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Study Chess As A Guide to Watching Media

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Message Danny Schechter
New York, New York August 16: When you play chess, you think ahead. What will your next move be, and how is it likely to be countered? Ultimately it is a game of strategy.

And so is politics where what's achieved today can be undone tomorrow. Some time it's the role of the courts to roll back laws and policies that are unconstitutional. That's what happened this week with The Bush Administration's warrantless wiretaps. Appeals are likely to be filed to undo what has just been undone.

As Casey Stengel once put it famously, "it ain't over till its over."

That's why Israel poured its troops into Lebanon just before the cease fire took effect They tried to change the growing perception that they had lost the war.

Back home, Joe Lieberman has set out to circumvent a decision by Connecticut's voters. There is no doubt that he had this Plan B in mind in the event of a primary loss. He also knew he could count on the Bush Administration to try to insure his re-election this fall. In the "favor bank" that is politics, he knew that they "owed him" for all his services rendered in backing the war and other Bushevik policies.

In the media, we have an army of pundits who are there to offer up endless "What-ifs." Speculation is their trade and craft and many are capable of turning around on a dime to revise their view points depending on which way the wind-and their party line leads them.

You have seen the game being played endlessly with some news name passionately defending a position one minute and then, just as passionately, abandoning the posture when the Administration changes its message points.

The term opportunism doesn't begin to do justice to the parade of motor mouths who often argue two sides of any and all issues. Sometimes, as in the case of Ann Coulter and some flak-catchers, the gambit is to define an extreme and even absurd position, not because it contributes to a discussion or honestly represents a legitimate viewpoint, but its very outrageousness sparks controversy and ink. That, in turn leads to more media invitations enhancing book sales and lecture fees.

On the right, ranting and raving as a way of pushing the envelope can be lucrative.

Increasingly what we see on the tube is not real discussion but an engineered performance where politicians only answer the questions they want and ignore the ones they don't. They are helped along in this charade by TV "journalists" who forget how to ask follow up questions or insure that all sides are represented with any type of fairness.

Impressions are cultivated but rarely is opinion informed. Its often in one ear and how another with little accountability to the public or alleged journalism standards. TIME coined a word for it: "electotainent."

The hard-core partisan operatives take this game one nasty step further linking some negative in the news to the person or issue they want to demonize. The idea of ethical debate has long disappeared as show biz techniques dominates news biz.

Here are two examples reported by Media Matters for America.

"On the August 17 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, executive producer Bernard McGuirk said that John Mark Karr, the man who reportedly admitted to killing 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in 1996, "looks like Ned Lamont, actually." McGuirk then asked: "Is that who you want representing you, Connecticut?"

"McGuirk's remarks were just the latest attack against Lamont, the Democratic nominee for a Connecticut Senate seat. As the weblog Think Progress noted, on the August 16 edition of Fox News Live, former Weekly Standard deputy publisher David Bass said that a woman who caused a plane to be diverted after suffering a panic attack was "probably not a terrorist; could just be a Ned Lamont supporter."

Sometimes, when called on their sloppiness and lack of professionalism, TV hotshots will admit they blew it. My colleague Judy Newman was outraged by the "terror baiting" of Ned Lamont, the cable news "red meat" target of the week. A reader protest prompted a response and "apology" to Ned Lamont from Chuck Roberts:

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.
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