CBS Manufactures a Little Outrage and Class Warfare

A short report aired today on CBS News This Morning about a billionaire and his helicopter is a demonstration of how the new media subtly uses class envy (or resentment) to generate outrage.  The teaser (a short promo for an upcoming story) for this segment talked about a billionaire’s helicopter cancelling a youth soccer game.  Ready to be outraged?  View the video linked here and then read the discussion below:


Let’s follow the narrative of the story:

1.  Norah O’Donnell: “A billionaire’s helicopter caused the sudden cancellation of a youth soccer game in New Jersey. It forced middle schoolers to clear the field just minutes before kickoff last weekend.” – establishing the victims (young soccer players) and the perpetrator (“a billionaire”).

2. Statements from the “victims”.  Certainly the players and their families were inconvenienced and it was reflected in their comments.

3. Norah O’Donnell: “The chopper was picking up New Jersey Devil’s owner Josh Harris after a game at the nearby Prudential Center. The private school in Newark allows Harris to use its field. Harris offered the players tickets to a Devils game.” – The billionaire is identified as is his offer of compensation.

4.  Gayle King reveals that the conflict was due to a scheduling mixup that did not directly involve Harris.  She then concludes that “it wasn’t totally his (Harris’) fault”. – Not revealed in the story is that the school also allows others to land helicopters on their field, and they are likely well-compensated for it.  Harris’ “fault” appears to be just that he’s a billionaire and he wanted a helicopter ride.

So what’s wrong with this seemingly innocuous, light-hearted story?

The premise and tone of the report.  It sets up a nameless billionaire as the villain and a group of children as his victims.   Throughout the story, the song “Mister Big Stuff”  plays in the background, with the lyrics:  “Mister big stuff, who do you think you are?”  A classic victim and victimizer setup, with the victimizer one of the usual suspects, a rich businessman.

You get boots! And you get boots!…

This story is not worthy of a national newscast.   This is a local story at best, but CBS News could not resist the temptation of creating an outrage-inducing story, even if there was a little touch of “April fools” at the end of it.  It’s likely that the folks at CBS News didn’t think twice about airing this story, as it follows a familiar narrative of the wealthy oppressing the little guy.   If the helicopter had been dropping off a “community activist” or was Al Gore going for some carry-out, this would not have made a national newscast.  If Gayle King’s pal Oprah Winfrey (who is rarely referred to as a “billionaire”, although she is wealthier than Harris by almost a billion dollars) had been the passenger, the story likely would have been how starstruck the students were and how cool Oprah is for promising each of the boys a pair of sparkle Uggs.

For additional context, consider that however folksy the three anchors on CBS This Morning (O’Donnell, King, and Charlie Rose) appear on the show, they all command multimillion dollar annual salaries.  And probably take helicopter rides now and then.

About Roberto

Roberto is a jack of all trades who enjoys life at the fringes of the bell curve. He is appalled by the shallow, emotional, and dishonest discourse on public affairs. He is searching for his true purpose in the universe through blogging.

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