Sunday, September 14, 2008

Privileging the Lie

For a long time I have been driven to distraction by the media. I have all but given up reading newspapers except for local news, and rely mainly on NPR and PBS for news. I also try to see and hear news programs from other countries, because I want to know how they see us and our current political disaster. I do, of course, watch the networks, and can hardly avoid hearing their take on things, even though I don't sit down and watch what they call news.

Among other things, I receive by email a weekly update called Media Matters for America - Jamison Foser. On September 12th he sent a piece headed by the words I used as the title of this post: Privileging the Lie. In it, he discussed the influence that the media has on the voting public. He calls it "conservative misinformation", an apt title, and he discussed at length the political campaign of the year 2000 - Bush and Gore, whichis what he is referring to when he says that this time it's different.

If I may quote:
"The frame of most news reports about false claims made by McCain (and Palin and their staff) is very different. The frame isn't John McCain is lying again; it is John McCain said something; how will Barack Obama respond? Some of those news reports get around to mentioning that McCain's claim isn't true -- but those passing mentions hardly matter. They aren't the dominant theme of the report, so they don't stick in the minds of readers and viewers."

The vast majority of those readers and viewers cannot be bothered to do any homework on candidates. They do not look up the records. They know little or nothing except what the media tells them, and constant repetition of a lie, without constant qualification as to the truth, leaves them with memory only of the lie.

This Media Matters piece ends with this: "
Reporters "take sides" with everything they do. Everything they do involves a choice, involves a decision that X is more important than Y. When they report a lie five times before reporting the fact that it is false, they are taking the lie's side.

The question isn't whether reporters should "take sides" -- they can't possibly avoid taking sides.

The only question is whether they will side with truth or with fiction."

It's pretty obvious which side most of the media is on today.


Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hello! I don't think that the media should take sides. Nor do I think that they should stir up a bunch of controversy like they are. They should only report the facts on a candidate and not the ones that they make up. I don't think that TV should be allowed to show negative commercial ad's, but only the ad's about what the candidate will do for this country.

It justs feels like the media assumes that the public wants to hear all the morbid (lies) about people, so this is what they focus on. I am tired of it, but honestly, it is getting harder to tell truth from lie.

Alida Thorpe said...

Excellent essay bobbie!

You said exactly what I wanted to express the other day when I commented on your September 12 essay (More of the Same).

Most people don't take the time to read the facts, and the media often twists the story to fit their views. That's why it is so important to get the news from many angles and to keep reading from reputable sources.

Thanks for a great essay and for saying what I couldn't put into words.

Mare said...

The media is clearly out of control. They are not helping the situation. And the negative ads make me crazy.

Judy said...

The media drives me nuts, too, Bobbie. I am to the point where you are and don't even want to watch the news anymore. I hear people around here make statements that they like Sarah because she is Pentecostal or because she has so many children or because she is a woman (I hear this one a lot). Drives me crazy. There are lots of people out there that don't even look at the issues but just vote on whether or not they like the person!

bobbie said...

Judy, that reminds me of my mother. She knew nothing about politics,and never even read the papers, but she would look at a newspaper picture of the candidates, and say, "He looks like a nice man" and vote that way. Pathetic! And scary!

Sylvia K said...

I can only agree with and repeat everything said here. I have gotten progressively fed up with the media over the past eight years and this is one of the worst.

Bear Naked said...

I found this article on our Canadian CTV website.

Bear((( )))

Anonymous said...

I've noticed lately that the media seem to spend a lot of time being fact-checkers. I had a mixed response to that notion, but when it's so evident that so much partisan fact stretching, bending and creatively making -up is going on, that fact-checking probably a needed service. But HOW one check on facts can also take a side. There's no substitute for actual honesty and altruism in politics, though I'm not sure anyone who had it would ever get elected.

bobbie said...

The Daily Show is one of my favorites, Bear. Jon continually refers to the fact that it is NOT news, so I think you'd have to be pretty slow not to realize this, and it is really, really funny.

I think the big problem is that the supposed "serious" news shows are not news any longer, but THEY are entertainment, and do not do justice to any real news story. They want to capture an audience, but then don't know what to do with them when they get them.

Thanks for the link.

Unknown said...

This is what I think: the major networks and print media are going to take to the campaigns and their dirty tactics because they're all essentially owned and controlled by the same corporations. We won't see a truly independent candidate make it into the finals until the media is deregulated from its current manoppoly. Which will probably be never. :(

So I agree with Alida Thorpe: we have to get beyond the major corporate controlled media and read lots of other sources.

And I think it's great that you look to the news of other countries, Bobbie. It's very important that we see what others think of us around the world.

Great post. Very important stuff. Thank you.


Dianne said...

I saw a poll (one of a million) that claimed that when discussing he issues Obama comes out more favorably. When discussing personality and "character" McCain comes out on top.

I have th believe this is in a large part due to the media. While they cover Obama's positions on views they rarely honor or praise him as a person while you can't get through 2 minutes without hearing about the honorable hero, even if it was 40 years ago.

And why is Cindy always with Johnny? More PR? Look at Barbie! She makes him look younger?

Barack has no troubled being on his own.

Jeanne said...

It's shameless the way most of the media is covering this campaign. I'm so fearful that many people won't look beyond the soundbites they may see on tv.

Kay said...

I agree with all of you, of course. I've seen how people vote for candidates based on one issue. I had one friend who insisted she had to vote for Bush because he was a "true Christian" and was against abortion. Another friend said they would vote for Bush because he would protect Israel. Seriously. Has Bush made life easier for the Israelis? For Christians? I still remember Bush's terrible remark about the Iraq war being a Crusade.

Now we've got people who say they may vote for McCain because he chose a woman candidate. How can they equate Sarah to Hillary? Are they going to vote for her just because she's a woman... a pretty woman? (Never mind that she's anti-gun control, lifetime NRA member, thinks global warming is not impacted by man, wants to drill, drill, drill!, is anti-sex education...etc.) That wouldn't say much for our sex.

There's also talk about voting for McCain because he's a veteran who was tortured. Would that really make him a better president? Washington was great but Grant was pretty lousy.

Arrrghhh.... Why are Americans still not seeing that McCain is not really's more of the same?