GATEKEEPERS GONE: The doctor was IN—and was out of his mind!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2014

Part 1—No dimwit need not apply:
At one time, it couldn’t have happened.

Or so the theory goes.

At one point, the theory says, we had competent gatekeepers. They kept our discourse on track.

They kept The Crazy out of the discourse—The Crazy and The Big Dumb.

They restricted the things we the people could hear—the ideas we were allowed to ponder. It was hard to hear crazy shit at that time, thanks to the work of our gatekeepers. It was highly unlikely that you would get scripted by people who were well-intentioned but basically dumb.

Did such a golden age ever exist? There’s no easy way to answer that question. But when you hear this theory advanced, you’ll typically hear two gatekeepers named:

Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley.

There were lots of newspaper back in that day; some of them left a great deal to be desired. But there were only two, or possibly three, TV networks doing news. And TV had perhaps become the major medium guiding the American discourse.

Cronkite and Brinkley were different people, but neither man was crazy or dumb. They restricted the things we the people could hear. They sifted out the crazy and the dumb.

It couldn’t have happened, the theory says, when they were sifting the things we got to hear. Americans couldn’t have heard last week’s radio interview with the heinous Keith Ablow.

We’ll grant you this—Dr. Keith Ablow isn’t a giant figure in the American discourse. He isn’t Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. He isn’t as significant as Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes.

That said, Ablow is a regular contributor on the Fox News Channel. Last week, he was interviewed on John Gibson’s Fox News Radio program.

Gibson once hosted the 5 P.M. program on the Fox News Channel. Last Tuesday, he spent twelve minutes letting Ablow discuss Ebola in much the way Luke Brinker described at the new Salon:
BRINKER (10/15/14): Psychiatrist Keith Ablow, a member of Fox News’ Medical A Team, embarked on an unhinged racial rant against President Obama this week, charging that Obama wants Ebola to spread in the U.S. because his “affinities, his affiliations are with” Africa, “not us.”

Speaking with Fox News Radio host John Gibson yesterday, Ablow discussed his conspiracy theory at length. Attempting to channel Obama’s inner thoughts, Ablow imagined that the president opposes sealing America’s borders to travelers from Ebola-stricken countries because Obama believes, “if only unconsciously,” that the U.S. has inflicted a “plague of colonialism” on the world and that travel restrictions would therefore be unfair.

“You miserable people have destroyed so much in the world in terms of good things, and now you’re going to build a wall?,” Ablow pictured Obama saying.
“Really? To insulate yourself from things that are devastating other nations when your gains are ill-gotten? And the very fact that you can build a wall—you’re using wealth that you never should have had to build it. This is just another manifestation of you didn’t build that, business.”

Ablow’s armchair psychiatry grew particularly disturbing when he speculated that Obama hasn’t implemented a travel ban for west African countries because the president’s “affinities, his affiliations are with them. Not us. That’s what people seem unwilling to accept. He’s their leader...we don’t have a president.”
If you click here, you can listen to Gibson’s twelve-minute discussion with Ablow. As his source, Brinker cited this earlier report by Eric Hananoki of Media Matters.

At one time, the theory goes, that interview couldn’t have happened on major radio stations. There were gatekeepers in the media who didn’t allow such lunacy on major broadcast outlets.

Is Keith Ablow really that crazy? Or does he just play a crazy doctor on TV?

We can’t answer that question, though it’s fairly clear that Gibson knew that Ablow’s presentation was nuts. That said, there was a time when such ludicrous presentations would not have been allowed on major media outlets.

Those days ceased to exist a long time ago. Today, we live in an age of The Crazy and The Dumb—in an age with the gatekeepers gone.

All around the countryside, you can see and hear the effects of having our gatekeepers gone. You can certainly hear the effects of their absence if you listen to Ablow’s twelve-minute discussion with Gibson.

Here’s the problem:

Many people who listened that day couldn’t tell that Ablow’s presentation was basically crazy. They may have thought the heinous Ablow was basically making sense.

In an earlier age, those people wouldn’t have been misled that way. Ablow’s lunacy wouldn’t have been allowed on a major radio outlet.

When we listened to that tape, we heard the effects of having our gatekeepers gone. But then, we see and hear the absence of competent gatekeepers all across our broken American discourse.

It’s easy for liberals to sense their absence when we hear the lunacy broadcast by Fox. It may be harder for us to sense the gatekeepers’ absence when we watch MSNBC, or when we read the work at the new Salon, or when we read the New York Times.

That said, competent gatekeepers are generally gone from all those sites. All too often, they’ve been replaced by men in suits—by corporate producers eager to sell us The Crazy and The Dumb.

This morning, Salon was selling The Dumb in this, its featured report. (Some commenters could tell how dumb it was.) Chuck Todd and Willie Geist were selling The Dumb on yesterday’s Meet the Press.

MSNBC was selling The Dumb on several of last Friday night’s shows. And all around the emerging liberal world, highly passionate, young liberal writers keep selling versions of The Dumb—well-intentioned but clueless theoretics which are destined to make laughing-stocks out of the liberal world.

We have an important secret to tell you—we the people aren’t always tremendously sharp. This is very much part of The Way We Are—and, with our gatekeepers gone, no one can protect us from our credulous reactions to waves of dumb ideas.

Ablow was selling The Crazy last week. The Crazy is a big industry now. Unfortunately, so is The Dumb.

Tomorrow: We’re sorry, but this was just dumb

Coming later today: Links to all previous posts in our current award-winning series, The Way We Are

58 comments:

  1. In the face of dumb and dimwit, no murky thoughts need get finished.

    That said, we still have one week to go on The Houses of Journalist County.

    When we read that final week, we’ll visit some of the fabulous houses in that storied county. We’ll explore the lifestyles found within those houses and ponder the gates along with important people who kept them.

    And there’s more! We’ll chuckle at the bombs those people drop to make us think they’re our tribe is winning. That final week is yet to come!

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    1. Again, thanks for your relentless dedication to reading a blog you hate and finding something contemptuous to say about it.

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    2. Thanks for proving Bob right about the dumb and dimwitted.

      The words you find contemptuous are Bob's for the most part.

      Guess you aren't looking forward to that final week.

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    3. keyword from kholmst: again

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    4. keywords from kholmst: again

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  2. “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
    Mark Twain

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    1. Jay Leno got the Mark Twain Award for talking to both without knowing the difference.

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  3. So was it a theory or not? This fuzzy article seems to play it both ways actually. Or so it seems.

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  4. One of the main "gatekeepers" in the past was restricted resources regulated by the FCC. Because the airwaves were limited, there were not a lot of stations broadcasting. These did present crazy, but they limited it to public opinion statements (often right before evening signoff). These were mocked on the early Saturday Night Live opinion statements by Emily Latella (Gilda Radnor). There were newspapers devoted to extreme views but these had very limited circulation and distribution. It isn't the passing of the gatekeepers that changed things, it was the deregulation of the airwaves and then the internet, providing widened access and the need to fill up many more broadcast hours that gave entrée to the crazy and dumb. Some other nations are resisting that with internet censorship and govt control, but I don't see that as compatible with democracy. We are instead trying to teach young people how to tell the difference between solid information and the dumb/crazy when they encounter it wherever they find it in the world. That comes under the heading "critical thinking" and it is a difficult task.

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  5. It's too bad that Ablow descended into nutty speculation about Obama's motives. He would have been OK if he had simply questioned Obama's policies. Allowing passengers from infected areas to enter the US and sending American military people into infected areas both seem to increase the risk that Americans will become infected.

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    1. Perhaps in a short-term sense but not in the long term. Dealing effectively with the still localized epidemic is the best way to protect the rest of the world. To do that, people need to both go into and out of that area, including health workers but also those who help those nations maintain their economies and functioning.

      If you go back and look at how people dealt with the plague back in the 1300's, those who walled themselves up and pulled up the drawbridge did no better than those who didn't. Then, they didn't understand the mechanisms of transmission. Today, we do, and when the disease is much more difficult to catch than plague or flu (as Ebola is), we shouldn't be taking extreme measures that will worsen the effects of the epidemic on everyone.

      I've heard the guys on Fox. They are claiming that Americans are being sacrificed to Africans and that Obama should be protecting us, not them. That is mistaken because protecting them is the best way to protect US. It is like "Why are you fighting that wildfire that isn't anywhere near our houses? Because we don't want it to get bigger and spread to where our houses are." Get it now?

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    2. Flights into and out of Dallas-Ft. Worth should be cancelled immediately. No cruise ships should be allowed to dock at Gulf Ports fro 21 days.

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    3. Yes, think how much safer they would be if they permanently cancelled all flights into and out of DFW and cancelled all cruises indefinitely. This isn't over yet. And all trucking and freighters too -- the drivers might be infected, and don't forget trains and buses.

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    4. These snarky responses indicate that the responders may be unprepared to seriously debate the pro's and con's. Here's an analysis from WaPo, which argues that we shouldn't close our airports to travelers from Ebola-ravaged countries, although it acknowledges that several African countries have done just that. IMHO there's something to be said on both sides of this issue.

      Regarding the soldiers, I admit total ignorance. I don't know what they're going to do. You can't kill viruses with bullets. I don't know what the risk is that one of our military people will become infected.

      My wife and I just made an extra donation to Doctors Without Borders. They send medical people to deal with the disease. That makes sense to me.

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    5. "These snarky responses indicate that the responders may be unprepared to seriously debate the pros and cons."

      With who: you? Get real.

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    6. BTW Howard Kurtz predicts that the Administration will soon change their policy and call for a ban on travel from West Africa.

      The president sent a similar signal when he said “I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe.” That is the sound of a politician retreating, laying the groundwork for another reversal. Sure, Obama added that experts had told him a travel ban would be “less effective” than screening, but he clearly left himself the option.

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    7. You may call it snark DinC but a ban on flights to and from ebola infected DFW would be more effective than a ban on flights from ebola infected west African nations. Because there are flights to and from DFW
      to the US. There are none from the countries in West Africa with ebola.

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    8. Huh, 9;06 PM? Are you quibbling because a traveler from West Africa would have to change planes to get to the US?

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    9. It's not a quibble. It makes sense.

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    10. Well, I have Democratic company:
      Goveror Andrew Cuomo now says the federal government "should seriously consider" a ban on flights from West Africa, a call at odds with most public health officials, the White House and his own past statements.

      http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/10/8554942/cuomo-changes-course-travel-ban

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    11. That doesn't make either of you right.

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    12. The United States can ban all the non existent flights it wants.

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  6. It took someone as crazy as Ablow to get Bob's attention on the right (several days late), and even then, he twisted it around so that the left is somehow equally at fault. There is no one, NO ONE remotely like Ablow on the left. But Bob pivots with all the delicacy of a crippled elephant and moves from Ablow to attacking Salon. "Many people who listened that day couldn't tell that Ablow’s presentation was basically crazy." And why is that? Because they watch "Mr. O," and listen to Rush and Sean, and read books by Ann Coulter and Dinesh D'Souza and Jonah Goldberg. These people get a pass from Bob. Some of them even get his praise from time to time. Salon? Not a chance. Maddow and Hayes are presented as if they are somehow equal to Limbaugh and O'Reilly, and reading this post suggests Bob thinks the NYT is a liberal organ on a par with Fox News on the right. Here in Bobville, no issue exists, no craziness happens, unless it can somehow be used to attack the left.

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    1. I think Bill Maher is as bad as Ablow. He is a sexist and racist jerk with weird health beliefs who has a public podium to say things that hurt people. Witness his statements about Ebola last Friday. He is outraged because he has followed all the rules and still may be at risk from someone else's illness and he thinks the government should be protecting him from that. If it fails, it is a betrayal, because he eats right and doesn't use prescription drugs. Then there are the folks who think that all white people are racist because they have been benefitting from white privilege since they were babies. And there are the ones who are so knee-jerk anti-Israel that you cannot have a conversation with them about the Middle East, and the 9/11 truthers and the dumpster divers and the people so anti-war that they would have given Hitler the rest of the world, and don't get me started on the animals are people folks. There are lots of crazies on the left.

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    2. When Maddow and Hayes use propaganda techniques instead of behaving like journalists, they ARE equal to Limbaugh and O'Reilly. It doesn't matter what causes they espouse. What matters is the techniques they use -- their manipulation of thought and their essential dishonesty in doing so.

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    3. You have very little thought to manipulate, but Somerby has done a good job opening your gate and locking it when leaving.

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    4. What an empty criticism. All vitriol and no substance -- hard to know even what you are complaining about except it has something to do with Somerby and a gate.

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    5. Really? Tell me, what do Hayes and Maddow propagandize for? Is propaganda, in and of itself, wrong, or can propaganda be a tool for good or ill, depending on how it's used? I know what the actual answers to these questions are, but I'm curious about the kinds of answers I'll get here in Bobville.

      As for Maher being as bad as Ablow, anyone who would say that is as plain f u c k ing crazy as Ablow himself. Ablow made statements that are in no way connected to reality. Whether you agree or disagree with Maher, think what he does is wise or stupid politically (I think it's a mix of both), what he says isn't crazy. Angry, ill-advised sometimes, but it is tethered to reality. Ablow is just nuts, but that's almost OK, because he's talking to people who consume nuts the cliched 24/7/365. As for all these "crazies on the left," tell me, where are they on the entertainment "news" shows? Does the hated Rachel Maddow talk about animals being people? Does Bill Maher? Then why are you bringing it up?

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    6. Anon. @ 2:21 BOB's insistence that "both tribes do it" follows the best tradition in a journalistic basis handed down from Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Roberts.

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    7. Ah, I see. Bob is writing brilliantly and "symbolically" when he yearns for "gatekeepers" whose number were so legion that he can only name two -- and forgets that one of them co-hosted his newscast with another guy.

      Yes, for those good old days when a handful of old white guys were in charge of deciding for everyone what is news and what is not, while shielding "we the dumb people" from the "crazy."

      Kinda ironic for a blogger to take that position, isn't it?

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    8. @3:39 Propaganda is wrong in a democracy. That is one important difference between a democracy and a totalitarian state -- access to information to make up one's mind about how to vote. Propaganda deprives citizens of that.

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    9. Propaganda is necessary in democracy. Propaganda is necessary in life. If one side uses propaganda and the other side doesn't, the side that doesn't will lose. And one side will always use propaganda, because propaganda works, and at least one side usually wants to win, wants to get its way. We know which side that is, don't we?

      You are naive.

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    10. I see that we do not share the same values. Those willing to lie, cheat and steal also tend to get their own way. That doesn't mean we should emulate them.

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    11. No, we should simply lose to them, allowing them to lie, cheat and steal even more.

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    12. The alternative is worse because it is a threat to a free society. I think you need to trust that when lying cheating and stealing are revealed that most people will be repelled and will not vote for such people. Adopting the same tactics makes you untrustworthy if voters find out. We should be aiming to reveal the untrustworthiness of those opponents, not copying them. That is harder work, but you don't become evil in the process.

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    13. Maddow and Hayes bend the rules of journalism albeit less skillfully and successfully than their slick counterparts at Fox, they bend them just the same.

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    14. The world is the way it is because some people (claimed) they "trusted" other people to make the right decisions when they get proper information, while other people made sure they never got that information. Once upon a time, Bob's blog made this point, and very well. That was once upon a time.

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    15. I think he is still making that point. While Maddow and Hayes perform, they are not getting proper information to the public. I don't see them doing investigative journalism. Seymour Hersch was the go-to guy last time around, not any of the plutocrat-supported cable entertainers. So, I do not see the point of supporting Somerby's targets here. They have a great podium and nothing to say at a time when only folks like Snowden are doing the work of making things transparent for voters.

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    16. "Maddow and Hayes bend the rules of journalism"

      When are the nitwits who like Somerby going to realize there are no rules.

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    17. In my list of left crazies I forgot to include the anarchists. Thanks for the reminder.

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    18. You left out the anarcho-communists, always a powerful force on the left. They get an hour or two on MSNBC each night, while at least two of the columnists and half the reporting staff at the NYT (which Bob seems to think is a left wing organization), are crypto-anarcho-communists. The left wing crazies are everywhere. I trust Bob to point out the crazy left wing things they say, but he frequently disappoints me. I used to think it was from a lack of effort on his part, but you've convinced me otherwise: the left wing craziness is out there on full display, but Bob is slacking in his efforts to find it. Or maybe he's covering it up. Maybe all his left-wing bashing is a cover for his deeply held, commie beliefs. They're everywhere, I tell you.

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    19. I was the one cataloging left wing crazies, not Somerby. But I'm sure that makes no difference to you. Any stick to beat a dog, yeah.

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  7. "Cronkite and Brinkley were different people, but neither man was crazy or dumb. They restricted the things we the people could hear. They sifted out the crazy and the dumb."

    Good lordy, Somerby, You completely disappear the name Huntley. Remember him? He had first billing over Brinkley. So your revisionist history of when two men held such sway over the American discourse fails right there.

    Second, are you so ignorant of the way network news worked in those days that you really think any one on-air personality, including Walter Cronkite, sat in a room all by himself deciding what was and was not news? Or do you think there might have been others -- many others -- higher up the network food chain involved in those decisions as well?

    Third, I know people of limited intellect love to have somebody do the hard work of thinking for them. This is reflected daily in this combox.

    But then there are those who are glad we no longer live under a stranglehold of "gatekeepers" and that in this Information Age, the "media" has become democratized.

    Yes, there are actually people who think democracy is better served by more, rather than fewer, voices, and who trust themselves to sort out the crazy and the dumb.

    Apparently, not Somerby who continues to yearn for a past that never really existed.

    You want gatekeepers controlling the "news"? You must have loved Pravda back in the day.





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    1. KZ, you're being excessively literal again. Cronkite and Brinkley are symbols of all the journalists who did a good job during that time period, not the only two worth mentioning.

      Your comments about democracy echo mine above, but you just called all the combox people limited in intellect. Can't have this both ways -- as you so frequently note.

      Personally, I want the FCC to enforce the equal time rule again. That will allow free speech while limiting the nonsense. Maybe that's part of what Somerby means by gatekeepers -- not Communist overlords.

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    2. We had nothing to do with the comment made by Anon @ 3:22. We were fond of Chet Huntley, though. He never called Bill Clinton a bore.

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    3. We did slip a notch on the "Select Profile" box @ 3:49, however.

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    4. Obviously your literalism is infectious.

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    5. Oops. Put it in the wrong thread. Oh well, Somerby desperately needs combox hits so I will copy and paste from above

      ---

      Ah, I see. Bob is writing brilliantly and "symbolically" when he yearns for "gatekeepers" whose number were so legion that he can only name two -- and forgets that one of them co-hosted his newscast with another guy.

      Yes, for those good old days when a handful of old white guys were in charge of deciding for everyone what is news and what is not, while shielding "we the dumb people" from the "crazy."

      Kinda ironic for a blogger to take that position, isn't it?

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    6. Gatekeepers are perhaps unnecessary for people who cannot read or think.

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    7. And, let's not forget John Chancellor.

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    8. Where did Chancellor have his house?

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    9. @ 3:29, in addition to blaming the wrong person, you mischaracterized that person's comment. @ 3:22m said there are people of limited intellect and they are reflected in the combox. You said he called all the people in the combox limited in intelligence. Perhaps being a bit more literal woulds save you such errors.

      Truly the error of @ 3:22 lies in the implication of his comment that there might be people of limitless intelligence. That is doubtful.

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  8. I think Bob is taking his first steps to mechancial moderation.

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  10. In the Iliad, Homer is constantly making people expound on the inadequacy of the day's generation and how they paled by comparison with mighty men of yore. Plato made some of his characters pull the same stunt on the upcoming generation.Thus has it ever been.

    I, too, long for the lusty days when philosopher-kings like Cronkite and Hunkley, etc., decided what the unwashed needed to know. But there was more to it than that. These guys had 22 minutes five nights a week. I never saw or read an interview with Cronkite in which he didn't say something about wishing he could replace "AND THAT'S THE WAY IT IS" with, "FOR MORE ON THAT STORY, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER."

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