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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/18/16

Bob Koehler, Peace Journalist, Feels the Bern

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BK: As I noted in my column this week, I counted 15 issues that he addressed. They include: the economy (Wall Street, crumbling infrastructure, closing schools, poisoned water and such); women's reproductive choice; college tuition; universal health care; gay rights; climate change; a broken criminal justice system and the need to demilitarize police; failure of the war on drugs; Citizens United and Big Money's corruption of elections; immigration reform; the treatment of Native Americans; disastrous trade policies; the death penalty; racism; and, finally, "endless war" and the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. As I wrote, my one criticism of Sanders was his failure to mention our out-of-control and endlessly unaddressed military budget, which consumes well over half of the nation's annual spending. Nonetheless, Sanders has an extraordinary take on the complex array of issues facing this country. The only reason the mainstream media could possibly call Sanders a one-issue candidate is their own utter inability to report on or even recognize these issues. They listen to sound bites and extract a few drops of news from them and call that reporting.

JB: That's a far, far cry from a single issue candidate. How was his multi-faceted laundry list received by those at the rally?

BK: Big cheers throughout the night, lots of standing ovations. A lot of people were on their feet throughout Bernie's talk. I finally sat down because it was easier to take notes.

Bernie Sanders with supporters
Bernie Sanders with supporters
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
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JB: But you wouldn't know about from watching the news or reading the paper. It sounds like there's a major disconnect going on between Sanders and the media in properly reporting his message. It's a daunting challenge. What can he do? How can he somehow bypass the media and get his message to the people?

BK: I don't quite know. We're imprisoned in a superficial media. I call myself a peace journalist to disengage myself from the biased trivia we call news. Elections are totally covered like sporting events. It's the only sort of "expertise" the mainstream media brings to them: what the polls are saying and who's winning. Bernie does what he can and reaches out as best he can, but the 24-7 bullshit news cycle is incapable of giving him fair, much less comprehensive coverage. For many years now I have considered the media to be the bouncers of the election season, tossing inappropriate questions and discussions out of the debate -- such as the aforementioned military budget and the American pursuit of empire. Election coverage is more about hair style and the color of your tie, or the gaffes you make in your sound bites.

JB: I almost fell off my chair the other day when I saw a promoted article online about what color suit Bernie was wearing: seriously asking whether it was blue or brown or black. Really?! You just chalk it up to a dumbing down of the media. It seems to me that there is also an inherent bias against someone from the Left who is trying to shake things up. That's hard for the Establishment: media, Big Business and beyond, to handle. Your thoughts?

BK: It's worse than prejudice against the so-called "left." All the major media endorsed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and utterly suppressed counterviews from reaching the public. Speaking out against a dangerously reckless war isn't just shaking things up, it's getting down on one's knees and praying for common sense in our national agenda. The media has always been prejudiced against antiwar views because "if it bleeds it leads." The media is a product of the domination mindset and can't grasp a complex relationship among nations and peoples, which is the essence of peace. This goes back to the simplistic reporting of winning and losing: our election coverage.

JB: I'd even venture a tad further. Don't corporate ownership and advertising dollars also play a role in this equation of what constitutes news and how it's served up?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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