was Facebook and Twitter, not state-run mass media, that gave the people communication to launch their protests that would lead to the fall of two authoritarian governments.
On May 1, in a nine-minute television address beginning at 11:35 p.m., EST, President Obama t old the world that Navy SEALs had successfully completed their mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Those not at their radio or TV sets learned about it from messages and video on their cell phones or computers.
It is still be the responsibility of the mass media--of radio, television, newspapers, and magazines--to give in-depth coverage and analysis of the events. But, for millions worldwide, it is no longer the mass media that establishes the first alerts.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, the author of 17 books, and a retired university journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow.]