American Media?...Bah, Humbug!
On Christmas Day the Houston Chronicle had a small article on page 3 about the new Hawaiian governor's hopes to "finally quell "birther' doubts". It's a sad statement on our society that this is even a subject for discussion more than two years after it reared its ugly head. But it reveals the underbelly of political discourse in our nation today. It says a lot about the acceptance of the politics of destruction. It is not a new phenomenon but it seems to have reached new heights in its breadth and width. It even has its own media network with ample financial backing and organizations who know they will profit from, and/or gain power from the "defeat the enemy at any cost" philosophy that they adopt.
The loser in all this is the American public who can no longer trust anything they hear on the airwaves or read on the internet. Today, it seems, journalistic integrity is only a theory taught to students at universities and not an unwavering principle adhered to by all publishers, editors, and producers of America's vast wasteland of media outlets that populate the web and cable TV. To a lesser extent this is true of print media as well.
In the above mentioned article by Michael Memoli, it describes a frustrated politician who plans to use his new found position of power to counter conspiracy theorists who continue to allege that the president was not born in the United States, and, therefore, not eligible to be president. Governor Abercrombie, it turns out, speaks from a position of insight since he personally knew both the mother and father of the now president Obama.
Abercrombie states that "Maybe I'm the only one in the country that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, "I was here when that that baby was born.'"
Despite the fact that the Obama campaign did release a Certificate of Live Birth from the state of Hawaii in June of 2008, that Politifact and Factcheck.org both concluded that the certificate was authentic, and that Factcheck also turned up a 1961 birth announcement in a local Honolulu newspaper marking the birth, the rumors persist by those who seek to gain political advantage and those who just plain don't like Obama by making sure the suspicion stays alive in the media.
If new calls for him to produce the original birth certificate move either Obama or the state of Hawaii to actually do so it will likely yield the same claims of it being a forgery that resulted from the release of the official State of Hawaii copy. In fact, bloggers on right-wing web sites are already calling any new document that might be produced a fraud.
In the same December 25, 2010 edition of the Houston Chronicle, nationally syndicated columnist Paul Krugman uses a Charles Dickens metaphor to describe what he calls the right -"wing spin machine "humbug" that has now become a systematic process.
Krugman makes his case by describing examples of Republican presidential hopefuls who have been condemning the simultaneous expansion of the government workforce and the reduction of the number of private sector jobs. Krugman cites stats that prove those claims incorrect. Likewise there are claims of an explosion of federal regulators. Krugman points out that almost all of the increase is in the Department of Homeland Security whose job it is to protect us against terrorists, hardly something that right-wing politicians should be complaining about.
Of course that is but one example of a tsunami of misinformation that makes it very hard for the voter to differentiate between truth and spin. As Krugman puts it, ""there's a well-developed right-wing media infrastructure in place to rapidly disseminate bogus analysis to a wide audience where it becomes part of what "everyone knows'."
Yesterday, December 27, I received an email from left-wing blogger and TV talk show host Thom Hartmann. In it he describes a Pew Research Center Survey that studied media coverage during the recent midterm elections. The study showed that the 3 politicians who received the most coverage were all Republican. It also showed that Sarah Palin, who was not even a candidate, received three times more air time than the Vice President. Conservative commentators, like Glenn Beck, also received more media converge than their liberal counterparts.
This is not a recent trend. MediaMatters came to similar conclusions back in 2006. Yet it seems to be the conventional wisdom that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Could it be that a media that is actually dominated by conservatives might have a vested interest in spreading such misinformation? You betcha! It's time to say Bah, Humbug! to biased media.
In the Glenn Beck biography, "Common Nonsense, the Triumph of Ignorance", Alexander Zaitchik reveals that as a youth Beck idolized the renowned circus entrepreneur, P.T. Barnum, who famously said "There's a sucker born every minute" describing his philosophy that there's no such thing as bad publicity and the more outrageous your claims the more people that will notice you and buy a ticket to your show.
Now in his middle-aged renaissance from just another disc jockey to one of the most watched and listened to pundits in American media it is clear that Beck not only adheres to the Barnum philosophy but has made a science of it.
While I believe that Beck is in this just for the money and has no interest in power, many of his peers in leadership roles in the Republican Party are in it for both money and power. Like Beck many of them seem to adhere to that old Barnum philosophy.
So, like it or not, the circus is in town and it's here to stay. But, buyer beware, their claims are not substantiated and in many cases they are outright lies.