Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My friend Red Evans, and the Times article

I have lived in Charleston, South Carolina, since November 2001. It has been my privilege to meet, and count amongst my friends, many talented artists, writers and songwriters.

One of these is Red Evans, a writer and author. Red and I belong to a writers’ group who meet at a local Barnes & Noble once a month. We share our writings and offer each other our suggestions and input.

Red is a former radio DJ, and in the 1970s was a TV news anchor for Channel 2 here in Charleston.

Early last year Red would read to us from a manuscript he was working on. He has a wonderful clear voice, as one would expect from a former broadcaster. He is a funny man, and his humor shows in his writing; he had the group laughing ’til our faces hurt.

Red’s book was subsequently published; it is called “On Ice.” An unusual and hilarious road trip story about a corpse being kept literally on ice in a kiddie-pool in the back of a pick-up truck.

The body of Tyrane Percival is being transported by friends from West Virginia to Louisiana for burial in a plot next to Tyrane’s former lover who had died very young many years before.

Red was at the last writers’ meeting at the end of November and reading from a new and equally funny manuscript for another new book.

On Christmas Day, I got an email from his family, saying Red had terminal cancer, which had spread to his brain. This came as a huge shock; he had given no indication at the meeting just weeks before that anything was amiss.

At that meeting, we wandered off the subject of writing and on to the subject of “News.” Red remarked, “Don’t get me started.” He then proceeded to go off on an extremely insightful tirade about the media, both in print but in particular, TV news.

He pointed out that there is no news anymore, television and cable stations put out a series of trash magazine articles. These are also injected with the broadcaster’s opinion; this was strictly forbidden in Red’s day.

He told us, “We had to report the news straight faced and couldn’t even show by facial expression or tone of voice, whether we approved or disapproved.” He added, “And that’s how it should be.”

I wasn’t even going to mention this next part, but Red’s words were recently brought home so clearly to me. I am talking about the article in the London Times by Matthew Parris, in which he suggested people should string piano wire across country lanes in England to decapitate cyclists.

The cyclist crime to deserve this punishment? Littering the countryside with discarded energy drink bottles.

This is not news; this is an amateur rant one would expect to find on an amateur blog, not in the Times. It is not even good investigative journalism, there is no proof cyclists litter the countryside. As we all know cyclists carry refillable bottles in a cage on the frame.

Growing up in England, the Times was to me the pinnacle of journalism. Now sadly they have lowered their standards to the rest of the tabloids, and print trash just to sell newspapers.

If Matthew Parris had substituted Muslims, or Gays, instead of “Lycra clad cyclists,” he would have caused a huge public outcry; he may have even been arrested.

The reason I wasn’t planning on mentioning this? It was done for sensationalism. The writer knew he would get support from the general population, and that he would get a rise out of cyclists. I felt I should not take the bait, and perpetuate this trash.

However, Red Evans made me realize it goes deeper than this one article. This type of “humor” is no better than the racist jokes that were told, (not too long ago) and today are no longer acceptable. By poking fun at a minority group, it makes the majority somehow feel superior.

The problem is, it is highly dangerous, because as history tells us it excites violence against these minority groups. Before we know it, it is open season for cyclists on our roads. But cyclists are not animals to be hunted down, (or run down) they are human beings, somebody’s son, daughter, parent, or spouse.

One of the reasons for WWII was because certain people wanted to round up minorities and kill them. To suggest we do the same now, even as a thinly veiled joke is an affront to those who died in that war, and is in extremely bad taste. It is beneath the Times to print such trash.

Red, my good friend, it is my privilege to know you; I am a better and wiser man for having met you. You pointed out how another part of the fabric of our society is disintegrating.

I stopped watching the “news” and buying newspapers some time ago, they make me depressed. The fact that Comedy Central can put on a nightly show poking fun at the TV News shows there is a real problem.

Professional journalists and the media cannot be trusted to correct the decay; they are only interested in their bottom line. It is maybe up to amateur bloggers like myself and all the other little bloggers out there, to bring this to people’s attention.

Fight on Red, my positive thoughts go out to you and your family.


Anonymous said...

Sensationalizing minutiae, exaggerating differences, exploiting biases, avoiding due diligence, ridiculing unpopular choices, and missing broad trends have become too common, for the media and public discourse.

" Does cycling turn you into an insolent jerk? Or are insolent jerks drawn disproportionately to cycling?"

Should the word cycling be replaced with "media"? As bad as it is, I hope not.


Sorelegs said...

Consolidation of media and the subsequent dumbing down of journalism is on my (short) list of things that suck about modern America.
There are more people out there now that are paid to have an opinion about the news than there are people paid to investigate and report the news.

lancewrite said...

I notice that Parris has apologised in his column this week. Not a very fulsome apology, but unusual none the less. The Times must have received a lot of feedback.

Anonymous said...

I'm of the opinion it's been
"open season" for cyclists for many years now at least as far back as the 70's when I started riding.I've had a few run ins over the years with folks who just don't seem to give a rat's ass whether they knock you down and that's been the same even when on my motorcycles.Two wheels on the road is just dangerous but what the hell I still love it.cjg of eroticalee

Anonymous said...

Hah..with a name like Parris, this smells of a French plot to kill off all British cyclists!! I say we all boycott croissants during our weekend rides. I, for one, am sure I can hold off for at least one weekend. Who is with me?