FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

60 Minutes is to News What Velveeta is to Cheese

When you know very little about a subject, it’s not hard for someone professing to be an “expert” to snow you with misleading or downright false information.  For instance, if you’ve never been to Swaziland, a well-spoken individual who just returned from there could more or less tell you anything about Swaziland and you would tend to believe it.

That’s what “60 Minutes” has been doing for over forty years (since 1968)—broadcasting slick, misleading, quasi-informative entertainment pieces disguised as “hard news.”

Some years ago I wrote an article critical of a “60 Minutes” story on India.  I used to live in Punjab, and while I was certainly no expert, I knew enough about the country to be flabbergasted at how superficially the 16-minute story was being presented.  I received a letter from a reader whose father had spent his career at NASA, complaining of the same thing.  He said his dad was “sickened” by how careless and misleading a segment on the space program had been.

And that’s how the show gets away with it, by depending on the viewing audience not knowing enough about the topic to judge its accuracy.  To a layman, all this fancy talk about liquid fuel, pounds of thrust, etc. is fascinating, informative, and downright educational.  But to a NASA scientist who knows what’s what, it comes off as slickly packaged bullshit.

There’s a seven and a half minute YouTube video making the rounds that demonstrates just how committed to Show Biz the program is, and how little it cares about hard news.  The video shows segments from previous “60 Minutes” episodes where the person being interviewed (e.g., national or world political leader) abruptly removes their mic and walks off the set in anger or disgust.

The correspondents who conducted the interviews—Leslie Stahl, Steve Croft, Bob Simon, Mike Wallace—positively beam with pride at the results.  It’s as if getting a person to blow off an interview is not only a journalistic badge of honor, but proof that they are hard-nosed reporters homing in on the truth (instead of celebrity correspondents looking to increase the show’s ratings by creating conflict).

All you have to do is examine their questions to see that they weren’t exactly trolling for state secrets.  Not all of them were dumb, but some were ridiculous.  For example, Stahl got Boris Yeltsin to terminate the interview when she asked a question about his mother, and got President Sarkozy of France to leave when she asked a question about his wife.  Wow.  Questions about their moms and wives?  Now that’s real journalistic digging.

Steve Croft got Senator Daniel Moynihan to walk off in disgust by asking him an insipid question about government bloat, attributed to a comment made by Robert Gates.  The overall impression you get from these walk-offs isn’t that we’re watching hard-nosed reporters doing their job.  It’s that we’re watching show biz performers taking their cows to market.

Further evidence that “60 Minutes” is more about entertainment than news was provided in the late 1970s when the program was caught using a device known as an “insert.”  It worked like this.  The show’s resident tough guy, Mike Wallace, would politely ask a guest a question, and get an answer.

Then, after the guest had left the studio, Wallace would be re-filmed sitting in the same chair and asking the same question, but this time he’d ask it in an aggressive, finger-pointing, take-no-prisoners manner, in order to demonstrate to the audience just how tough and uncompromising the show’s correspondents were.  Pure show biz.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail