Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wake-Me-When-It's-Over Syndrome

The overloaded mind reels to keep up with Scott Walker, Peter King and Muammar Qaddafi, the Three Stooges of this news cycle producing headline headaches that rattle our media teeth.

Do we have to keep up with debates about no-fly zones over Wisconsin by disloyal Muslim-Americans?

Today's cacophony recalls days when you could go on an isolated vacation and come back to marvel at how little of importance you had missed by being cut off for weeks.

Do we really need to know every twist and turn of the Battle of Wisconsin? Somehow the state will muddle through, despite its clownish governor, and labor unions will survive needed cuts in budgets and assaults on their legitimacy.

Would we be deprived by not watching Rep. Peter King reduce the House's first Muslim to tears by stigmatizing an entire Faith? ("Ask not what your country can do for you, but how you can spy for it?")

Do we need to make the Battle for Libya into a "video game," in Defense Secretary Gates' words, with a no-fly zone that might make Americans feel good in their living rooms but drag us into another Middle East mess?

Opinions on these weighty matters matter, but how closely must we follow every twist and turn simply because we can? Would everything get worse if we didn't?

These questions are prompted by hard words between Higher Powers of the media universe--New York Times editor Bill Keller and AOL's new empress, Arianna Huffington.

In his magazine, Keller writes that "we have bestowed our highest honor--market valuation--not on those who labor over the making of original journalism but on aggregation.

“'Aggregation' can mean smart people sharing their reading lists, plugging one another into the bounty of the information universe...too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy."

"Keller's attack is as lame as it is laughable.," Arianna huffs back with a torrent of her own unaggregated words.

Profits aside, all this misdirected energy recalls a young minister I knew long ago who was running himself ragged by conscientiously trying to solve every problem of his congregation.

One morning struggling to get out of bed, he had an epiphany--a vision of God frowning and wringing his hands to moan, "How will I get through the day without my young helper?"

My friend rolled over and pulled up the covers, graced by the knowledge that trying to solve all the world's problems could endanger the capacity to ease any of them.

Anyone here for watching an old movie or taking a nap?

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