Thanks to Sheila Lennan I found out that the local St. Louis ABC affiliate is one of the few that will not be telecasting Ted Koppel’s April 30th Nightline show, featuring him reading the names of the service people killed in Iraq to this point.
I called the station twice, and was put through to the comment line, to listen to a prepared talk by Tom Tiptom, who is some kind of station manager. I found it antagonistic and pugnacious–an attitude I would expect more from an amateur warblogging site rather than a professional news organization. In addition, I found the arguments presented to be confusing.
According to Mr. Tiptom, the reason that Sinclair is not telecasting the show is because Koppel is not also reading the names of the victims of the New York terrorist attack, and all terrorist attacks since. This, then, makes this a political statement.
All I could think of when I heard this was: huh?
What does the terrorist attacks on 9/11 have to do with the reading of the names of the soldiers who have been killed in Iraq? How can Ted Koppel’s reading of the names be seen as ‘political’, and the stations choosing not to broadcast the show not be seen as equally political?
Are we going to now spend the next several months before the election in this country denying that people are being killed in Iraq, because to acknowledge this is somehow political? Are we literally not going to show broadcasts that demonstrate the costs of our actions? Are we going to pretend that all is well in Iraq and that because of our actions there, terrorism is being held in check, when it’s been proven that there was no connection between Iraq and the attacks in New York?
When I responded on the comment line, I was angry. I am still angry. If the station had chosen to make a comment disavowing the nature of Koppel’s broadcast as political, but then showed it anyway, I would have respected that. And the station. But by not showing the broadcast, they’ve removed my right to make my own opinion about the broadcast, Koppel’s right to be heard, and these soldiers’ right to be remembered, separate from any political movement.
Worst though is that the station thinks people in St. Louis are so stupid that we can’t form our own opinions about the political nature of this broadcast, and therefore we must be protected from ourselves. Or perhaps what the station is saying is that we can’t be permitted to form our own opinions, outside of those it seeks to foster. And that doesn’t make me angry–it scares me.
Just calling the stations doesn’t seem to be enough. What I’m thinking of doing instead is driving down to where the station is located, and during the time when Nightline would normally be broadcast, standing outside the station and yelling each of the service people’s names, myself. Empty gesture? Perhaps. But better than empty complacency.