Monday, August 11, 2008

Political Priorities And Implications

For those of you who haven't watched the news for the last five days, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has admitted to having an affair with a woman who worked for his campaign. I haven't commented on it until now because I really don't care outside of it's implications for hurting Barack Obama's presidential chances (which I think are minimal) and frankly, I'm just sick of hearing about it. Then I read this post over at Crooks and Liars about the media's roll in this election cycle and I found myself yelling, "Yes! These are the lack of priorities that are really pissing me off!" or something to that effect. Tell me if you don't agree:

From the email inbox:

David Gregory just said young people were inspired by him and are let down…and questioned whether it will have “broader implications for the party.” during the election. This week, Ron Suskind’s book revealed the Bush team knew Iraq didn’t have WMD, forged letters, paid hush money, and lied us into war. (Chirp, chirp…) Any broader implications for the Republican party there? How about instead of us buying into all the clamoring to analyze Edwards betrayal (wait, no, BETRAYAL!) we analyze the absurdity of a media culture where THIS is what passes for holding politicians accountable.

Broader implication for the party. OK, let’s talk party.

McClellan said that FOX News got talking points from the White House

Bush authorized rendition.

Bush authorized torture. Yes, that means waterboarding.

Bush authorized a war based on lies resulting in millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani civilian deaths as well as an ethnic cleansing.

Thousands of our troops have been killed or seriously injured.

The US dollar is in the tank.

The housing/mortgage crisis has almost caused a depression.

How about the trampling of our Constitution with warrantless wiretapping?

Laptops are being confiscated at airports and the border.

Under Bush, oil companies are raking in record profits while Americans suffer.

The US attorney scandal.

A health care epidemic.

Monica Goodling

A standing ovation in Congress for David Vitter’s return.

Military TV Analysts/Generals scandal.

Larry Craig’s bathroom adventure.

And many, many more.

Would any of this have “broader implications” to the Republican party during the election if the media did its job?

A good friend asked me the other day if I could tell him about "the liberal media" and who they were because he'd heard a lot about it from conservative talk radio and from his Republican relatives. I had to tell him the truth: there is no liberal media. Yes, it makes for great talking points when vilifying anyone in the media that doesn't parrot your conservative narrative and it's a convenient cudgel for politicians to use when they're revealed to be less than virtuous but despite it's repeated use by the right in this country, this meme just does not hold water.

Sure, surveys show that the majority of actors and writers in Hollywood (although not really the media I'm referring to here) have liberal beliefs but those same surveys show that the big wigs and fat cats (studio execs and presidents) are decidedly Republican. The same goes for the news media: the majority of reporters and news writers are liberal but when you look at the political leanings of news executives, editors-in-chief, studio presidents and corporate media owners, you can see who's really in charge of the political narrative in this country.

Now, am I making the exact opposite argument as the right wingers, that there is a conservative bias to the media? No, and it's not because I don't think it's possible or that there aren't many, many conservatives out there that would like to do that; I just think that there's a simpler answer for the actions of the media than just a pervasive ideology of liberalism or conservatism: money. Yeah, I know you're surprised. Of course despite my earlier protestations, I do think that the corporations in charge of the media will put the pressure on to spin things in a positive manner for themselves and these large entities are aligned with the pro-business Republican party in this government (OK, the more pro-business than the Democrats party). But news stories fuel ratings and ratings bring in the dollars and dollars are what matter to the types of multi-national conglomerates that control the vast majority of what we watch, listen to and read every day. In the media jungle, the bottom line is the Lion King.

So, are liberals trying to force their godless ways on the rest of America by making us all watch shows about marital infidelity, out and proud gays and vacuous celebrities? No, that's just what we the people have signaled to the networks that we'd like to see, so they're providing more of the same. And are conservatives trying to turn the rest of the country into mindless, flag waving warmongers who don't give a shit about the less fortunate amongst us? Well, I kind of think that they are but if pressed on the matter I'd have to say no, it's just that a sizable majority of Americans are easily led automatons who respond with well-conditioned vigor whenever the call of jingoism goes out across this great land (see: the Iraq war).

With that said, think now about what kind of person you are: do you seek out alternative sources of news and information that don't necessarily conform to or confirm your already held thoughts and beliefs or do you turn to the established staples of the American media that can be counted on to deliver just the right message for either side in the ideological struggle that now defines the partisan landscape of American politics? Or even worse, do you just not care at all and are content to let the powers that be go about their business of lying to the American people? Seeing the complete abdication of it's oversight responsibilities by the media, I honestly have a hard time begrudging anyone any of these alternatives. Finding the truth in 21st century America is decidedly hard, and the collective media are not making it any easier. But to be completely frank the truth doesn't really affect their bottom line, so why should we expect them to?


Anonymous said...

This is definitely one of those long, train of thought "rants". I thought it was well written and makes a good point though. Frankly, one reason why I've never gotten more interested in politics is because I find them boring. I suppose that makes me part of the problem. I guess as I get older I'll probably start to have more empassioned opinions on this stuff, but who knows. The one thing I can say, comfortably, is that I really have a hard time thinking of W has a devious, conniving mastermind. If anything, I think he's a hapless pawn.

JBW said...

Gracias. I used to not give two shits about politics until I realized that that's exactly how those in power want us to feel: like nothing we do matters and won't make a difference. And I agree, W is a halfwit at best. I lay the blame for most of the failures and dishonesty of this administration on Cheney and Rumsfeld. Those guys are definitely not dumb, they're just heartless assholes.