The BBC, Mitch Miller, Insularity of U.S. News (Mommy Kissing Santa Claus)

Mitch Miller? (Looking for Mommy)

I’m a New Yorker.  I tend to read the New York Times and feel proud that it’s not the Post. But every once in a while, I feel a need to go further afield, usually to the BBC, partly so I can just listen to news rather than read it.  (If you don’t already know, the BBC has a wonderful site, in multiple languages with non-stop online “radio” choices.)

An hour of listening quickly changes one’s world view.  For one thing, it converts it into a world view.

This morning, for example, the BBC news stream gave time to the Papauan dissident with whom it had snagged an exclusive interview.  It reported the flooding in Pakistan; it quoted the South African judge sentencing a mendacious police chief; it interviewed the little Yemeni girls whose family took them from school when WHO stopped trading wheat for attendance and the girls’ mother who had to give them blood a couple of times against malnutrition.  It discussed a new novel about Afghanistan, some controversy involving Mossad, the current violence in Karachi.

Some of these stories were also reported in the New York Times, but when I looked at the online Times this morning, my eye kept hooking onto Mitch Miller’s goatee.  (Today’s article on Mitch was actually about an unsuccessful attempt to interview him.  Hmm….)

Sorry.  I actually love human interest stories;  I also loved Mitch Miller.  (Not just the Christmas hits; not only the happy accordian rifs–I will remember how my six-year-old heart twanged to The Prisoner’s Song till my final rest in the arms of my poor darling.)

What strikes one in listening to the BBC is how big the world is, how busy.  What is striking too is how local the many conflicts are–even as they are related to more universal issues of economics, religion, race == how they are played out in so many very local, very complicated ways.  In discussing the killings in Karachi, for example, the BBC talked of the number of Pashtuns in the city.  (To be fair, the Times mentioned Pastuns in their Karachi article too, but in a somehow more muted way.)    And me, I think “Pashtun”, that they are in Central Asia, Afghanistan.  Green eyes come vaguely to mind.

But what I am mainly impressed by is how little I know.  Like, sadly, most Americans.

What also impresses me is how much our regular news  (and I really don’t mean the Times here) often seems to reinforce our insularity and our ignorance of the world rather than dispelling them.   So that we can convince ourselves that we are well-informed simply because our homes have some kind of news feed 24/7–when often all that feed is telling us is about the time Mommy was seen kissing Santa Claus, or worse, suspected of kissing Santa Claus.

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