Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proof of Our Shallow Media

The favourite cry of conservative-minded folks is that there is a "liberal bias" in the media. I actually took a Media in Politics course at Brigham Young University, which is not known to be among those "liberal, elite universities." In fact, BYU, is quite conservative. However, most of the political science professors were moderate, Independents, or even Democrats. There were a couple of Republican poli sci professors, but they were in the minority. When I asked my journalist-major roommate in D.C. why he thought the poli sci department was more liberal or moderate than the rest of the university, he said that its because when you study a topic or issue in depth, ideology does not generally answer the questions or fit the facts. There's a joke among progressives that "reality has a liberal bias."

What I learned in the Media in Politics class, as well as some other poli sci classes and during my internship in D.C., is that the charge that the media has a "liberal bias" is not so innocent as it seems. Its actually more of a taunt. When a conservative person does not like what's being reported in the news, they'll accuse the media of having a "liberal bias." In an effort to appear "fair and balanced", the media will bend over backwards to accomodate the conservative view. We saw this in 2000, when candidate George W. Bush was handled with kid gloves (remember those deep investigative reports about his DUI, AWOL, and bankruptcies? Neither does anyone else!) while candidate Al Gore's exaggerated boasts were picked to death (remember Love Canal, Love Story, and inventing the Internet? Of course you do!). So, with each taunt, the media bends over backwards (or just bends over, period, to get dicked by Cheney) for conservatives while asking the tough questions of Democratic candidates.

You can see this skewed process during the lead up to the war in Iraq. The media basically reported the script given them by George W. Bush and company. Waving flags were added to the logo at the scroll on the bottom of the screen. Media personalities like Katie Couric gush about how Navy SEALs "rock!" as they talk about their ability to kill the enemy. Guests on pundit talk shows are either highly decorated military officers to argue the pro-war point of view or Hippies who look like they stepped out of a time machine from 1968 to argue the anti-war point of view. What message does that send? Military brass are official looking and serious, while the hippies are to be laughed at for being out of touch with the times.

If the media was really liberal, more American would have heard about Noam Chomsky and know his viewpoints. Does anyone know who Noam Chomsky is? Not likely. Only those who frequent true liberal media websites (such as Common Dreams, Truthout, or Counterpunch) or buy books from independent bookstores are likely to be familiar with him. Anytime our nation goes to war, Noam Chomsky needs to be consulted for his opinion, but the mainstream media won't go near him. Why not? Because his views are considered too dangerous for the corporate media to give exposure to for the average American.

In these poli sci classes I took at BYU, I learned that the point of accusing the media of having a "liberal bias" is to keep them in the conservative framework. As we can see in the Noam Chomsky example, there is a line where the media will not cross regarding ideas that carry the liberal viewpoint. Because of this skewering of our political system to be on the right side of the spectrum, what Teabaggers claim as "radical liberalism" (as in socialism and communism) would not even be considered liberal in most European countries. As I learned from a Brit, President Obama would be considered a Conservative Party member. True liberals, like the late great Ted Kennedy, would be the Labour Party Member of Parliament. So, whenever I hear a Teabagger dismiss some newstory because of what they believe is a "liberal bias", I can't help but think how moronic they are.

To use my aunt as an example, last year during the family reunion centered on my sister's wedding, CNN happened to be on TV. Anderson Cooper had a feature story about a recent rise in murders of black youth in Chicago. As I watched it, my aunt started complaining about the "liberal bias" and just going on and on about it. She was so disgusted that she had to leave the room. Where was the "liberal bias" in a special report about the murder of black teens in Chicago? The Fox Propaganda Network had her trained so well. She is so thoroughly indoctrinated with the belief that non-Fox news channels all have a "liberal bias" and thus can't be relied upon (while Fox lies with regular pathological impunity). It wasn't so much the story Anderson Cooper was talking about than the CNN logo on the screen, which every Fox viewer knows stands for "Communist News Network."

My aunt did make me laugh when she watched Stephen Colbert and found herself agreeing with everything he said! She did not understand that it was satire, making fun of conservatives through exaggerated conservative viewpoints. She thought he was real!

Here's the real truth about the media. It is neither liberal nor conservative (except for Fox, which is really the propaganda arm of the Republican Party). The media is CORPORATE. It's all about what sells newspapers, magazines, and grabs your eyeballs. If the media was liberal, Sarah Palin would have disappeared into obscurity after the 2008 election. The fact that she commands so much attention and is talked about as a serious candidate for president in 2012 (when no other politician who quit mid-term for no convincing reason would ever be taken seriously again) is evidence that the media is corporate and shallow. Does anyone really believe that she would get as much attention as she has for the past two years if she looked like Roseanne Barr?

For much of the past year, and almost obsessively for the past few weeks, the media has focused on the expected Republican take-over of the House of Representatives. Some are calling it a tidal wave, others a tsunami. HELLO! The votes aren't in yet! We will know in a week what the American people decide. Until then, it doesn't make sense to spend so much time on the expected losses the Democrats are expected to have and what Obama will do with a Republican Congress (if such a fate were to happen, I hope that Obama Girl will be no where near the White House!). Obama better just keep it in his pants, because as we learned in the past dozen of years, lying about war gets a president a pass, but lying about a sexual affair gets one impeached.

I'm annoyed by much of the media's obsession with "the horse race" instead of real issues. If America was an enlightened country that our Founding Fathers had hopes it would one day become, there is no way candidates like Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Jan Brewer, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, or Meg Whitman would even be taken seriously. Their extremist views and pride in being ignorant would never get these people past a job interview. Why are our standards of public office so low? Don't these Teabaggers who like someone who is ignorant just like them realize that they are paying taxes to employ these ignorant politicians to represent them (or more likely, the corporations that fund them)? What about voting for the best, brightest, and most experienced? Being pretty is not a reason to vote for someone. What are we, back in high school? The United States Senate is not student council! If you want to see Palin or O'Donnell, then give 'em a reality show. Oops, Palin did exactly that.

Here's an example of the ludicrous nature of our shallow media. Comedian and former host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, Bill Maher released clips of Christine O'Donnell after she shocked the political system when she received more votes than Congressman Mike Castle, who was expected to walk a promotion to the U.S. Senate (formerly held by current Vice President Joe Biden). Most of America knows about her views that masturbation is adultery, that she had dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager, and that she doesn't believe in evolution because monkeys aren't evolving in front of our eyes. But do they know about the more disturbing, and more relevant, part of her story: she hasn't had a real job in years, her personal finances are a mess, and despite her claims of being a "Constitution expert", she was laughed at by an auditorium full of Law School students at a recent debate when she had to ask what the three Amendments were about that the moderater had asked her to discuss.

The right wing showed its true and consistent distortion when news circulated that Democratic candidate Chris Coons had called himself a "bearded Marxist" as a college student. The truth is that Coons had written an essay that was published in his college's newspaper in the mid-1980s. I read the essay online and my respect for him shot through the roof. I had never heard of this guy before (because I'm not up on my Delaware politics!) and I'm thinking of sending him my resume after election day. In the essay, he wrote that he was a Reagan Republican as a young man. During his college years, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Kenya, which transformed his life (wow--yet another person whose life was transformed in Africa. I had the same transformative experience in South Africa as a young man).

He returned to the U.S. questioning everything he had been taught and struggled to make sense of his experience as it relates to his privileged upbringing in the U.S. He wrote in the essay that his friends wondered about their friend who came back a "bearded Marxist." In the essay, it is obvious to anyone with a reading comprehension that Coons was attributing that quote to his friends. He did not consider himself to be that. I've been called a "Commie" by others since the first grade. People who know me know that I'm not a communist, but I find amusement in the "Commie" moniker and sometimes joke about it. Gosh, if I ever run against a Teabagger for political office, they are going to have so much ammunition to take my words out of context to use against me. I'd love to run against a conservative Republican for political office someday. That is one of my many dreams.

Seen above is Chris Coons with President Obama. When Coons wins the Delaware seat next week, I'm sure we will hear more about him because of the way conservatives (like Glenn Beck) are trying to create a web of conspiracy around Obama's "secret Muslim agenda." They are going to use the Kenya connection between the two men to try and show that Kenya is trying to infiltrate the highest levels of government by having "The Mombassa Candidate" in the White House and in the U.S. Senate.

I definitely want to meet Coons someday. Heck, I'd love to work in his office. I will likely send him a resume and cover letter after he wins. Its a long shot to get hired, but I really like his background, especially how he was transformed by his experience in Kenya. There is something about traveling overseas that changes a person. I learned this at my last job, as the people I got along best with have all traveled overseas while those I did not get along with have never been out of the country, or in some cases, out of the region. The church member I recently de-friended on Facebook is one such person that I believe NEEDS to have a foreign experience. I believe that if he experienced what true tyranny looks like, he will realize how much of a blessing his life has been to be born in the U.S. But he doesn't want to leave the country because he refuses to have a passport and won't likely be allowed back in the country. Whatever.

Pictured above is a scene that has been gaining steam in the news. A MoveOn protestor was pushed to the ground at a Rand Paul event in Kentucky and the foot you see on the lady's back belongs to an overzealous Paul supporter. In video footage, his foot can be seen pressing down on the woman's face. It looked like she had a pillow around her head while he was stepping down, but its still pretty bad.

Jack London wrote about the heel of a boot stepping on the face of a person. This is the perfect image of fascism, which I believe is the underlying danger of the Teabagger movement. The signs are disturbing. Bullying, ignorance, anger, blind ideology, racism, and character assassination. How much more evidence do we need to realize the dangers of fascism that Teabaggers seem to be flirting with?

That a Rand Paul supporter saw nothing wrong with pressing his foot against a woman's head doesn't actually surprise me. The reason is because of an ad in which Democratic candidate Jack Conway mentioned a recent magazine article where a woman had claimed that as a college student, she was abducted by Rand Paul and his frat brothers, tied up, and forced to "worship the Aqua Buddha"! When I heard that, I was stunned. What the hell is an "Aqua Buddha"? It sounds like a sexual euphemism (for oral sex or something?).

Rand Paul cried foul and demanded an apology from Conway during a debate and refused to shake his hand after the debate ended. He waxed indignant about being attacked for his religion just because Conway was asking why Paul was anti-Christian in college. Democrats came down hard on Conway (an example of how Democrats tend to punish their own, while Republicans defend their candidates right or wrong), but I admire Conway's backbone. Though one's religion should not be an issue for a political race, when a candidate uses his religion to win votes among a loyal voting block and tries to present himself as a "family values" candidate, he just made his past actions relevant.

I find a strange irony in someone like Rand Paul crying about having his religion distorted when he has been silent while his supporters misrepresent President Obama's religion being Islam instead of Christianity. Hypocrites don't like it when the shoe is on the other foot. They want the right to use their religion to win votes, but you're not allowed to criticize them if there is an incident in his past or when his followers are misrepresenting the president's religion.

I hope to God that the Aqua Buddha and foot stomping episodes will sink Rand Paul's chances. Paul will likely be the Teabagger darling for President in 2016 (watch out Senator Scott Brown!). The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway is only 41 years old. If he does not win this seat, he'll likely be a governor and based on his telegenic looks and ambition, you can bet that when he looks in the mirror, he sees a President looking back at him.

My wish for the media is to drop the reporting on the horse race and focus on the issues. Based on facts, reason, and rational analysis, there would be no contest in a more sophisticated nation (such as European countries). However, you have to wonder about the media, always wanting to stir up conflict, even when its rather shallow in scope. If America doesn't gain any depth, I fear that we are doomed as a nation. Our Founding Fathers would be shocked by what our country has become: where it is possible for the village idiot to win public office and be talked about as a potential president in a future election cycle. Let's get smart, Americans. There is nothing to fear about being intelligent and educated.

1 comment:

Julie said...

oh my...the bit about your aunt and Colbert...that's hilarious and maybe a little scary. And it totally reminds me of the "Get Fuzzy" installment where Bucky calls Colbert a "brilliant conservative analyst." I suppose i shouldn't be too surprised that there is a real live human being who thinks Colbert is for real.