Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

Kuwait City, 1993, shortly after the U.S. rescued the country. This time around, they're on the terrorists' side. (Credit: Dennis E. Powell)

No Better the Umpteenth Time

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 10:14 PM

Have you ever re-watched a sad movie, hoping that this time the outcome will be different?

Welcome to the world today. Only it’s not a movie.

As with re-watching the movie and hoping the ending will change, we’re governed by images made by others to produce a desired effect. Which is always the same and as predictable as the autumnal arrival of the squawking “Martha” in those insufferable Medicare commercials. (Her punishment is being remembered for nothing else.)

It’s not easy to sleep nowadays. Part of it is curiosity, among those of us who are curious, and part of it is dread over the fresh horror we might have revealed to us upon our awakening. Not even the product hawked by the unctuous Mike Huckabee offers relief from this kind of sleeplessness.

It was crystallized in the middle of the night, here today, when I was watching Israeli television’s coverage of Joe “Bugout” Biden’s arrival in Tel Aviv. The commentators were gushing about how their savior had arrived. Here’s a clue for Israel: if the only thing standing between you and doom is Bugout Joe, get your affairs in order because you are doomed. You will note that the big, powerful slogan Biden’s people have given him is a single word: “Don’t.” It is the longest catchphrase the geriatric Biden can be counted on to remember. It is to their credit that loyal cabinet members and foreign policy officials keep a straight face while repeating the word of their boss, no doubt aware that they sound like an exasperated mother talking to an energetic three-year-old. (Still, there might be saving in campaign costs. A poster with Biden’s picture and the lone word “Don’t” might fit into the strategy of both sides.)

It’s the same play we’ve seen before, with a different cast and new, exciting special effects.

When the Newfoundland Regiment got massacred on July 1, 1916, word of the loss got back to the island within a day or two. The transatlantic telegraph cable had been in existence for a while. But telegraph is limited, and between that and wartime censorship it took days, even weeks, for the full story to reach St. John’s, longer still for the outlying reasons. (The returned letters from home to the soldier boys, now with “Dead” scrawled across them, were and are heartbreaking. Many still exist.)

That was the state of news coverage during the geopolitical and economic upheavals of the 1930s, and during World War II itself. Daily newspapers offered the most up-to-date coverage in any depth; bulletins of course came by radio but lacked detail. Newsreels were an important source of news. This was true through the Korean conflict.

As late as the Vietnam War it took days for images of the fighting to reach us. LIFE magazine had features, sure, but it also had unparalleled coverage and tremendous photography each week. As did, strangely, the monthly National Geographic. Both had photographers who died while engaged in their profession. But film, for both still and motion pictures, took a while to reach the pages or television screens in our homes. It had to get taken to Saigon, put on a plane, and flown ultimately to New York, where it could be processed, edited, printed, and so on.

The first Gulf War was something new: we could watch it unfold live, like the Super Bowl. We sat in front of our televisions the night of January 17, 1991 as CNN, which covered news at the time, brought us continuous live coverage of the first bombs hitting Baghdad. (I will never forget poor Bernard Shaw that night. His chief concern seemed to be whether his flight back to the U.S. the next day had been canceled.) For the first time, bloodshed became an athletic event, if coverage was any measure.

Now the “reporting” is virtually immediate, though the children complain that wars in video games are much more realistic. Now there is a rush for instant analysis, with the media eager to brush the cobwebs off an “expert” from last time to say something inflammatory. Or in the case of Fox News Channel, to send down for a fresh face from the busload of “former Navy SEALs” parked out front. (If you watch FNC, you might think it is hard to find someone who isn’t a former Navy SEAL. There must be tens of thousands of former Navy SEALs out there.)

All the players are directed by public relations advisers. As is true of everything nowadays, truth doesn’t really figure in. No better example is to be found than yesterday’s monkey show involving the hospital in Gaza.

Everybody kept to the script. Biden was to visit Israel. So just before he was to depart, there was a report that Israel had attacked a hospital in Gaza. For those not privy to the script, here is how it goes: the Islamists — today’s version of the “noble savage” of a bygone day, in the eyes of the “news” media — do something atrocious and blame it on their current enemy, often but not always Israel, in hope of sabotaging negotiations. They inflate the severity of the incident and the number of people killed. The world reacts in outrage and comes down on the side of the terrorists — the cool, stupid kids are all chanting “Death to the Jews,” and the most important demographic to advertisers is stupid people with lots of disposable income. The media knew that the story was almost certainly a lie. It didn’t matter — they went with it. The media unquestioningly believe the word of a group whose weekend jaunts involve rapes and beheadings.

Now. There is no reason for Israel to have attacked a hospital. There is every reason for Hamas to make up the lie that it had. They trotted out some bodies, but finding bodies is never a problem for the Islamists. Did any of this figure into the coverage? Of course not.

Next scene in the script: Rioters all over the world. Fires. Diplomatic meetings canceled. Oh, and look (well, don’t, but we have to say it so we can hold ourselves harmless), turns out the story was wrong in these details: the explosion was from an Islamist rocket. It didn’t hit the hospital, it hit the hospital’s parking lot. It blew up some cars. The space looks incapable of holding the nearly 500 people Hamas says were killed, but if there were 500 people there it was because Hamas had refused to let them escape to safe areas in southern Gaza. Other than that, the story was accurate.

But hey, we’ve seen this movie before. The script cannot be modified, no matter how much sane people want it to be. Everybody knows what Hamas’s goals are. They are given all of them. With the help of media, terrorism pays.

And we’re numbed to it, except our disappointment that the video isn’t better, isn’t as good as video games, we don’t actually see headless babies.

Right on schedule, children at expensive schools appear, demonstrating and taking the side of evil. This is the fruit of permissive upbringing.

In Washington, a congressional office building is occupied — you won’t believe this or, worse, maybe you will — by the Black Lives Matter scam outfit, demanding that Israel stops shooting. (If only there had been a Barker Lives Matter organization in 1935, they could have gone to Lake Weir and demonstrated against law enforcement and maybe there would have been a ceasefire and Ma and Fred could have escaped.) A few blocks away, a half-dozen Trumpian lunatics — Trump’s Life Matters? — hold a third of the government hostage. (Actually, that’s the only innovation in this production. Must be the director’s cut.)

Bugout Joe appears at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, wearing his best chemo-patient shuffling suit. He says, essentially, nothing. That’s in the script, too. In so many ways he’s an NPC — Non-Player Character in this substandard video game.

It is hellishly depressing. I mean weight-of-the-world depressing.

And it is about to get worse: daylight-saving time is about to end.

No part of that is a joke. Standard time returns in two and a half weeks.

In the midst of a worrying world, the United States by act of Congress will change its clocks at 2 a.m. November 5. We will set the clocks back an hour. If you are put into a melancholy mood by how much earlier the sun is setting each night, you’ll be cast into anguish when, in one bite, sunset comes in late afternoon. I’ve written about this before. We’re a republic, so it is theoretically our fault that we have chosen abject morons to govern us, though in our defense we have to say that when daylight-saving time was adopted our politicians were not yet actively campaigning as abject morons.

The change, numerous studies have shown, makes depression worse. The glimmer of light to which we cling disappears an hour earlier. But there is at least war “coverage” to watch.

I don’t like this show. Maybe you don’t either.

But we’re forced to watch it, over and over.

Dennis E. Powell is crackpot-at-large at Open for Business. Powell was a reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio, where he has (mostly) recovered. You can reach him at

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