Russia – Enough Said

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We Should

Be Scared

of Russia

 

Russia has been talked about in the news a lot in the past several years, and has garnered an incredible amount of attention in the USA of late. They have been accused of hacking a political party’s files in order to favor one over the other. They have been accused of blackmailing our politicians and planting their own agents. They have been accused of spreading a huge amount of fake news throughout our country, in order to change the course of the general election.

 On top of that, some in Europe believe that President Vladimir Putin was pushing for Brexit to weaken the EU, because he would like to take back more of Eastern Europe. While it would be nice to consider this alarmism, he has already taken Crimea, half of Ukraine, and doesn’t seem interested in stopping anytime soon. Below are 10 reasons why we should keep a careful eye on Russia and their actions over the next several years.

10. They Shut Down Estonia’s Internet Infrastructure For Almost a Month

Estonia is an Eastern European country near the Russian border, and they are actually quite unique when it comes to any country in the world, because they rely on the internet for almost everything. They use the internet for paying parking fines, voting, paying utility bills and taxes, and almost anything else you could imagine. Children in Estonia are taught to use the internet properly in school at a young age, and it is considered one of the most tech savvy countries in the world.

That’s why, in 2007, Estonians understandably freaked out when their internet infrastructure was hit by a cyber-attack that managed to keep the entire system down for three whole weeks. Estonians are understandably worried that it was a test for a possible Russian invasion down the road. Estonia was once part of the Soviet Union, is seeded with ethnic Russians so Putin could attempt to pull something similar to Crimea, and with their infrastructure down, it would be hard for them to resist the chaos Putin could create. With the recent aggressive moves by Russia both in terms of cyber-crime and their continuing ventures in Ukraine, Estonia fears they may be next and is preparing for war.

9. The Russian Mock Invasion That Would Take Key Islands From Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden

Some may think that Russia would never dare go that far into Eastern Europe, or really keep pushing at all much beyond Ukraine. However, people back during WWII said that Hitler would stop after he took the Rhineland, and they were very, very wrong. The truth is that Putin has no reason to stop unless someone makes him, and he has already taken Crimea and roughly half of Ukraine. While some may be skeptical, back in March of 2015, Russia conducted a mock set of invasions that were set on the rather insane and clearly made up idea that the West was trying to physically overthrow Putin and pull off some kind of coup.

In response to this fake threat, the test invasion conducted would have them take away key islandsfrom Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, making it almost impossible for the NATO allies to come to the rescue. While the Russians tried to give a flimsy pretext that it was in response to a Western based attack, that doesn’t really hold water, because the real strategic value of those islands is that it would cut off the Baltic States from NATO. This means that Russia would be able to easily take Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and force them back into the Soviet Union, and it would be almost impossible for NATO to provide any kind of proper support or help. The fact that Russia put so much time and effort into practicing such an attack is troubling, to say the least.

8. With the EU Increasingly Weakening, Russia is in a Stronger Position to Invade Eastern Europe

When the Brexit vote occurred, Putin tried to remain indifferent on the surface, but many experts believe he was very excited. The main thing that stops Putin from taking back the former Soviet States is a strong European Union and a strong NATO, which kind of coincide in a lot of ways right now. Unfortunately, both NATO and the European Union are in historically weak positions, and it seems like that problem is only going to increase as time goes on. With the United Kingdom out of the EU, it is possible more people could leave, and it may be much harder for the Western Europeans to mount any kind of proper defensive support if Putin rolls into Eastern Europe.

This also hurts the sanctions put on him by the United States and the European Union, as the sanctions are only as strong as the united front the countries performing them keep up against the Russians. If the European Union continues to dissolve, Russia will have more negotiating power with individual states, and will find it easy to bully small European countries with their comparatively large economy. In the end, both in terms of potential invasions and in terms of negotiating power, the Russians win big whenever Europe becomes weaker. To make matters worse for the Eastern Europeans, we have a US president who knows little about NATO and campaigned, in part, on it being obsolete (though he’sfinally coming around on its importance), and cares about our agreements to protect small countries even less.

7. Russia Today is Kremlin Controlled and Russian Fake News Propaganda is a Global Machine

President Putin tries to dance around the issue, so it isn’t quite as obvious to everyone, but the truth is that Russia Today might as well be Putin’s personal blog. It is funded, owned and operated by the Kremlin – in other words the Russian government. The government claims that it is not totally government controlled, but Putin also admits that it should kind of be expected that they will say things that are positive about the government and its agenda. While not saying it outright, it is clear the purpose of Russia Today is simply to spread the Kremlin’s propaganda all over the world. It is perhaps one of the most unreliable sources on the planet, but many people who see Russia Today in other countries do not realize just how unreliable it is.

To make matters worse, a lot of fake news regarding the US election was traced right back to Russians, and there is reason to believe many of them were even paid trolls. Despite America’s best efforts to handle its own elections, it is scary to think how easily the Russians have managed to manipulate emotions and decisions simply by posting fake stories. If that wasn’t enough, there is reason to believe that a lot of similar propaganda is being spread in Europe as well, in order to weaken support for the EU and bolster the image of Vladimir Putin around the world.

6. We May Call Putin a Tyrant, but He’s Extremely Popular in Russia

Putin may be a man who is very interested in conquest, and he has some very grand plans. For this reason, many people like to put him in the realm of comic book villain, and look at him as a truly evil individual. While he does support a lot of draconian laws, especially against gay people, the truth is that Russia has always had very fascistic laws and very little freedom. The Russian people are fairly used to hardship, rationing, and not having a particularly strong say in government. When it comes to being a fascist, if anything Putin is lenient compared to some of the leaders of the past. What this means is that while he is dangerous to us, when we act is if he is horrible to the Russian people and posit the possibility of them one day rising up against them, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of our Russian rivals.

We assume that they have the same priorities we do, but they simply don’t. Americans are more concerned with individual freedoms and don’t particularly care about refighting old battles. However, when Putin took back Crimea, it came with a great surge of popularity back home, because he was bringing back a certain amount of Russian pride as well. The Russian people felt stronger, and better to know that Putin was bringing back the old Soviet Union. Many of them now see him not as another politician, but as a transformational figure that has helped bring Russia back to what it once was. Russians still complain about politics and the country in general, but Putin still keeps his approvals in the low 80s, and even watchdogs from other countries believe the polls are at least mostly accurate. We aren’t saying Putin is a nice guy, but it is important to understand the people you are up against. We may not like Putin, but the fact that he is popular at home is not just Russian propaganda.

5. Putin Has Consolidated Power and May Very Well be President for Life

One of the things that makes it harder for a country like Europe or the United States to deal with threats from dictators is that the dictator has the advantage of remaining in power forever, consolidating his holdings, making him capable of carrying out truly long term plans. On the other hand, countries like the USA have regular elections that change our governmental leaders, which means we constantly have to refresh our policies to deal with the latest threats. Every president will have a different idea on how to deal with our foreign enemies or rivals, and that means an entirely new road map. In the meantime, someone like Putin can remain in office for nearly two decades, ensuring he can slowly work on his goals.

Putin was first term limited, then made a new position for himself that was above the president to get that problem out of the way. Then, he managed to become president again after taking care of the pesky term limit issue. And, while he hasn’t said he will run yet, many expect him to run again next year, and with his popularity, it would be hard for him to lose unless something catastrophic happened to Russia to completely tank his poll numbers. And with calls from some within the

Russian government for Vladimir Putin to remain president for life, it seems clear that has been the plan for quite some time now.

4. There’s a Possibility They Have Blackmail Material on the US President

While we know that Donald Trump has business dealings in Russia, which have been the subject of much suspicion and rumor, and that many in his campaign were said to have contacted Russia during the campaign, which has led some to believe that there is far more to the story. According to a dossier of information, much of which is hard to verify, Trump visited Russia as part of a beauty pageant, and while staying in a hotel room, he got up to some antics that were quite risqué and embarrassing. Heallegedly had prostitutes pee on a hotel bed that had once been used by Barack and Michelle Obama.

And according to the dossier, the Russians had been monitoring this room, and now have incredible dirt on Trump. Due to his many business dealings with them, and this blackmail they had, they decided to push him toward politics, and did their best to help him succeed, because they believed that they could use their blackmail to get sanctions lifted or other pro-Russia policies put in place. Of course, there is no proof that this blackmail exists, or that the event occurred as alleged, but the thought that they have blackmail on our president is very troubling. And even if they do not have that kind of blackmail, the fact he once admitted to having a large amount of business dealings with Russia, and would not disclose his taxes, still makes things suspicious for other reasons.

3. The Gay Concentration Camps Currently Operating in Chechnya

Right now in Chechnya, a region which is now part of the Russian Federation, gay people are being rounded up like dangerous animals and either tortured for days on end or killed. These men are being held in what are essentially being described as concentration camps for gay people. Bounties are being paid for gangs of mercenaries to round up gay men wherever they can find them. This includes their homes, secret gay hangout spots, and they will even perform sting operations to find gay people.

There are reports that they are receiving beatings and electric shocks, and are sometimes even being released simply so they can be re-caught for sport, and so that the hunter can double dip on the bounty for the captured gay person. Some are blackmailed and threatened with much worse torture or death if they don’t pay large sums of money – because being gay is illegal in Chechnya, these men are all too eager to agree to avoid even worse punishment. Unfortunately, the only group that really has the power to stop this is the Russian government, and they are denying that there is any purge going on. Considering their knowledge of what happens in their territories, it boggles the mind that they do not know. And when you look at their own reputation when it comes to gay people, the sad truth is that the Kremlin likely understands what is happening and approves of it – gay people are not welcome in Russia.

2. Russia Currently Has the Largest Active Nuclear Stockpile in the World

When most people think of the most powerful nuclear country, they tend to immediately think of the United States. But the truth is that Russia actually has a slightly larger stockpile of nuclear weapons than the US does – this includes both stockpiled warheads and those that are fully operational and ready to go. The United States has close to 7,000 nuclear warheads, but Russia has over 7,000, beating the US by a small margin. They also have about forty more active nuclear warheads than America does, with both countries having close to 2,000 that they are ready to launch. Some may think China is close, but they actually don’t have any operational warheads at the moment. The next closest countries are actually France, with a few hundred, and the United Kingdom, with a little over 100 in terms of operational nuclear weapons.

For this reason alone, Russia has to be respected. With one of the largest economies, areas of sheer territory, and that many nuclear weapons, they are a very strong force to be reckoned with. A ground invasion of Russia has already been proven to be all but impossible, and a serious air battle would lead to them threatening nukes against the US. In the meantime, it is hard to prevent Russia from taking back countries in Eastern Europe without starting some kind of full blown war, or threatening the use of nuclear weapons – an empty threat because we know Russia could respond in kind. Due to being such a strong nuclear power, apart from fighting proxy wars over the ground Russia is trying to occupy, there isn’t a lot we can do to slow them down.

1. Military Service is Compulsory for Young Men, so Nearly All Russian Males Have Military Experience

The Russians are also dangerous because nearly every male of any decent health has at least a few years of military service under his belt. The Russians have made it compulsory for young men between the ages of 18 and 27 to serve in the military so that every capable citizen will be ready if necessary, and also to keep the military strong, full, and well-disciplined at all times. Now, draft dodging is fairly common for this reason, as not everyone wants to join the military, but it can actually be quite hard to do. Without a legitimate medical reason, you often need to pay thousands of dollars for fake documents to forge your way out of it. And you may still be caught and forced into service anyways, especially if you try tricks like staying at a different address than the one you put down officially.

And despite the draft dodgers, this means Russia still has a very, very large portion of its healthy young men learning the ways of the military lifestyle, and how to fight and die for their country if needed. With a percentage of men with military training much higher than that of other countries, they have a very large pool of capable people to pull from if they end up in any extended wars or conflicts spread throughout the world. Some countries near Russia, such as Sweden, have recently added compulsory military service in order to prepare for the potential threat they see coming down the road. The world has to be very watchful of Russia, and those who live in Eastern Europe have the most to fear.


Russia

– Enough Said

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 173

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 173

…Roy Crippen usually avoids questions asked during the chaos of travel, but he cannot resist this shot at a GLOBAL NETWORK news-byte…

Before Roy can ask if he can use that last line in his upcoming speech, the casino doorman has the rear hatch open, unleashing a flood of LED flashes from the waiting photojournalists. Of all the things that are hard for Roy to get used to, this moment is it. The transition from private to public, in the blink of a squinting eye has that movie star feel, when he actually considers himself a director.

Again, his image-shaping partner proves her value. Years in front of camera and mic has prepared her for this time in the sun, making sure it rubs off on Roy, even if it has to be applied daily.

Despite having survived the failure/destruction of Space Colony 1 {and the subsequent loss of two dear friends in the process}, the hard-fought nominating battles, and the withering attention, his demographics are favorable and polling numbers are on course with a bullet.

“Mr. Crippen,” yells an aggressive young female CNN reporter who manages to ace out her more considerate colleagues. “What is your reaction to Sylvia Freelove’s claim that you bullied the President into those deadly attacks on United Korea and Talibanistan?”

Roy usually avoids questions asked during the chaos of travel, but he cannot resist this shot at a GLOBAL NETWORK news-byte.

“To tell you the truth Miss,” the moving mass stops moving to hear his rebuttal, “I had not heard that one and it is that kind of misinformation I am determined to put an end to. Ask the Joint Chiefs if I managed to bully them first?

“And wasn’t it Ms. Freelove’s boss who took all the credit for the idea, only after it was obvious that the United Korean Peninsula was behind the Space Colony calamity? Or that he is leading the charge against Space Colony II? Space Colony II will be a reality when I am elected.”

“Then what about your conciliatory stance toward Korea? I don’t understand the disconnect?”

Candidate Crippen launches into a spontaneous analogy.

“I had/haven’t seen my cousin Harold, a nasty spoiled city boy, who came to visit my family’s house one summer….

… READ THE REST OF ROY’S  HEARTWARMING STORY TOMORROW…


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 173


page 209

Contents TRT

Michael Jackson – The Thriller Handbook

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Thrilling Facts

About Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was a man known for many things, including his music, his pelvis-centric dance moves, and the fact he was able to wear a fedora without looking like an idiot. But a man as complex and unique as the King of Pop could never be summed up with a list of just three things. So here’s a list of 10, starting with …

 10. He Personally Leaked Some of the More Bizarre Stories About Himself

Jackson, in stark contrast with the innocent child-like persona he adopted in public, was a calculating and efficient self-promoter behind the scenes. For example, he is known to have leaked several stories about himself to the press to ensure he continued to receive column inches in the world’s papers when he wasn’t actively making music.

Stories known to have been planted by Jackson himself include the one about him sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to make himself look younger; the news that he’d made a bid to purchase the skeleton of John Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man; and the fact he shared his bathroom with his pet monkey, Bubbles. While these stories undoubtedly gave Jackson unprecedented levels of media coverage, it eventually backfired when the press simply began making stuff up themselves, much to his annoyance. When the British media began referring to Jackson as “Wacko Jacko” he made the conscious and probably wise decision to stop leaking false stories to the news about his personal life.

9. He Wrote All of His Songs With His Voice

Despite being credited as the sole writer on virtually his entire discography and having a hand in the composition of much of the music to his back catalogue of hits, Michael Jackson rather surprisingly had little affinity for music. By this we mean that although Jackson understood how to compose a song, he could neither play an instrument nor read sheet music. To get around this, Jackson would instead compose his songs entirely in his head and then “sing” them to session musicians while recording his albums.

To this end, Jackson carried around a tape recorder with him at all times, and when inspiration struck – whether it be a musical hook or a guitar riff – he’d sing it into the recorder or, in the event of a bassline, beatbox it. Jackson would then layer all these elements together to create what amounted to acapella versions of his songs. Notoriously secretive, few examples of these recordings exist with there being, to our knowledge at least, a single recording of Beat It in which you can hear Jackson demonstrate this. He also demonstrated the technique in court to shut down a plagiarism suit.

As an example of just how talented Jackson was at emulating the sounds of various instruments with his voice, musicians who worked with him reported that he could “sing” chords and layer his voice skillfully enough to eerily replicate an entire string section.

8. He was an Actual King

For a guy known worldwide as The King of Pop, it’s kind of weird that few people ever talk about that time in 1992 when Michael Jackson actually became a real king.

You see, in the early ’90s Jackson embarked on a tour of Africa, during which he encountered a small kingdom on the Ivory Coast called Sanwi. The people of Sanwi were enamored with Jackson and the tribal chief told him that mystics had foretold that the singer was actually a direct descendent of the Sanwi royal bloodline.

So in a small, but nonetheless extravagant ceremony, the nation crowned Jackson King (an official title he had to sign papers to confirm) and even allowed him to sit in a golden throne set aside for royalty. Jackson’s official title was later reduced to Crown Prince, and his kingly duties were taken up by another man, but he was for all intents and purposes considered genuine royalty from that point on. Sanwi even held a royal funeral for him and declared two days of mourning when he died.

As for why you’ve probably never heard this, Jackson simply never talked about it. In an interview with Ebony magazine in 1992, Jackson was humble about his new found status as a king, telling an interviewer asking how it felt to be a real king:

“I never try to think hard about it.”

7. He Earns More Money Dead Than We Will Alive

Now you’d think that being dead would, for most people, put an end to their ability to make money. Employers are notoriously picky when it comes to hiring people who aren’t alive. Michael Jackson is an apparent exception to this rule, being recognized as the highest earning dead celebrity, earning close to a billion dollars in 2016, more than seven years after his death.

Jackson’s ability to earn unbelievably fat stacks of cash despite the normally insurmountable hurdle of being dead is mainly due to sales and licensing of the vast catalogues of music he owned. Along with his estate owning the rights to his own hits and albums, which continue to make millions, Jackson also bought the rights to his favorite songs during his lifetime, so he earned money when people bought those albums, too (most famously, he bought the rights to the Beatles catalogue in 1985, though Sony has since acquired full ownership, including Jackson’s remaining 50% stake last year). We don’t know if that’s smart or just selfish, but either way we’re mad impressed that a skeleton earns more than us thanks to business decisions it made a decade ago. Speaking of Jackson’s skeleton …

6. His Death Broke Google

Like the Moon landing and losing your virginity, the death of Michael Jackson is an event where you remember exactly where you were when it happened. It was a global event that resulted in an almost immediate outpouring of grief. We say almost, of course, because people had to check Google to make sure the news was accurate.

That’s not us being facetious, by the way. According to stats released by Google themselves minutes after news of the singer’s death broke, so many millions of people tried to search his name that it brought the monolithic website to its knees. Yes, Michael Jackson’s death caused so many people to panic and google his name that it broke Google!

Then again, this is hardly surprising given that a few months before his death news of him touring again caused …

 5. People Scalped His Tickets (That Didn’t Exist Yet) for Hundreds on eBay

News of Michael Jackson’s death was partly shocking because it occurred just weeks before he was due to embark on what he insisted was his last ever set of concerts at the London O2 Arena. The aptly named This Is It concert was set to be the singer’s last hurrah, and consisted of 50 straight sold out shows at the same venue, with people flocking from across the world to see it.

Initially the concert only had 10 shows booked, but the instantaneous selling out of tickets and tidal wave of complaints the venue received for not having enough prompted Jackson to schedule 40 more, all of which, again, sold out minutes after tickets going live.

Demand for tickets was such that Jackson’s official website offered fans a chance to enter a pre-sale draw, essentially securing them a chance to purchase a ticket ahead of time so they wouldn’t have to sit on the ticket website the day they were announced and hit refresh over and over. The offer crashed the website, with a reported 16,000 people trying to apply for the draw every second for several hours.

This unprecedented level of enthusiasm saw people who managed to secure a place in the pre-sale draw able to sell their tickets (which didn’t exist yet) on eBay for upwards of $500 a piece. Then again, it’s not surprising people were so keen to see Jackson perform considering he once …

4. Danced the Moonwalk So Hard Fred Astaire Called to Congratulate Him

Though he didn’t necessarily invent the Moonwalk (the genesis of the move is traced back to dancer Cab Calloway, and is thought to have been perfected by mime Marcel Marceau), he is arguably the person who showed the world just how cool it could look to see a man effortlessly glide backwards like he was just pushed onto a greased air hockey table.

Jackson reportedly learned the move from a pair of dancers named Casper Candidate and Cooley Jaxson, whom he saw perform it on the show Soul Train while sporting dangerously awesome afros. Jackson perfected the dance move and debuted his enhanced version atMotown 25 to a visibly and audibly shocked crowd who couldn’t believe what in the hell they were seeing.

Sitting at home watching the show was an 84-year-old Fred Astaire who, upon seeing Jackson glide across the stage, picked up his phone and called him to gush over how amazing it was. Jackson, a massive fan of Astaire’s, fanboyed down the phone for several minutes before quickly rushing to a nearby bathroom and vomiting in excitement.

3. The Glove was to Hide a Skin Condition

Few artists have a “look” as well defined and iconic as Michael Jackson’s. Everything from his pimpin’ fedora to his needlessly high socks have become ingrained in pop-culture as integral parts of the Jackson mythos. Arguably his singular most defining item of clothing though was his single glove.

Custom made by the same guy who made the gloves for Kate Winslet in Titanic, Jackson’s sported many different styles of gloves over the years. While many assumed that glove was simply for style, because it admittedly does look pretty fly, according to those close to Jackson it was actually used to hide the early stages of vitiligo (a disease which caused the skin to change color and often starts with unsightly blotches on the hands and feet).

While this became somewhat unnecessary in later years as Jackson’s skin tone changed from a deep chocolate, to a creamy mocha, to that of anemic skim milk, the glove was nonetheless an important tool used by the singer to hide something he felt self-conscious about.

2. He Composed an Unknown Amount of the Soundtrack for Sonic 3

Released in 1994, many fans of the blue hedgehog consider Sonic 3 to be one of the best games in the series, partly because it lets you play as Knuckles and partly because that soundtrack though. Well for any fans of the game, you may be pleased to know that Michael Jackson had a hand in creating it, though exactly how much is hotly debated.

The story goes that during development, Sega brought in Jackson to compose the soundtrack for the game, a move that was seen as being in no way weird in the ’90s. Shortly after production on the game began, though, the first allegations of child abuse were leveled at Jackson, prompting Sega to distance themselves from the artist. Today the company denies Jackson had anything to do with the game or its music.

This doesn’t exactly fit with other reports, though, which claim that Jackson had a direct hand in creating a number of tracks for the game, but ultimately became frustrated with the limited range of the sound chip in the Sega Genesis, leaving the project of his own volition. As a result the extent of Jackson’s involvement with Sonic 3 isn’t clear, but for anyone curious, the songs often thought to be the ones most likely to have been composed by Jackson, at least in part, are Carnival Night Zone, Hydrocity Zone, and Ice Cap Zone.

1. He Promised to Write a No. 1 Single… for Bart Simpson

Michael Jackson was a massive fan of The Simpsons, famously lending his voice to the episode “Stark Raving Dad“, which features a man who delusionally thinks he’s Michael Jackson, voiced by… erm… Michael Jackson.

It’s noted that Jackson personally reached out to the staff of the show to ask for a bit part and took his role extremely seriously, taking part in line readings with the rest of the cast and refusing the use of a special trailer set aside for him. During his time with the Simpsons staff, Jackson explained to Matt Groening that Bart was his favorite character and that he wanted to write the troublesome 10 year old a number 1 hit single. Groening laughed, assuming Jackson was joking. He wasn’t joking.

 Jackson, true to his word, went home and composed the basic idea for the song, Do The Bartman, a rap single from the point of view of Bart Simpson. Due to contractual obligations with his label at the time, Jackson had to remain uncredited as a composer, but went against his label’s stipulations and performed back vocals to the track because it’s not like anyone was going to believe the King of Pop would slum it with the voice cast of cartoon. Jackson, seemingly just because he could, also got Bart to namedrop him in the song he was singing in for no apparent reason. Sadly for Jackson the song never became a number one hit in the US, only topping the charts in territories like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Though that’s mostly because it was never actually released as a single in the States.

Michael Jackson

– The Thriller Handbook

Trash Television – WIF Critique

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Pioneers of

Trash Television

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Tabloid television, or as critics refer to it, “Trash TV,” is made up of abrasive talk shows that set up confrontations and consciously try to be controversial and shocking. Despite being panned for their lowbrow nature and appealing to the lowest common denominator, tabloid talk shows have struck a chord with television audiences and have been popular for the past 50 years.

10. Phil Donahue

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1957, Phil Donahue went to work at a radio station in Cleveland. In 1963, he started one of the first radio talk shows, and in 1967 tried his hand at television with The Phil Donahue Show(later shortened to Donahue). His talk show format, which was targeted at “women who think,” was radical at the time because a big part of the show involved interacting with the studio audience. Audience members were able to ask questions or talk with guests and Donahue was more of a moderator than traditional talk show host. In 1972, the show went into national syndication and became hugely popular, forever changing the landscape of talk shows. For the first nine years it was on, Donahue won nine Daytime Emmys for Best Talk Show Host.

The show had rather taboo topics for the time; for example, the first guest on the show was an atheist. But it also covered other topics that were considered taboo, but in hindsight, were rather important to talk about, like women’s health. Donahue managed to stay on the air for almost 30 years, before getting cancelled in 1996. The problem was that the imitators of Donahue were willing to be more outrageous than him, and people simply weren’t watching his show anymore. Donahue went into retirement until July 2002, when MSNBC resurrected Donahue, but it was cancelled after eight months due to poor ratings.

9. Sally Jessy Raphael

After getting her degree in broadcasting from Columbia, Raphael (whose real name is Sally Lowenthal), went to work in Puerto Rico as a correspondent. After that, she came back to the United States to work in broadcasting. Over the course of three years, she was fired 18 times and she, her three children, and her husband/manager moved around a lot, sometimes sleeping in their car. In 1969, she finally landed steady work as both a morning anchor and an afternoon radio newscaster in Miami. In 1976, she moved to New York, where her popularity started to grow with audiences nationwide with her radio call-in show.

When Raphael was filling in as a substitute for a daytime talk show host in Cleveland, she caught the attention of Phil Donahue’s producer. He gave Raphael a chance with her own half hour talk show located in St. Louis. The Sally Jessy Raphael Show went on the air on October 17, 1983, and within six months, the show became nationally syndicated. She was a pioneer for women in the talk show industry, helping pave the way for the likes of Oprah (whose show debuted the following year).

Raphael, whose trademark red framed glasses became instantly recognizable, was known for taking a liberal stance on many topics like homosexuality, abortion, and premarital sex. This, of course, did not sit well with conservatives during the Reagan era. In the end, Raphael stayed on the air until 2002, when her show was cancelled.

8. Jenny Jones

In 1991, when The Jenny Jones Show went on the air, the daytime talk show circuit was pretty crowded. The host, Jenny Jones, was a comedian who became famous for her Girl’s Night Out comedy act that banned men from coming in. When the show started, Jones explained that it would be “part pajama party, part group therapy, part Oprah.” But, like many shows of the 1990s, after two years of low ratings, the show started to push the envelope. They started doing paternity tests, confronted bullies, and revealed secret crushes. While the show wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it was pioneering for an event that happened because of the show. It was a collision of “it’s only television” and the fact that the guests on tabloid shows are real people.

The controversial show was recorded on March 6, 1995, and was called “Same Sex Secret Crushes.” On the show, a gay man named Scott Amedure told an associate, Jonathan Schmitz, that he had a crush on him. Schmitz went on the show knowing he had a secret admirer, but was led to believe that it was a woman. At the time, Schmitz didn’t seem to be upset by the news, but said he wasn’t gay himself. That night, Amedure, Schmitz, and a mutual friend drank together. The friend claimed that after the taping, Amedure and Schmitz had a sexual encounter, but Schmitz denies that. Three days later, they were back home and Schmitz found a sexually suggestive letter from Amedure. After finding the letter, Schmitz bought a shotgun, went to Amedure’s house and shot him twice in the chest, killing him. In a 911 call, Schmitz blamed the show for the murder. After the murder, the episode was never aired.

At Schmitz’s trial, it was revealed he had a history of mental illness. He was given 25-50 years in 1996. Amedure’s family also sued The Jenny Jones Show and were awarded $25 million in 1999. The show was canceled in 2001, and Jones now hosts a cooking show.

7. Maury Povich

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in television journalism, Maury Povich started working as a reporter and newscaster in Washington, DC. In 1986, he became the host of a new tabloid news show, A Current Affair. Then in 1991, Povich got his first chance at hosting his own talk show, The Maury Povich Show, which ran for seven years. During that time, the climate of tabloid television was changing drastically and shows were given the choice: either follow the flow and dumb the show down, or lose in the ratings. Maury chose to devolve and the show, now just called Maury, re-launched in 1998 with thefirst show being “Who’s Your Daddy?” The use of DNA results would be one of their most common and popular shows. Other shows often feature lie detector tests, makeovers, possessive men, and wild teens.

Since changing the format, Maury has been a staple of the daytime talk show circuit and Povich is a pop culture icon, known for his famous expression when announcing the results of the paternity test. One of the most mind blowing things about Maury is that he was born in 1939, meaning that as he heads into the show’s 18th season in the fall of 2015, he will be 76-years-old.The show was renewed in 2014 for four more years.

6. Chuck Barris

Chuck Barris got his start in television in 1960 as the assistant to American Bandstand host Dick Clark. In 1965, Barris borrowed $20,000 from his stepfather and produced a pilot for his show The Dating Game. The game show involved a bachelor or bachelorette, who would ask three eligible single people behind a wall a series of question. The contestant would then pick one of them, and they would go on some elaborate date together. The show aired on December 20, 1965, on ABC and it was an instant hit. The next year, Barris made a show to pair with The Dating Gamecalled The Newlywed Game, where newly married couples were asked questions to see how much they knew about each other. It was also a big hit.

But the show that Barris struck trash gold with was The Gong Show in 1976. It was a “talent” show that was hosted by Barris himself. The premise of the show was that people performed an act for three celebrity judges. If the performance got to be unwatchable, a judge could bang a large gong to put an end to the act. One very notable controversy happened in 1978 when two 17-year-old girls came out, sat crossed legged on the floor andvery suggestively ate a popsicle. No one rang the gong, but two out of the three judges gave them low marks. Singer and actress Jaye P. Morgan gave them 10 out of 10, saying that was how she got started as well.

While The Gong Show was not a tabloid talk show like the other shows on this list, it was revolutionary in the fact that it used people that really didn’thave any talent. Many people went on the show and completely made fools of themselves in front of a national audience. This idea would of course be mined later for tabloid shows that would come later, not to mention shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent.

Barris also published an autobiography called Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he claimed that the entire time he was a television producer, he was also a CIA hitman. The book was adapted into a film in 2002, directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris.

5. Geraldo Rivera

Brooklyn native Geraldo Rivera got a law degree in 1969, but instead of entering the legal profession, he became a TV news reporter for New York’s WABC-TV. His breakout moment was in 1972, when he did an exposé on abuse against mentally disabled children at the Willowbrook School on Staten Island. From there, he went on to be a contributor for national news programs before joining 20/20 in 1978. He would only stay there for two years before he was fired over a disagreement about a story.

In 1987, Rivera got his own talk show, Geraldo, and it quickly gained notoriety for its controversial topics and guests. The most notable incident happened on November 3, 1988, on a show called “Teen Hatemongers.” On the heated show, a young man named John Metzger, who was the leader of the White Aryan Resistance Youth and the son of infamous white supremacist Tom Metzger, insulted Roy Innis, an African American man who was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality. Metzger said, “I’m sick and tired of Uncle Tom here, sucking up and trying to be a white man.” So Innis stood up, walked over and strangled Metzger. This led to a brawl where chairs were thrown and Geraldo’s nose was brokenduring the melee. When asked about the incident, Geraldo said that if there was ever a time for violence, that was it.

The brawl made national headlines and also gave the ratings a huge boost, because news of the brawl was made public before the episode aired. This brawl would of course lay the foundation for another, very controversial show just years later. And yes, we’ll get to that one soon enough. Geraldowas cancelled in 1998 and he is currently a contributor to Fox News.

4. Les Crane

After graduating from Tulane University and serving in the Air Force, Les Crane started off his career in broadcasting in the early 1960s as one ofthe first “shock jocks” on the radio. While tame by today’s standards, Crane would take calls from all over the West Coast of the United States and had no problem insulting and dismissing certain callers’ points of view; even going as far to hang up on some of them.

In 1963, Night Line… With Les Crane, later changed to The Les Crane Show, was first broadcast on ABC, at the 1:00 a.m. time slot. On the show, Crane was confrontational with guests that he didn’t agree with, but he also was pretty hip and cutting edge. For example, he was the first host in the United States to interview the Rolling Stones, and when Bob Dylan was 23-years-old, he appeared on the show and performed three songs. Crane also interviewed Randy Wicker, the first openly gay male on television. He also had some provocative newsmakers like Malcolm X, Governor George Wallace, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Crane’s show was popular, and in June 1965, he was moved up to 11:30 p.m. to compete against Johnny Carson. Crane, who was just 30 at the time, never really found an audience and was cancelled just a few months later. After losing to Carson, Crane tried another talk show (which also failed), and had some small acting parts. In 1980, he became the chairman of a successful computer software company called Software Toolworks, and passed away at the age of 74 in July 2008.

3. Joe Pyne

Joe Pyne served in World War II, and an injury led to part of his leg being amputated. In 1954, he got his start in television and by 1964, his television show was syndicated in 84 cities. On top of that, his hour long radio show was syndicated in 450 cities.

On his show, Pyne would chain smoke behind a news desk, not unlike Edward R. Murrow, but instead of asking questions, Pyne would actively look for confrontation and often found it. Pyne was one of the first people on TV to argue from his own viewpoint instead of being unbiased, which led to him openly insulting his guests while being cheered on by his studio audience. As for his guests, he would find the most extreme and outrageous people of the day, like the head of the Church of Satan or a man who had been married 17 times. As for why Pyne would argue with his guests, he said that he didn’t respect anyone who would agree to be on his show. We’re not sure if he was including himself in that statement, of course.

Pyne’s show ran until November 1969, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at the age of 45 on March 23, 1970.

2. Morton Downey Jr.

In the fall of 1987, a new talk show aired on a local TV station in Secaucus, New Jersey. The show was similar to what Sally Jessy Raphael and Phil Donahue were doing, but the host was a combination of Les Crane and Joe Pyne. That man was 55-year-old Morton Downey Jr.: a chain smoking right winger who screamed, swore, and even got physical with his guests. The show was popular locally and went national a year later. The Morton Downey Jr. Show became a huge hit, mainly because Downey was loud, belligerent, and unapologetic. In fact, the show’s logo was a big mouth. Downey justified his show saying that yelling and confrontation was how a lot of Americans were raised.

When Downey had a guest on his show that he disagreed with (which was many of them), he would scream and blow cigarette smoke in their face while he was cheered on by his near rabid studio audience, which he called “The Beast.” Downey was completely open about his hostility to immigrants, gays, feminists and anyone with liberal leanings.

One notable guest that Downey had on many times was Al Sharpton, who made a name for himself on the show. An interesting story involving Downey and Sharpton was the case of Tawana Brawley. She was a black teenager, who was found wrapped in a plastic bag on the roadside in New York State in November 1987. Someone had written racial epitaphs on her body and she was covered in feces. She claimed she had been raped by a group of white officers. Her story made national headlines when Sharpton took up her cause. Downey confronted Sharpton over the validity of the story, and it turned out Brawley had set the whole thing up.

This story would prove to be important in the downfall of Downey, which started in 1989. It was hard booking guests for the show, because no one wanted to go on a show where they would be yelled at and insulted by Morton while he was being cheered on. It was great for the audience; not so much for the guests. In the summer of 1989, in a desperate attempt for ratings, Downey hosted a show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he had a group of white supremacists “debate” representatives of the African American community (it was more of a screaming match than debate). A short time later, in San Francisco, Downey was found in a bathroom stall in an airport with a bruise on his face, his hair cut, and swastikas drawn on him with felt markers. Downey claimed that a group of skinheads attacked him. He even passed a polygraph, but all evidence indicated that Downey faked the attack. His show was cancelled shortly afterwards and a year later, he filed for bankruptcy.

In 1996, Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer and he immediately changed his stance on smoking, becoming a spokesperson for the American Lung Association. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 68. Downey is also the subject of the documentary Évocateur.

1. Jerry Springer

We’ve hinted at him through the whole list, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Jerry Springer is number one. The man is synonymous with trash television, and he seemingly embraces being king of rock bottom.

Born on February 13, 1944, to parents who escaped the Holocaust, Springer came to the United States when he was five-years-old. By 1968, he had his Juris Doctor, and that’s when he met Robert Kennedy, who was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shortly after the meeting, Springer started working on Kennedy’s campaign, but a few months after joining, Kennedy was assassinated.

Working with Kennedy encouraged Springer to get into politics. He ran for Congress in Ohio, but lost. In 1971, he won a seat on the Cincinnati city council, where he served for five terms. He even survived a sex scandal in 1974 when it was discovered that he had been with a prostitute (he paid with a personal check). In 1977, he became the youngest mayor in Cincinnati’s history. After losing the election for governor of Ohio in 1982, he was approached by a number of television stations to do a talk show.

In 1991, The Jerry Springer Show debuted and, at first, it covered political topics. Then in 1994, in order to boost ratings, a new producer from the tabloid The Weekly World News was brought in to adjust the show. Springer’s new premise was simple: bring out someone, have them reveal a secret, and then let the guests physically fight each other. The show was a hit and a cultural phenomenon for being so outrageous. In May 1998,The Jerry Springer Show became the number one show in the May sweeps, putting an end to Oprah’s 10 year run on top. The show was so popular, it even led to a horrible movie and an opera. Astonishingly, it also managed to lead to a talk show for Springer’s large, bald, and popular security guard on the show, Steve Wilkos (of course, the fact that Wilkos married Springer’s executive producer in 2000 probably helped him land his own show, too).

In 1999, the show was forced to stop showing violence. It was during this time that violence on TV was a hot button issue in the wake of the Columbine shooting. Yet, the show remained popular and is still on the air. The ban on violence seems to have been lifted and it’s as raunchy and trashy as it’s ever been. It is scheduled to be on the air until at least 2018.


Trash Television

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– WIF Critique

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

…Attention everyone, I would like to propose a toast… raise your glasses as I salute our Director Roy Crippen and Channel 13’s own Francine Bouchette!”

Image result for a toast artwork

Separately and together, she and he play it oh-so-kool, willing to allow randomness to take its course.

To anyone with two eyes and a television, they had been captured on video holding hands; the tension is thick and juicy.

braceT LFTWhispers:“Why aren’t they talking?” “I thought they liked each other.” “At bracket rt least they can talk to each other.”

In-house wagering is going on among the adults, “I have 50 bucks that says they will not talk.. any takers?” Just one of the side bets.

The master of ceremonies takes matters in his own hands, “Attention everyone, before Deke & Gus open their gifts, and I take the ribs off the grill, I would like to propose a toast… raise your glasses as I salute the two real celebrities among us—my apologies to any movie stars or sitting Presidents—To our Director Roy Crippen and Channel 13’s own Francine Bouchette!”

“C-H-E-E-R-S! Here – here! Salud!” come from all around from every side as the toasted make their way forward.

Whispers (he & she):“There are lots of people here.” “Yes there are and so many gifts.” “I didn’t expect to see you here.” “I had to file that story, I hope you know that.” “Of course you did, and I imagine my impulsiveness caught you off guard.”

13d01-6a00d8341cb55f53ef010536ace89f970b-800wiFrancine, in her big girl voice, “No need for you to apologize Roy what happened to us was perfectly natural.”

“Had I known you were engaged that would have never happened,” counters Roy.

“You were every bit the gentleman and I did not offer any résistance.”

“I am in some hot water over this whole mess, maybe you should keep your distance.”be5e8-6a00d8341cb55f53ef0120a604af2c970c-800wi

“Do you think I’m worried about my association with you? Bring it on fools!”


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 90

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 90

…And then there is the inconvenient reality of her VP fiancée, who is probably worried sick, period, without knowing about what is going on between the TV Newswoman and the NASA Colony Mission Director…

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Right now (Braden King) he feels like 80. —

— As would Roy Crippen had he not found himself half-passed out on his office couch, next to Francine, who is showing no signs of wanting to leave. She is obviously preoccupied by the concept of how she ever ended up so “close” to the space program. Conversely, for the first time since breaking 200 MPH whilst speeding away from her native Houston, the 10 o’clock newscast she bolted from crosses her mind. Her newly acquired sense of four-letter loyalty has shifted from KHST to NASA, in addition to that deviant stance, she doesn’t feel at all guilty about not having a camera crew along for the station’s {and her career} enrichment.

In fact, her television chores have also occurred to Roy, “Aren’t you going to file a
report to KHST Channel 13 Houston’s News Source?”

“Thank you for that proper station ID,” she forms her real response carefully, if not unenthusiastically. “I suppose I should.” And then there is the inconvenient reality of her VP fiancée, who is probably worried sick, period, without knowing about what is going on between the TV Newswoman and the NASA Colony Mission Director.

For Roy, whose mind never rests anyway, has been doing some thinking, you know, about mortality and bachelorhood. He has noticed the Francine’s transformation from selfish career person to Mamma’s every prayer for a daughter-in-law.

“Francine…….I’ve been kicking something around.” That is an understatement considering the drastic implications for her.the-right-words-001

“What???” She had been in a trance of her own.

“Well……,” he stutters, stumbles, and skirts the issue, “…throughout my years at NASA, both in the air and here with the Space Colony project, I feel there is a void, when it comes to a public presence, that one authoritative voice; someone with your media flair and experience that can deal with situations like we had today.”

Francine thinks she knows what he means, but does not lead him forward, fearing how she would respond.

“Heck,” his Southern drawl breaking in, “for as long as I can remember, it has always been ‘good ol’ Roy’ plunked in front of cameras and microphones and not to nasa (1)thrilled about it.

“No offense, but I’m not a big fan of you press people, although at first the attention was nice enough. But now it is a hassle and it is taking me off-course from my real job.”

“Sure, sure, you want someone else to be the face of failure.”

“Failure, I’m not so sure. We have only scratched the surface of what caused the Colony to go down.”

“I have not seen a single member of the press, not that pompous ass from Channel 5 or anyone from FOX or REUTERS and if they were here they would be asking a millions ignorant questions and some poor sucker here at CMC would have spilled their guts and piss you off.”

Roy is taken aback by Francine’s callous bluntness, and he hasn’t even asked the question.


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

…All of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in on Space Colony or not…

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Francine’s shiny sports car sits conspicuously close to the entrance of the station, where lighting is brighter and security tighter, for her new four-wheeled two-seater. For the first time in the Chevy’s 550 mile life, its 2031 Model Corvette rear tires lay down matching black stripes on a paved surface, through gears 1 & 2. She uses every side-street-shortcut available, ignoring some red lights and praising the cooperating green ones. Her biggest roadblock is the exit/entrance ramp from the South Sam Houston Tollway, those damned tolls are always backed up on the weekends.

Related imageAs expected the lanes are stuffed with Houstonian peons, but the far right lane is closed for maintenance. Risking scratches to the Honeysuckle Red Fiberglass frontend, she plows through the gate, leaving the metal breakaway logjam in her wake.

The dusty display of driving catches the eye of a Tollway officer, who stands pointing an accusing finger at the violator whose picture has been taken and there will be a price to pay. The scornful look on his face produces momentary guilt from Francine, for 2 meaningless seconds, and then she is back laying rubber as she jumps on the 45, watching the speedometer leap past 100 in two-shakes of an angry man’s finger

Once on the Interstate she finds it free of southbound traffic, free to focus her memory on the mysterious Arabic caller that started these present events in motion. This went down in such rapid succession that she was afraid that some important detail would fall through the cracks of awareness.

The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal, now an international big deal, was the wide exposure she had fallen into. Her name is on more tongues tonight than in any single Texan year in the last 10 and her agent is probably on the phone with news directors in the #2 & #1 markets, if not network television.

Related imageAll of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in or not. For the second time today, Francine steps back to examine her soul, wondering just what has come over her. The “values” transformation is in direct opposition of everything she had become up to January day into night.

Pre-disaster Francine was a bitter person, so caught up in vanity that she never learned how to relate with all people, not just the important ones. Her idea of intimacy was to string along a poor sucker local TV broadcast exec, allowing him to think he had a future with a “trophy” catch.


THE RETURN TRIP

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