Production 212: Not Enough Toilet Paper

Production-212-Logo-1By Dave Foxx

Quite possibly, I owe a friend a profound apology. Brendan Tacey – Austereo Network, Australia – sent me a promo that is out of the ordinary, not only in the evident skill it took to produce, but for the event it is promoting; “Live Earth.” On July 7th it kicks off in Sydney and will have hundreds of acts all over the world participating to mobilize all citizens to help ‘save’ our planet. Instead of simply commenting on his work, I immediately jumped on my soapbox and started preaching. That is why I owe Brendan an apology. It’s also what has inspired this month’s column: Media Hype – how we contribute to the problem.

toilet-paperFirst, let me point out that there IS a problem. I recall that Johnny Carson, the long-time host of The Tonight Show on NBC, made a joke one night about a toilet paper shortage in Northern California. It was a roundabout way of making a scatological reference to the state government. I got it. Most people did. Apparently, the citizens of Northern California did not as the next day (and for a few weeks after) there really WAS a TP shortage because everyone rushed out and bought up as much as they could get. There have been several other instances of off-hand comments by otherwise responsible news analysts/TV & Radio hosts about coffee, sugar, lettuce and other commodity shortages causing very real shortages. (I’m still incensed that the price of coffee doubled overnight, but once the hype cooled and everyone found out that there was no shortage, the price stayed egregiously high.)

Has everyone bought into Al Gore’s cinematic treatise on global warming? It certainly seems that way. If you watch An Inconvenient Truth and simply accept what the film says, it would be hard not to be very frightened about the future of our planet. The media (that’s US folks) has taken up the cause of global warming and promoted it into a full-scale emergency. The problem is — according to most climatologists – the science is so sketchy at this point, you really can’t make a cogent case for it. Do most scientists really believe that global warming, caused by mankind, is imminent? In a word: no. Oh, there are a few who fervently believe that the polar icecaps are on the verge of completely disappearing, but for every five of them, there are ninety-five who are saying, “hold your horses.” But, to the media (again, that’s US) that simply isn’t as sexy a story. That side of the story never gets heard because it doesn’t get listeners/viewers/readers for them.

Do I sound a bit cynical? Probably… in fact, I most definitely do, but the media has a pretty poor track record. For example, the controversy over second-hand smoke: Every study ever done to determine the effects of second-hand smoke says that it is harmless, even to infants and pets. The British Journal of Science – May 2003 – even published the definitive paper, a 39-year clinical study (as opposed to epidemiological or statistical) conducted at UCLA, which states categorically that second-hand smoke is absolutely harmless. However, the next issue was filled with letters to the editor, condemning the magazine for publishing something that everyone knew to be patently false. The sad truth is, those readers all heard/saw/read the hype in the media and chose to believe that instead. {Sigh}

So what can we do about it? Not as much as I’d like. There’s a very good chance that at least one of my Program Directors is going to ask me to make a promo for the same event. What do I do? I’ll have to pretty much grin and bear it. I’ll probably even ask Brendan for some of his workparts.

Brendan wrote back a few minutes after I sent my critique (such as it was) with:

I don’t know enough about the issue at hand (like a lot of people around the world) but purely for the knowledge of how much hype and BS there is in the media/news globally... we don’t watch the news or any current affairs programme. Too many times we have learned the facts on an issue, but seen the “media hyped” version broadcast, encouraging the un-educated minds into a rant that is totally un-called for because they don’t know the truth behind the issue. So although I can’t comment on the global warming issue... (it sounds like you have your head around it), I completely understand and respect the angle you are coming from.

On a similar note… there are certain things in this job that have to be done, that I feel dirty about doing. They are few and far between, but when we put ‘that hat’ on, I despise the job at hand. I’m not a negative person – far from it – but there is a dignity line that can be so easily crossed.

Dirty. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Doing a commercial for a car dealer you know from personal experience is crooked, a promo for a nightclub appearance at a spot known for dealing drugs on premises, or even a simple contest promo that oversells the prize are all things we’ve been faced with at one point or another. (If you haven’t… you will.)

Nobody I know likes having dirty hands. But, when it comes to the bottom line, we have to pony up. It’s how we keep the transmitter beaming. We have to eat our dignity sometimes, and produce an outstanding promo (like Brendan’s – my audio for this month’s CD). However, let’s all do each other a great big favor: do some research. All it takes is a few minutes online or chatting with someone who has personal knowledge of the subject at hand.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on global warming. I just know there are a LOT of dissenting voices, and that’s my first clue that there’s a ‘hyped media’ event going on. After I did some of my own research, I knew that everything was being blown way out of proportion. A miniscule portion of the scientific community supports this so-called theory. There isn’t enough information to back it for it to even be considered as scientific fact. Is there a need for concern? Maybe… I even went out and bought a hybrid. But when I’m asked to do a promo for “Live Earth,” I’m going to have to swallow awfully hard because I strongly suspect that it’s simply a moneymaking event for bands, promoters and television networks. Ultimately it will do little or nothing for planet Earth, except throw unwarranted panic into the audience.

A couple of quick side-notes: First, I find it truly ironic that most of the big proponents of the global warming idea, like Al Gore, are some of the biggest energy hogs on the planet, living is spacious mansions and driving real gas guzzlers, including their Gulfstream Jets. If they’re not taking personal steps to correct this perceived problem, why should anyone else?

Second, I fully expect that this column will generate quite a bit of email that questions my sanity. Some of it will probably be downright hostile. That’s OK with me. My only defense is the truth. The truth is all I ever look for. Media hype is the archenemy of truth. As I’m sure you realize, this entire business is mostly smoke and mirrors anyway. How could one ever expect to find the truth in a carnival funhouse?

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