My brother is a smart, thoughtful and well-informed guy who just happens to agree with me on most issues, including nutrition and nutrition research. So this past Sunday night, on his advice, I watched 60 minutes – for the first time in more than ten years. Yes, 60 Minutes: that formulaic, infotainment, cash-cow icon that sets something of a standard for American TV journalism. Long after you and I have departed this veil of tears, when the iconic 60 Minutes finally succumbs to the total takeover of the medium by “reality” shows, the headstone should read, “Better than Fox News,” or maybe “Could’ve Been a Lot Worse.”
Reader challenge: I know you can do better . . .
Now for some perspective: It has been so long since I watched the show that I’ve forgotten the specific reasons it pissed me off, although I’m sure it came down to shoddy, careless, unreliable reporting. As in putting ratings, entertainment and profit ahead of in-depth, honest and responsible journalism. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that’s the rule rather than the exception for commercial, mainstream media these days, especially when they try to cover demanding subjects such as, say, science. Or even really simple stuff like religion – you know, that hallowed, contrived institution that always gets a free pass from the free press. Free with the facts, that is.
Case in point: the bizarre mythology masquerading as historical fact in the dreary, annual, media-driven lead-up to Easter Sunday. You know, like, hey, let’s all of us exceptional Americans get all worked up and worshipful one more time and remember that God “died” for “our” sins! Damn thoughtful of Him/Them, don’t you think? I mean shit, He/They can do anything He/They wants/want, just with the snap of a metaphorical finger; so going through the motions of getting crucified must have really been a BIG DEAL for the Omnipotent Creator(s) of the Universe who somehow had to rest on the seventh day. Give me a fucking break.
While we’re on the subject of Easter, I never knew until yesterday how busy – and how pissed off – the Son of God was during those final few days. Did you know it was during that time frame when he drove the evil money changers out of the temple? Raised Lazarus from the dead? Dispatched an unlucky fig tree with a curse? Whatever happened to those magical powers when he needed a mere fig or two? And there’s quite a bit more to be learned in a very interesting take on those final days over at Edwin Kagin’s Blasphemous Blogging. Check it out, it’s well worth the trip. But as usual, I digress.
Anyway, my last recollection of 60 Minutes was their mishandling of Bush’s National Guard coverup that culminated in Dan Rather’s firing. Not being able to prove their charges, 60 Minutes only succeeded in “validating,” at least in the impressionable minds of low-information voters, the right-wing claims of liberal bias in the media. (But we know, dear readers, that “reality has a well-known liberal bias,” as Steven Colbert so memorably, and correctly, said. Which means liberal bias is consistent with the traditional job description of a free press – something about the importance of discovering and publishing the truth. Lamentably, in this hyper-commercial, ratings- and profit-driven free-market era, that indispensable job description is honored more in the breach than the observance, particularly by Republicans.) Again, I digress.
Anyway, all their resources notwithstanding, 60 Minutes somehow succeeded against all odds in actually making Bush look better, in making it look as if the pampered, alcoholic, cocaine-snorting draft evader was the victim of a liberal smear campaign. Did that factor into the minds of undecided
ignoramuses voters enough to counteract the disgraceful Swift Boat tactics employed by the right? Way to go, 60 Minutes – you gave David Brooks an excuse to write one of his patented false equivalence columns.
But hey, I’m not one to dwell on ancient history, so let’s fast-forward back to the present and last Sunday’s episode of 60 minutes. It was the segment titled Is Sugar Toxic? that my brother recommended, and after viewing it I’m passing his recommendation on to you. The gist was that sugar (fructose, really), in all its forms, is toxic to humans – a cause of or major contributor to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer! CBS even went out of house to secure the services of a highly-qualified correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN. The researchers Dr. Gupta interviewed offered up some persuasive evidence and altogether made a strong case that sugar consumption has caused a public health crisis. I was also impressed by how much scientific evidence they packed into a short, 15-minute segment. I urge you to watch it.
Then, for an entertaining change of pace and a glimpse of the ultra-rich at play, you might want to watch the segment titled Even in tough times, contemporary art sells, wherein Morley Safer reprises an infamous story he did about the art world almost 20 years ago. Warning: You’ll have to endure a Goldman Sachs commercial. Amazing, isn’t it, what can be done with millions of dollars?