Posts Tagged ‘media


Let’s Skip the Bread Before Dinner

Iran has become my latest obsession. Not necessarily the election; I heard that it was expected the election would be rigged long before it happened. I also learned that Mir Hossein Mousavi shares in Ahmadenijad’s ideology, minus the messiah complex, so I don’t know that the election results really matter all that much. What does matter – A LOT – is what lies in the bloody fall out. First of all, the ruling parties of Iran are showing their character. They no longer have the excuse of a scrappy George W. and yet they are bullying on their very own. We are getting an up close look at a regime bent on power and dominance. It is a precious close-up, too, thanks to the new media.

For the last couple of months, I was beginning to believe that our mainstream media had become obsolete. This last week has confirmed it. The media are fed sound bites from various press secretaries and public relations professionals and we know that the meat of the story was chewed up over lunch, never to be heard. If we do get any of the meat, it comes to us seasoned with ideology. The problem is that these people are charged with the responsibility of our opinion, something we tend to hand over quite simply.

At first it was the many stories covering the green shoots in our economy. Frankly, if I had any power, I would do everything I could to ensure that Americans felt good about the economy. Much, probably too much, of our economic success is driven by public sentiment – animal spirits is the technical term coined by John Maynard Keynes. There is a fine line to walk because it is crucial that Americans spend confidently. The downside of that involves a need to deceive. As MSN and the local stations were flooded with stories of green shoots, unemployment bottoms, and a slowly recovering housing market, China was dumping dollars. China is our largest foreign investor and didn’t like the prospectus. Russia is pushing for a standardized currency that is NOT the dollar. The United States dumped one HUNDRED BILLION dollars into the IMF, proving that the global economy is not looking much better than our own. We are a long way from a sustainable recovery. I contend that it will not happen.

But we are distracted. We have inserted ourselves into the lives of John & Kate. We wait with bated breath for the outcome of American Idol. We wonder if Susan Boyle is really the Cinderella story of the year. We accept these stories like bread before a meal, too full to pay attention to the main course. The media slides by with their sound bites and we trust them because we have already gotten what we want.

Before this week, I was finding that if I wanted news, I had to dig past all of these stories and search for credible voices on the blog circuit. They’re all over. They are first-hand witnesses not beholden to anyone for a paycheck. They are scholars and observers and employees who understand the situation better than the financial reporter who just got promoted from obituaries ever will.

Now the world is seeing it. Despite Iran’s efforts to block foreign media, we are being fed pure news. It is a collection of first-hand accounts bound together by grainy pictures and slow video. There is no opinion save the horror any human being should feel at witnessing atrocities first hand. Ironically, what we are seeing from Iran is not colored by ideology, no matter how subtle. This is what news should be. We see it and we can decide. We have a precious opportunity to see Ahmadenijad and the Ayatollah for what they are, not through the lenses of policy through which we usually see them.

This power shaved off of the vulnerability of an empire is frightening to the offenders. China is launching unprecedented efforts to censor the internet right now. India is following suit. How far behind are we? I have witnessed myself changes in search results from day to day, knowing that items have been removed. It was a quiet censorship, but what precedent will be set coming out of Iran? If Asia and the Middle East embrace censorship, is this going to be an accepted norm? We have a lot to lose, but so do they. There is one right Americans, both liberal and conservative, treasure. That is our First Amendment. We agree on this. Could Iran possibly unify us, after all? Is it possible that when nobody is toying with our opinions, we can agree on what is right and what is wrong? If that happens, America will once again be the force of goodness she was founded to be.


Waterboarding Paperdolls

Words are tricky. We live in a sound bite culture, only 22 seconds to make a difference, so every utterance must be full of impactful drama and intrigue. Our knowledge is unprecedented and anything we don’t know is just a search engine away. I love this. It is fantastic to be caught up in the midst of every crisis, educated in every debate, and a trivia whiz. But as we take in all this knowledge like a Dyson on steroids, it is easy to trade education for thinking. We casually throw buzzwords and useful statistics around without real thought for the implications of such statements.

I got an up close look at such implications today when my niece and my daughter were waterboarding their paper dolls. They wanted to get the dolls soaking wet to destroy them slowly and watch them fall apart. It was very harmless; they were just looking at the effect water had on the paper, but it opened my eyes to something. Well, it further illustrated the point I began to argue in my last post about my Barbie bags. As a society, we have become so entrenched in a right vs. left argument that right vs. wrong is no longer the fight.

We right-wingers have been in the unfortunate position of defending waterboarding. I stand by the fact that waterboarding is an effective method of getting information without inflicting long-term damage, but this isn’t a fight I want to have. This is why we have a military and a CIA and the FBI. They understand the threat, they understand the options, and they understand the stakes. I want to know that these officials are people I can trust and then I want to refrain from defending any interrogation methods within earshot of my children. I want those trained to keep me safe to be able to do their jobs. War is not for the faint-hearted, which is why the average civilian should not dictate how it is conducted.

This is why our words are important. We call waterboarding torture, but it is not. It pales in comparison. But because the label is out there, we are unwittingly involved in a debate over torture. I never want to be the person who says yes to treating a human being that way. Because of this mislabeling, though, that is exactly what I am.

Against the automatic weaponry of the media’s exaggerated vocabulary, I have defended torture, turned my back on genocide, and scoffed at fascism. If we are to have any unity as a nation, we need to define horror as it really is. There are horrible things happening, things we should see as a universal threat. George Bush was many things, but fascist is not one of them. It undermines true fascism to label a conservative war-time president as such. The Iraq war was controversial, but it was not genocide. Sudan suffered from genocide. That is evil. In this modern day of information, the soundbite has distracted our humanity.

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