American Television Sells Viewers Short on News That Matters


Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, went on record criticizing our United States administration for the many problems encountered as a result of the war in Iraq.It was his opinion that the Bush administration's failure to listen to British advice was a tragic mistake, a mistake that could have been avoided had the American government read a little British colonial history.

According to the BBC, Prince Andrew said the war had led to a "healthy skepticism" in Britain towards what was said in Washington.

Had bonny Prince Andrew been caught on a Greek Isle with a bevy of lovely young lasses, his every word and many pictures would have appeared in newspapers the world, especially in America.

To learn of his opinion on this topic, however, one had to read British or European newspaper. He made the comments in an interview with the International Herald Tribune, an English-language newspaper in Europe.

The lessons the U.S. should have learned are not secrets. They can be found in history textbooks from high school to Harvard and everywhere in between. I digress to note that in many major universities, history is no longer required for graduation.

British colonial history, for those who were absent the day it was studied, is what made England a super power in the 18th and 19th centuries. They fought to take over India and then repelled the French to keep it. The British were so busy fighting the French in India they could not give our American Revolution the attention it needed to win. So we won and replaced the British Empire as the greatest world power of all time. The British learned. We haven't yet.

The second son of Queen Elizabeth II and fourth in line to the throne told the newspaper the feeling in Britain is, "Why didn't anyone listen to what was said and the advice that was given?"

The Duke of York expressed there was and is a great deal of experience in England that should be listened to. From all accounts little attention was given to the attitudes of other countries as the U.S. changed ahead and alone into war in Iraq. (Ah, yes, there was Fiji and a few other similar world powers with us).

With the arrogance of power we told France what we thought: our brave congressmen turned French Fries into Freedom Fries. Our leaders discounted the Downing Street memos. Politicians, reporters, as well as many clergy, did not ask searching questions. We were as sheep led to the slaughter.

Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent, said it was unusual for a senior member of the royal family to so freely enter the diplomatic and political arena in such a public way. Few questioned the prince's motives and fewer still his wisdom. One official called the comments a "thoughtful appraisal" of the situation.

Thoughtful appraisals do not rate much space in American's news cycle, even when they come from a possible future king. The so-called network newscasts that get to our cities five days a week at 5:30 are merely for entertainment. They all three report the same medical discovery of the day, what Britney did or didn't do, how to quit smoking and how to lose weight. For foreign news we see the latest panda birth in China, an overloaded ferry sinks off Manila and the best cashmere is from a certain goat herder in Bolivia.

The rest of the world sees everything we do via satellite television. That is a freedom Americans do not have. With all our great technical advancement we should get world television. Arabs cannot get on our cable systems, and the BBC and French English broadcasts are too expensive. So, capitalism at its worst gives us only packaged cable and satellite stations that do everything but inform the public.

Being uninformed and satisfied may not be a crime, but it sure comes close to a sin. Thanks to the Duke of York, we are reminded how important thoughtful appraisals are--and to insist on more and better news sources.

Britt Towery is a former teacher, missionary and pastor who lives in San Angelo, Texas. His columns appear in the San Angelo Standard-Times and Brownwood Bulletin.

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