Wed. Jan 14, 2009
Joe the Whatever You Put In His Hand
I recently saw a cartoon that struck home, as someone who is often asked about camera choices. One character says to another who has a camera around his neck, “your camera takes nice pictures.” The character with the camera replies, “your mouth makes nice compliments.”
Sure, everyone has got a nice digital camera these days. But being a good photographer requires more than just equipment. Sure, anyone has the capability to take a really nice photo … when you’re in the right place at the right time and just happen to capture a magic moment.
But being a pro is about being able to be thrust into any situation at any moment, no matter how chaotic or dire, and come away with the goods. There is no industry standard bag of gear that contains that particular item. It is learned and earned and carried internally.
Having said that, there are those who are “naturals,” who with a little experience become surprisingly good at a particular task. The Digital Revolution has flattened the playing field and the “cost of entry” in a host of industries, from music to photography to publishing.
So, it is conceivable you could, for example, send someone with zero experience to report in a war zone, and they might acquit themselves impressively, if they approached it with some hubris, a sharp but open mind, and some simple articulation. However, it would sound nothing like this:
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.
I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.Think Progress » Joe the Plumber: ‘I think media should be abolished’ from reporting on war.
In case you haven’t heard (and what a blessed soul you must be), Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber,” has been sent to Israel by Pajamas Media to report on the current conflict over Gaza.
Let’s review those semantics: Pajamas Media sent Joe the Plumber to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Was there any way this could end well? Or even coherently?
For example, he’s sent to report on the war, and begins by stating he thinks there should be no reporting on the war. Well, then go home, Joe!
I have to admit, when he first appeared on the scene, I felt sorry for Joe. Way back at the very beginning, it appeared to me that he was an individual American who somehow got caught up in one campaign stop, and ended up very publicly expressing his opinion to one of the candidates. I may not have agreed with him, but I could find no real fault in what he did in that initial encounter.
None that justified the Spanish Inquisition that followed, over his real name, his lack of a plumbing license, his voting record, tax payments, etc. For the next 48 hours, every talking head still a-bobbin’ was telling the whole world about Joe the Plumber. It seemed an sickly indicative moment in the insane campaign of 2006-2008.
But my sympathy was short-lived. Shortly thereafter, Joe went on the campaign trail with McCain and Palin, willingly and voluntarily inserting himself into the circus as a stage prop. After the election, he admitted he saw things in the McCain machine that disgusted him, including the ringmaster himself, but apparently that was not enough to leave the spotlight he’d found.
And then with the election over, he could turn back to his long held dream of starting his own plumbing business … oh, wait, you want me to go to Israel? OK, let’s toss the wrenches and pack the mike, because…
“I am angry,” he said, “and this is why I came here.”
OK, Joe The Angry. Maybe Michael Totten or Michael Yon started out for that reason, because they were angry. I don’t know what their motivation was, but in they end, they did not sound like an angry and inarticulate boob:
…you don’t need to see what’s happening every day, that’s my personal opinion, you don’t have to share it. But, you know, okay, you don’t have to see, you know, 800 dead, 801 dead. It’s like they drill that in your head. … They want you to sit there saying there are so many people dying. You know these are large, these are numbers, you know I don’t want to take away from that. Let me, uh, think about how to say that again. Just essentially, they keep drilling it into your head, newscast after newscast after newscast.
I think the military should decide what information to give the media and then the media can release it to the public. I don’t believe they need to be in the front lines with soldiers, I don’t believe they need to, uh, you know, be bothering the military for information or for access to certain areas.
Blogger to journalist is not an unnatural progression. Plumber to campaign prop to war correspondent is a bizarrely unnatural progression based entirely on a foundation of “public relations.” First, for the benefit of John McCain, and now, Pajamas Media.
But let’s stop kidding ourselves that you can create a surgeon just by placing a scalpel in their hand and pushing them into an operating room. Otherwise, I may buy a plunger, and show up to fix your bathroom, claiming I’m a plumber.
Trust me, the result would be a bunch of smelly crap not terribly unlike what Joe is currently emitting.