Maybe NBC Should Hire Some Guys in Pajamas

Is NBC the most inept media organization?  How about their botched announcement of the death of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield. The Daily Show better have a field day with this:

Screen capture of NBC's first bulletin

Not the only place it appeared in NBC world:

I think NBC gets this week’s Brian Ross Award for brain-dead reporting.

More to the point of the real story, many of our readers will be of just the right age to be not quite old enough to recall where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but old enough to have watched and recall the second most significant event of the 1960s–when Armstrong put that first footstep on the surface of the moon.  At the time it was easy to suppose that this was but the first step in a long series of milestones in space travel.  I’m sure everyone thought we’d have gone to Mars by the year 2012, and more to the point, you could certainly be excused for thinking that the moon landing somehow meant that we’d all live forever.  We long ago faced up to the difficulty–and expense (a place where “astronomical” is the correct adjective)–of further space adventures, and Neil Armstrong’s passing today reminds us that mortality is not to be conquered either.

By the way, I can’t help but recall that liberals, who had begun the moon program under John F. Kennedy, had turned against it by the time of Armstrong’s first steps in 1969.  Here’s how I recalled it in Volume 1 of The Age of Reagan:

The reaction to the moon landing in 1969 is a good example of national exhaustion and liberal guilt at work.  The moon landing had been set out as a lofty goal by the liberals’ hero, John F. Kennedy, and the moon landing was an occasion of national pride and celebration for most Americans.  Here, amidst the rubble and gloom of the 1960s, was something that had gone splendidly right.  Many leading liberals, however, could only sniff that while the moon landing was undeniably impressive, the money for the moon landing would have been better spent on social problems on Earth.  The popular cliché of the time went: “Any nation that can land a man on the moon can [fill in the blank].”  (The total cost of the decade-long moon landing project was less than three months’ worth of federal spending for social programs in 1969.)  A 25 person delegation from the Poor People’s Campaign, led by Rev. Ralph Abernathy (Martin Luther King’s successor), came to the Apollo 11 launch at Cape Canaveral “to protest America’s inability to choose human priorities,” while Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said that “The needs of the people on earth, and especially in this country, should have priority.  When we solve these problems, we can consider space efforts.”  Even the brother of the man who issued the call to go to the moon, Sen. Ted Kennedy, expressed weariness with the space program: “I think after [the moon landing] the space program ought to fit into our other national priorities.”

And then, of course, there was Gil Scott Heron.

In any case, RIP Neil Armstrong.

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