Monday, September 05, 2011

Are the media really that powerful?

They say that the media are really powerful tools for social change. Is that really true? In my opinion the media are not powerful in effecting anything. Newspapers, and for that matter other media, do not in effect cause social change because in today's climate they have become organs for corporations, churches, political action committees (PACs). The media bow to the highest bidder. The media are merely the reflection of who can pay more. It is almost impossible to find out who pays what when to the various entities. But most of what we get in the news nowadays is tailored to reflect the highest bidders' viewpoints.

Gone are the days when a newspaper article could cut down to size a pharmaceutical company as happened with Chemie GrĂ¼nenthal in Germany when the Thalidomide scandal broke. Gone are the days when, led by Harold Evans, a group of Sunday Times journalists wrote a book "Suffer the Children" that gave a needed voice to the tragedy that was perpetrated in the late '50s and early '60s. The book discusses the attitudes of the pharmaceutical companies and their greed that came before conscience.

How could it happen that the media became so thoroughly dependent on the payments by those interest groups? It came with the rising power of the corporation. The culmination was reached with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The corporation has become "a person", and all we are now waiting for is for a corporation to run for President. How would "Monsanto for President" sound? The way to do advertisements and how to effect interest groups was laid out very well in "Propaganda" by Edward Bernays, nephew of S. Freud, somewhere around 1929. It was a book that influenced Hitler for one in his quest for power.

Can the media regain their power? Not until they realize that they have to earn their money again honestly without using special interest moneys. I hope that happens. But I am not holding my breath.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Places to vacation

The rest of my stay in Germany was spent by visiting the down-town Munich area again with its many wonderful shops. We did not do any sight-seeing. But then I had to still get to Paris to catch the plane home. I got a reservation for the train. I should have also gotten a hotel reservation, too. But not knowing what hotel to choose, I took my chances and figured there would, no doubt, be a hotel right around the Gare de L'Est railroad station. The Gare du Nord and the Gare de L'Est are really close together in Paris, and there are all kinds of hotels. I wasn't going to be picky.

Wrong! After an uneventful train ride, I arrived in Paris at 22:00 o'clock in the rain. I saw the the "All Seasons" Hotel from the train windows, and that is where I was going to spend the night. I walked over to the hotel. It looked very nice, and it didn't seem too expensive, by what I could see on the price-list. The lobby was very busy.

I waited my turn, and at that I found out that there was no room available. There was no room apparently in all of Paris. Since it was still raining, the concierge offered me to sit down, and hopefully he would be able to find a hotel. So I waited, and I waited, and I waited. Hotel guests returned from their touristy night-life experiences. I watched. The hotel elevator opened and closed. I hoped someone would suddenly decide to leave in the middle of the night. But it was not happening.

I looked through the window, and suddenly a fight broke out between several young men. One of them was punched several times, and when he landed on the soaking wet pavement one of the other men kicked him several times until he was not moving any longer. The concierge ran out into the street after a short phone call, and somehow the fight broke up. I had no idea that this area was as dangerous as that. Watching someone gett beaten up in an area with lots of lighting was a bit shocking. I probably would not have walked from the train station to this place, if I had known.

Finally at about 2:00 AM, the concierge told me he had found a hotel. The man called a taxi for me, and within about fifteen minute I arrived at another All Seasons Hotel. The room was more expensive then the first hotel; but it was more centrally located, and it was quiet. The neighborhood was much better, and it had a view of Mansard designed houses that are so typical for Paris. I slept well.

After breakfast, I decided not to go sightseeing, but instead, to visit the Galeries LaFayette which is very a large department store in the middle of Montmartre. I asked at the desk for instructions of how to get there. This department store is absolutely the grandest department store I have ever visited. The store should clearly be a tourist attraction. I thought it might be called the Cathedral of Merchandise. Stepping in, the first thing you notice is a stained-glass cupola just like one you find in a church.

It's as if you had entered a church with the higher power in it being the large fashion houses of the world. You would see a whole department sell only Armani or Dior items; another section was only Prada. At the Gucci department, security was not immediately visible, but when you stepped too close to a $ 3000.- bag, somebody started following you making sure that nothing got ripped off. I didn't look wealthy enough to buy, and of course they were right. They made me uncomfortable.

I did not buy anything in those departments, even though I could have used a nicer bag than the one I had. In the end my own bag was more functional than anything they had to offer. They had a sale upstairs where I bought some underwear, that actually was expensive, too, even on sale. But you live only once.

For lunch I took the elevator to the restaurant upstairs. All the food was very reasonable and the view was out of this world. You could see all of Paris down below. The old opera building where I had seen Carmen close to fifty years earlier was visible from my window seat. The food was wonderful.

I walked home along Boulevard Haussmann. That, too, is a street to visit. It's for window shopping, and in many ways it is much more a street for people-watching than walking along the Champs Elysees that I had visited on a previous trip. I bought a T-shirt at the Hard Rock Cafe. I couldn't resist going in. But I didn't care for the atmosphere; too noisy.

I watched a bit of TV when I got back only to see more about DSK, meaning Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the fallen IMF chief. Christine Lagarde was going to replace him. It wasn't settled, yet. But that was the main news of the day. Computer-use was free at the hotel. But it was painfully slow, and it timed you out after a few minutes.

To get to the airport the next day, I reserved a spot on a bus that took me there on time. I am glad I found out about that because they are in the business, and I think an airplane would wait for these buses to arrived. Simply taking a taxi would be much too expensive. At around 20.- Euros it was worth it feeling at ease about meeting the airplane without a hitch.

In another 13 hours I would be home.