NBC Makes the US Open Marginally More Interesting
So if you’ve paid close attention to the news today, you may have heard about this:
The big hubbub is about omitting the words “under God.” If you’re wondering about context, here’s the full pledge from 1923 until 1954:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
After 1954 it became
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
I’ve actually never said the “under God” part, but that’s a story for another day. There’s really two issues here regarding NBC. First, I don’t think news should masquerade as opinion or editorial. Even when I agree with opinions espoused. Journalistic integrity used to be based on objectivity of the reporters. The goal was, and should still be, “just the facts, Ma’am.” That being said, many issues become political issues these days and even the most professional journalists may not always be fully objective. People know this and I think most accept it, under one condition. Being biased doesn’t mean you can’t be fair. It’s a lot harder to do when you’re very biased, but if you’re just a little biased on an issue you should still be able to be completely fair.
So as much as I think “under God” should be removed from the pledge (and it’s twin, “in God we trust” from currency), I’m not happy about hearing that NBC has somehow censored or edited a broadcast. Modern society works on the basis of a free exchange of information and ideas. Certainly as a scientist I know me must accept unwelcome ideas, opinions, and even results and facts. It’s the only sensible way to deal with them, because something you ignore or deny has a tenancy to come back and bite you in the ass. If they had some class reciting the pledge at the US Open, it should be broadcast as it was said there. Anything less isn’t news. (Well, I don’t think Sports News counts as real news, but that’s another issue.)
That’s what it sounded like when I was listening to the radio. And I wasn’t listening to Glen Beck or any of his ilk. It was WBIG-FM. When I went online and read the news, all the articles were focusing on NBC removing the words, “under God.” It wasn’t until I checked The UK Telegraph, a foreign news source, that any real details emerged. If you already watched the video, it’s clear the bit in question was pre-produced and aired as a bumper. NBC didn’t censor anything. There were many parts where the pledge in interrupted by shots of the military and Washington, DC. They also left out the word “indivisible,” which hardly anybody seemed to mention.
So yeah, there’s a question of journalistic integrity by picking and choosing parts to broadcast as news. But that’s not what’s going on here. Once I actually saw the clip in question, I have to think NBC did a smart thing.
Okay, maybe it was really just a technical issue, or an issue of fitting in all the clips in the allotted time slot. It doesn’t matter much. I don’t really care too much what NBC aired now that I know they’re not censoring anybody. Anybody who knows about the First Amendment (and many of those who just think they do) are quick to point out that freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental in the bill of rights. What’s funny to me is how shoddy, biased, and unfair the reporting was, even from news sources with otherwise some remaining credibility. One thing that draws more attention than biased reporting is sensationalism. And they all knew the best way to get views is to distort the truth. Don’t bother with the details.
Now, maybe NBC did have an agenda here. If it did, it was subtle. Compare the “fair and balanced” Faux News, where commentators basically tell their viewers what to think. In this case, NBC did what it could, even if it was biased. The nation certainly is NOT indivisible. If you need a reminder, there was a Civil War between the north and south. Segregation still continued into the 1960s. Today the disparity in income is striking. And, like with the issue at hand, not all Americans are “under God.” There are many of us atheists. There’s plenty of non-Abrahamic religions represented in the United States, too. And, this issue is fairly decisive. (That being said, I’d gladly leave “in God we trust” on the currency in exchange for universal health care and equal human rights for homosexuals.) NBC, even if they had a bias in doing this, they did it fairly. This country is not indivisible, and it is not under God. Maybe not the best way to bring this issue into discussion, but obviously very effective.