The Pretty Bird invites you to see the world through pecks and squawks and beady little eyes.

11 Jun

If you know me, you may or may not know that I have a thing for birds. Especially big, ungainly birds. I love geese, and think that the ostrich is most likely my spirit animal.

You also may or may not–most likely not–give two shits about my thing for birds.

But I have a thing for birds, and I also have a thing for politics, for bitching about the media, for books and writers and writing. Did I mention bitching? It seems, increasingly, that I find myself looking at the world we live in and thinking What the Fucking Hell? and ranting about it to no end. It seems I might spare my poor husband the earful and write some of it down.

Take, for example, this. Actually, don’t read that yet. First, know that Thursday’s top stories on the WRTV-6 local news website included a cop fired for police brutality; sentencing in a fatal crash, an adoption scam, and the murder of a clerk during a robbery; a company adding 570 jobs in the city; a report about parents who fear for their children’s safety at a juvenile correctional facility, and a meth-head slamming her baby into the concrete. Which is to say, actual news.

But Wednesday, the second-to-top story for a major local news outlet was tipped by someone with a personal vendetta and centers on, essentially, one guy’s personal finances. My neighborhood’s council–a volunteer council, not an elected body–has a president who’s a bit behind on the property taxes on a number of properties centrally located in the ‘hood. He–along with 13,000 other taxpayers–faces a June 30 payment deadline. Again, the council isn’t publicly elected. Neither is its president.

You’d miss much of this, of course, from the video clip reporting on one private citizen’s personal finances. And I’ll set aside for a moment how I know the person in question (just barely) or why (I’m hosting an event at a theater he owns), as those details don’t matter. Take a listen to the video, if you can. I can only detect one slim difference between this “news” story and an average Samantha Bee report on The Daily Show: Samantha Bee tends to vocally inflect the information that renders her stories absurd–some of which, in this case, I’ve bolded above. So: This video clip, which aired on a local television station that expects itself to be taken seriously as a news source, is one shade from a fucking satire of itself. WRTV-6 deliberately obscures the difference between an elected official and a private citizen volunteering on a neighborhood council. They take pains, instead, to establish that, even though the story’s subject is not an elected official, he’s somehow a public figure, so it’s all of our business that he’s one of 13,000 Indianapolis property owners who haven’t yet paid property taxes that are due later this month.

If this is how most voters in this city get their news, we are so very fucked.

It’s one thing when a news outlet gets stuff wrong. Everybody gets stuff wrong from time to time. I’m certain, in fact, that The Pretty Bird will be wrong fairly often. (Or at least that you will disagree.) But this right here, this is a case of a news outlet nestling in as close to a lie as they possibly can, without explicit dishonesty. Don’t miss that line at the beginning–that the “investigation” was spurred by a single individual calling with a personal grudge–or the many points within the story that make the case for the story’s own validity. They go so far as to interview someone who will tell them that the subject of the story should be held to a higher standard than the 12,999 or so other people who owe property taxes because he is a public figure.

There are so very many things wrong with our political and cultural lives. I could, with a bit more work, tie every single one of them to the news media’s profit motive, which spurs it on to make stories out of nothing, to sensationalize banal ideas and situations and present them dishonestly, and to ignore vital, life-or-death stories that don’t look likely to turn a profit. But in the end, this is the world we live in. The incident with the meth-head and the baby and the sidewalk happened a whole week ago. But Wednesday, it was more important that they make a stink out of one guy’s property taxes.

Anyway, so, for example. This ruffles my feathers. I hope, even though you probably don’t know my neighborhood council president, that it ruffles yours, too.

If you want to know more about me, or The Pretty Bird, or what the hell I’m doing here, go ahead and read the About page, please.

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2 Responses to “The Pretty Bird invites you to see the world through pecks and squawks and beady little eyes.”

  1. ce. June 11, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    I know it’s only part of the dude’s total fines, but zoning fines for “lack of adequate parking” should be abolished, especially considering Irving Theatre is on a major busline. There’s this thing called “urbanity” and it doesn’t always center around cars and parking.

    But, that’s only part of the issue, and note even really the issue here. Just the issue that picked at me most as I read that article. We all have our crosses.

    It’s hard for me to watch most news these days. The Today Show keeps talking about this Jorhan whoever guy who alledgedly murdered people and so on, and I just shut it off because I think, “Wow. That’s not national news at all.”

    • Victoria June 11, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

      I feel the same way. How can a historic building in an urban setting provide strip-mall-style parking? But I hear from a friend who knows these things that that’s actually another non-issue that the news story trumped up.

      I only get news from the web and radio at this point–we actually disconnected our TV the week after the Super Bowl. I’m so much more productive and balanced now. TV news stuff–especially political coverage–makes me craaazzzyyyyy.

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