Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2017 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, funded entirely by reader subscription, and available only in hard copy for $12/yr. Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.
Sorry, we don’t mean to alarm you. Or do we?
In Erik Larsen’s The Garden of Beasts, Hitler’s administration in 1933 is described as making “a deliberate effort to generate a kind of daily suspense.”
Sinclair Broadcasting is doing its best to do the same in 2017.
For PP readers who still monitor local network news shows on old-fashioned television, Sinclair’s KGAN station out of Cedar Rapids offers a strange “news” feature three times a week. Just before a commercial break, usually following an everyday story about a nursing home being investigated or a neighborhood raising money for a child’s surgery, an attractive moderator suddenly appears in a brightly-colored studio as the words From the Terrorism Desk in Washington DC are sternly spoken off-camera. The moderator, white and well-dressed, then delivers “news” of dangers from afar.
The news is generally not as urgent or as relevant as the nursing home, the ill child, the housing development, the flood mitigation project, or the shooting on the edge of town, but it generates a kind of daily suspense. “ISIS attack kills three.” “US considers sending more forces to Afghanistan.” “French police arrest suspect in cafe bombing.” “A final assault on Mosul is planned for sometime this summer.”
After three or four similar squibs, accompanied by grainy footage of brown-skinned machine-gunners and grenade throwers against a backdrop of smoking rubble, we…cut to a commercial, and breathe again.
What the hell just happened? Well, it happens regularly on Sinclair-owned stations all across our frightened land. If Sinclair’s merger with Tribune Media is approved, this subtle fear-mongering — hidden in plain sight — will appear on over 200 stations, spanning most major TV markets and reaching about one-third of American homes.
It’s hard to know what the average viewer of KGAN-Channel 2 in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area thinks when seeing a polished anchor person at a polished desk recite ominous bulletins from distant shores. The segments fit seamlessly into the rest of the evening news. They appear to a part of the regular local broadcast. They are not.
Just as Hitler intentionally kept the populace in a permanent state of emergency (and as Trump keeps the general citizenry in perpetual anxiety), so does Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and mainstream outlets like CNN, endlessly repeating scenes of blood and panic, milking our emotions, continuing the coverage long after the event occurs. When the people are fearful, the terrorists have won. And so has Sinclair.
The Sinclair merger-acquisition will be well worth the price tag of $3.9 billion. The company will add WHO and QWAD to its Iowa roster of KGAN, KDSM, and KTVO, and establish a presence in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City as it challenges Fox News for nation-wide right-wing hegemony. And have money left over to hire Bill O’Reilly.
Prairie Progressive readers should contact Sinclair at www.sbgi. net/contact or call their national headquarters in Baltimore at 410-568-1500. Tell them you don’t need a phony desk to alert you to the nearly non-existent threat of foreign terrorists in your daily life. We already have enough suspense.