On Thursday of last week (04/22/10) I got to listen and interact in a special talk with Aaron Brown in class.  In case you don’t know too much about who Aaron Brown is, check out his Wikipedia page.  Aaron Brown is probably most well known for his coverage of 9/11 and his evening program NewsNight with Aaron Brown on CNN until it was replaced with Anderson Cooper’s show in 2005.  He has earned many awards for his journalism and is an incredible man to talk to.  I wanted to share a couple of quotes that I wrote down during the talk and discuss them a little bit.

“it made a great phrase”, “nothing can happen in the world without a big banner below it.” – talking about the War on Terror.
Symbols are an extremely important tool for groups, revolutions, terrorists, TV shows, companies, freedom fighters and everyday life.  If you doubt that just do a quick Google search for “The power of symbols” and read some of the results.  Symbols give a center for people to rally around as well as conjure the emotions and thought process that a movement or groups requires to be cohesive and powerful.  The benefit of using symbols is that they are both broad in meaning and implication and specific in representation.  The swastika, for instance, is a very powerful symbol of the Nazi’s and their ideology.  Regardless if it is good or bad, the swastika holds a significant amount of power and under that symbol great and terrible things were done.  The “War on Terror” as a catch phrase is both descriptive and useful while being unspecific and a horrible objective.  First off, how is it possible to wage a war against a feeling that everyone has at least once in their lives.  Sure, in the context of terrorism it is clear that this “War on Terror” means a war against all terrorists, but how is that a useful goal.  This is similar to the “War on Drugs”.  It is going to be never ending as there will always be terrorists because terrorism is a last resort tactic that anyone can do, just as drugs will always be sought out or produced because it makes people feel good (if only for a short time) and there is money to be made.  This banner is just that, something to rally around and not the true goal.

“context always matters in war”, “adrenaline is a killer if there is an open mic” – in regards to difficult decisions that soldiers must make and in reference to the killing of reporters in Iraq by an American Army helicopter (link).
Context, context, context.  This word couldn’t be more important when you try to make judgments on life.  Perspective, the time of day, life or death, time frame, people, children, all of it matters when you pass judgment on others and their actions.  I don’t know how many times I am driving and someone will pull out in front of me or cut me off on the highway and I will feel a twinge of anger.  But why did they do it?  Maybe they are rushing to a game of gold they are late for.  Not good enough.  How about they are rushing to get to a meeting that could decide their career?  Getting closer but they probably could have planned better.  Maybe they are trying to get to the hospital to see be there for their pregnant wife, injured child or what not.  I think about these things while driving and seemingly stupid acts of driving occur but how many of them would I do in their context?  Not to say that makes it right or wrong but at least I can understand their thinking.  This isn’t to say that under the context, all decisions are forgivable.  Far from it.  But sometimes, sometimes it is and you should never forget it.

“if a state decides to do an action, the people should confront that action” – in regards to filming and releasing videos of the death penalty in action.
I couldn’t agree more.  If you condone an action you better be able to face the consequences as well as what performing the action entails.  Not that every action should be shared by all but I believe that you should have to bear some of the guilt / shame / joy / fear of anything you have a part of.

“you have the right to put out the best version of events that sources can give but you cannot lie” – in regards to journalistic integrity and releasing stories
This is something that I think about every time I watch the news.  What do these journalists actually know and what are they saying that is their spin, their little lies.  Do they know they are lying, to what extent?  What part of the story do they actually know and what part do they only think they know?  I think this quote really shows how journalists *should* act and I hope they do.

“All bad stuff comes out on Friday night”
Hmmm… Good to know. (Apparently newspapers are least read on Saturdays in case you were curious)

I tried taking a picture during the talk but it only turned out blurry so I’ll leave it out.