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“Dear Ralph,” it began. “Strangely, while we are good friends and business associates I cannot identify myself. Like most good citizens I fear retribution from your hippie newscasters. . .. It is unfornatue [sic] that I must be afraid to talk with you because you might tell your hippie people at #13 and then they would destroy me and my business as they now try to destroy all those things which made Dallas a great city.” In a letter to the Dallas News, one Max A. Roark poses the question, “What’s KERA TV trying to do create trouble, upset the Dallas Community and cause embarrassment to our elected officials?” Then Roark unleashed his call to arms. “If the silent majority don’t wake up soon to put down and speak out against our detractors and protestors, our form of government will decay.” Some of the letters, the more literate ones, supported Newsroom. There wasn’t a count on which way the letters and phone calls stacked up. Still, your overall impression about the affair is that most people didn’t like it. It wasn’t that they gave a damn about Sterrett one way or the other, it was that they didn’t like anyone raising hell with governmental officials. Most of the letters were a little nutty. The letters get depressing after a while because nutty as they are you have this feeling that they probably represent a pretty accurate sampling. There is this horrible sense of frustration that seeps out of every letter. It is the same thing you get more and more when you talk about politics and other problems. People have all this information, you see. Scarcely a day goes by that some dude doesn’t inform 30 or 40 million people at a time about how they are the best informed people in the history of the world. Then the jackass usually proceeds to misinform them about something, more than likely something he wants them to buy. People think they have unbounded information stuffed into their energetic little brains, just crammed up into every orifice in their bodies. Yet, people, all of us, don’t know anything, and by and large we know that we don’t know anything. But we know that something is going on 8 The Texas Observer STUDENT POWER ADVOCATES To get The Texas Observer during the fall semester at reduced rates you might suggest to your professors that they offer the class the opportunity to subscribe, as described on page 23 of this issue. Or, take it upon yourself to assemble a group of ten or more who want the Observer. Write for sample copies and a descriptive brochure. and we hope that someone knows something about it, so we are willing and prepared to trust someone with the responsibility of knowing what’s going on and what should be done so long as that someone will tell us that everything is essentially all right. This way people can know that there are problems and even have categories to describe and catalogue these problems but they don’t have to concern themselves about what causes the problems or how they might be solved. To wit: “Dear Sirs: You showed a decided lack of responsibility in allowing the Ford Foundation to use your station for their ulterior purposes. Their lawsuit against Judge Lew Sterrett will probably open a Panadora’s box that could embarrass you no end. In fact, the Ford Foundation could stand . a little investigation.” It’s a good-for-a-laugh, funny letter. It has the old McCarthy tone in the first paragraph, wanting to throw a little investigation on everything that moves. The letter goes on: “The Anti-poverty war on Logic, Sanity, and Morality has most citizens aroused; and for good reason. It is ridden with Narcotic peddling, prostitution, graft, murder, coercion [sic] , militants, payoffs, obscene literature, filthy movie sales, gambling, right here in Dallas; with men like Ed Polk ducking under the protection of Civil Service Laws. All this is provable.” Everything is provable and Civil Service Laws protect the guilty. Dope, whores, fiends, queers, and despots lurk in the shadow of Darwin Payne and Mike Ritchey’s suit against the county commissioners’ closed meeting. The writer continues: “The Media today has lambasted itself into the position it finds itself today. Frankly I hope you get shafted good. You could stand some education.” know of what the hell is going on is such news accounts as they are exposed to in the papers and over the air. Full of the sound and the fury, signifying. Just signifying. Cameras can’t grind out significant details, cameras are best for mug shots, car wrecks, making commercials, and slow motion shots of football expertise. When a decent news story is printed, most people won’t read it. If the tube does a reasonable job, they won’t believe it. People are not going to behave as splendidly as you might want them to behave. None of us are. Once attitude is developed, it’s about as malleable as concrete. You can change a man’s preference from one brand of cigarettes to another, the textbooks say. It’s a trick done with lights and mirrors. But you can’t change a man’s attitude by exposing him to truth. And there is a giant, collective king of mass attitude afoot that will answer every simple and reasonable challenge with a flood of grief and consternation and confusion. Rote confusion. The truth is, most people don’t give a damn if commissioners hold closed meetings or plan secret land deals or do anything else. You have to think to make sense out of what’s going on, and that takes mental energy, and what the crap, there are bigger fish to fry. Like it’s three weeks to exhibition season and the Cowboys haven’t reported to practice yet. Football players. On strike. Who has cluttered life with all the nonsense? Newspapers and TV stations are more concerned with the drama of an event than its significance, and no effort is spared to present detail after detail of superficial information. Crisis reporting is the rule in race issues. Cinema verite is the rule in war reporting. Nobody bothers much with explaining the war in any terms other than vignettes depicting the behavior of those who are for it, those who are against it, or those who are in it. The news mills are best at capturing sparks that flash around the world. They are so good at it, that when someone does deal with the friction, the effort is often pale by comparison. The sparks set off little fires in the minds of a lot of people and they don’t give a damn what anyone says or what truth is or what the law provides or how much the scoundrels absconded with. They have the Flag and Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to fall back on, and anybody who has anything to say derogatory about the system can pack his duds up and strut down the boulevard for … China. Far away as they can get. There was a bill in the Congress of the United States of America that would pay the fare. One way. For life. “The Media today has lambasted itself into the position it finds itself today,” the man said. A letter. Written by an Idiot. Full of the Sound and the Fury. Signifying… . Signifying nothing? Perhaps. SO THE LETTERS keep coming in and you read them and you hear people talk and more and more you are tempted to the realization that the citizenry is so full of crap that the situation is beyond repair. The minds of Joe Blow and the rest of the silent and otherwise ossified majority are so hopelessly boggled with nonsense that anything that trys to make sense or relates to a simple truth hasn’t a chance of penetrating the fog. It all must have started when the first caveman scrawled a chunk of clay across a flat stone and some poor bastard tried to form an opinion about the nature of things. The society is in such a mess that the lives of most people have so little to do with the experience of life that they learn little more than how to repeat simple routines and how to pretend that they aren’t bored to death. All most people in, say, Dallas, Texas,