Monday, February 21, 2005

Politics, Lies, and Audiotapes

Yesterday, a news story broke that seven-year-old, secretly taped conversations with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush had been made public. For a tantalizing moment, I half-believed that some dedicated investigative reporter had finally clawed through the steel-vised control that the administration and the Republican party have on what information sees the light of day in this country. Nearly trembling with the anticipation that the lid might have been blown off the Bush fa├žade, I opened up the AOL story on the subject. How miserably pitiful it turned out to be! In fact, I don’t know how it was even interpreted as news. Wait…maybe I do know after all. If this wasn’t yet another obvious demonstration of the Republican Party’s unshakeable control of the information stream, I don’t know what it was.

How else to explain that an event which would most likely have spelled disaster for almost any other public figure in the entire country—the discovery of secretly taped conversations about political strategy, religion, past "sins"--find our President coming out smelling like an American Beauty Rose? We hear him waxing pensive on how his faith will affect his chances of election, professing an almost open-minded policy on gays, and singing the praises of his possible opponents for the Republican party nomination, whom he ultimately rewards with cabinet positions when he does gain the White House. In short, here is Mr. Bush, sounding downright "presidential," two years before he sets foot in the office. Can anyone truly believe that the publication of these tapes was by any stretch of the imagination a shock to the administration?

Embarrassingly, the anti-Bush camp seized upon his non-denial of marijuana use in a weak attempt to twist this post-election ad campaign to reflect badly on the President. "I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried." Hell, that even makes sense to me, and I can’t stand the man. If Democrats had used some of that logic on the muck that the RNC is constantly digging up and exploiting about their pasts, they might not be in the minority position they are in today.

Back in the "olden days," television news consisted of the 6:00 national news, and the 10:00 local news. And network interview shows on Sunday morning that nobody watched. If you listened to the radio, you got a five-minute news report at the top of every hour. Given the limited time frame available, the stories that made the broadcast were presumably the important stuff. They might have even been construed as news. Information worth hearing or seeing. How things have changed.

In 1980, Ted Turner and CNN pioneered the 24-hour news cycle. Americans voted with their remotes overwhelmingly in favor of this new-fangled media development. And of course a legion of competing networks sprang into being. Today, we are bombarded every hour of every day by news. But, no, it’s not news anymore. It’s any story, factual or fictitious, heart-warming, tear-jerking or shocking, that can be committed to film as quickly as possible, as the networks clamor for the public’s attention in a never-ending game of one-upmanship. On the radio, I challenge you to find an AM station that plays music anymore. Talk radio rules, and as on TV, rule number one is to push up the ratings by out-hollering and out-shocking the competition.

All of this makes the Republican Party’s control of the information waves that much more mystifying. One has to believe that their success in this arena has been a long time in the making. Someone, or an army of someones, would have to have been following the genesis of the hype that passes for news in 21st century America for long enough to develop sufficient mastery of it to be able to manipulate it. This cannot have been an easy task. Has the Republican Party had the presence of mind and patience to apply the kind of manpower needed to the task, knowing how critical to political success the ability to manipulate the media would be? Hard to believe anything as amorphous and generally contentious as a political organization could get it together adequately, spanning decades, to study and learn how to harness the information stream enough to be able to use it at will for its own purposes. Yet, if that was the plan, it was brilliant, and it has achieved success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Perhaps more believable, is that the right has such a pervasive mastery over today’s media because they more or less own it. Ownership of media outlets is big business. Big business is the Republican Party’s bread and butter. In a supreme "you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours" arrangement, the media have become the party’s mouthpiece. There may be individual liberal-minded reporters out there, but they are an endangered species. Management genuflects to ownership and sponsors, who are, more than likely, right-leaning business conglomerates. A little pressure from the guys that are going to push through the legislation that guarantees your pockets will remain abundantly lined can have a huge affect on what information reaches the public's eyes, and from what slant it is reported. Pepper this with a pinch of hyper-patriotism and anti-internationalism brought on by a surprise attack on the homeland, and you have a situation molded in heaven for the Republican Party.

It’s frightening how well this situation seems to suit the majority of Americans. Maybe they are so exhausted by the constant stream of information clamoring for their attention that they would just as soon have someone tell them what’s important and what to think. Personally, I feel as if the right has fingers in my ears, hands over my eyes, and a fist in my mouth. How can we expose the sins of a regime that has control of the media? And how has this happened here, in America, where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two of our most cherished rights? It’s obvious…our Constitution has been edged out by the almighty greenback.

7 comments:

  1. You have no idea how right you are about media being just another big business.

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  2. Read the article too and felt the same way. Right on target as usual, Lisa.

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  3. The media was strong enough to oust Bush, Sr.   Remember the "it's the economy, stupid..."  media blasts?   We don't hear half of what the 'real' story is anymore.   I blame the media.  It's their job to report the news, not post their opinions on a situation.   Unfortunately the news has become slanted, and has been for years.  Think CNN and the Iraq situation.  They were bought.  It got very little air time.  Gee, imagine that.  Unfortunately people don't see the problem in the reporting until the news contradicts their thinking.  

    It was the Blogosphere that began questioning the Dan Rather memo/story.  Here was a 'respected' journalist who didn't even fully check his sources.  Nowadays we have to read several different sources (tv, newspapers, web) to get a sense of the real story.  But that means being able to distinguish fact from opinion, something that's time consuming and in this microwave society, few people will do the research and just believe everything they hear.  

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  4. I just spent 2 days with my Bushie brother and sil.  Not a book or newspaper in sight in their house; the news is always FOX.  It was a sobering 2 days.

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  5. Great stuff.  I really enjoyed reading this.  This is exactly what we are up against.

    Neil

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  6. I think that's why posts like this are so important. You might not reach millions but if one person begins to question their allegiance, the time you spend writing stuff like this is well worth it. Wonderful post! :-) ---Robbie

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  7. Amen Hallejuia and the truth could set us free..........

    The problem is its hard to recognize truth anymore, the Bush propaganda machine is doing one helluva job covering it up.

    Bush came to South Bend recently.  It blew my mind.  St. Joe County Indiana voted democrat but it seems they have now lost whatever sense they had before the election ....Bush shows up and the locals lap up his lies....Notre Dame forgot about him supporting the death penalty not to mention the fact that he had a good Professor's visa revoked due to "links to terrorism" (though what that means is anyone's guess) and allowed him to speak at the University.  I have lost all respect for N.D. and will no longer support them in any manner, including athletics.

    Its become so republican in the area where I live and work in the last few months that it is almost dangerous to be democrat and liberalism is tantamount to criminal activity.......

    Even the police cars are sporting pro-Bush propaganda magnets on their trunks.......

    Democrats only talk politics with other democrats now.  Republicans have even suggested boycotting the businesses of Democrats in the local opinion pages....

    Scary.  It's like having Hitler for President.

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