They added fancy new streetlights on the street where my son lives. Amazing how much light they put out.
As always, it takes me much longer to wrap words around my ideas than it seems to do for others. This post is what I came up with as a response to Fandango’s One Word Challenge from yesterday: Energy. Warning: It is very oriented to current events in the USA and might not be of interest to people from other places.
Background: I’ve been practicing the discipline of staying up to date with current events since I got back from Mount Rainier.
My media blitz continues. Although I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. By Friday, yesterday, I was disgusted; I just looked at the descriptions of shows to get an idea of what they were about and skipped watching the drama. I did watch PBS Newshour.
Reflecting on this week I feel that there is a lot of misplaced energy.
This week’s events:
- At the start of the week almost 600 children at the Mexican border were still not back with their families.
- The Difficult Toddler sent out an almost presidential tweet decrying racism.
- Damp squib white supremist rally in D.C.
- Former aid helped the Toddler overcome the disappointment of his base by coming out and making sure that everyone remembers that he is a racist. For much of the week they had a good old “reality TV” session, entertaining by trading insults.
- A bridge in Italy collapsed killing a lot of people.
- Media coordinated editorial day on first amendment rights.
- Oops: Fox “News” declared that the aid, Omarosa, had “won”. So the administration pulled out a back dated memo taking away former CIA chief’s security clearance because he knows the truth about Russia, thinks the reality TV type crap isn’t presidential, and had the kahunas to say it. (Not surprising he had the kahunas since he was instrumental in taking down bin Laden.)
- Very brief mentions of serious questions about the Supreme Court nominee and that Republicans are blocking access to documents that are relevant to his qualifications. It seems that he lied during his confirmation hearings for his current judgeship and holds the checks and balances system, an essential part of our constitution, in disdain.
- The Manafort trial continued and we heard a lot of speculation and inuendo about what various minutia might mean.
- At the end of the week, last night, almost 600 children at the Mexican border are still not back with their families.
Here is what I draw from the past week:
First: I am beginning to wonder how free the “free press” is. While I am far from believing the press is “enemy of the people”, I do think it could do much, much better at not allowing the administration to set the agenda and distract us from important issues. At this time, I consider the following to be the most important issues this week: the children separated from their families, the Supreme Court judgeship, the state of election security, and some research into the state of US infrastructure. These issues got very little press coverage over the course of the week.
Second: A lot of energy went into the damp squib (I borrowed that phrase from The Economist) white supremist rally in DC. It felt almost like the press wanted something exciting (always bad in a situation like this) to happen. In my view the massive amount of coverage gives legitimacy to a movement that should have none.
Third: The Difficult Toddler being a racist isn’t news. The Omarosa stuff belonged in a gossip column, not on supposedly serious news programs.
Fourth: It is inappropriate, and a bit absurd, to spend so much time speculating about details of the Manafort Trial. When there actually is news, report it. But Manafort staring stoically at Gates during testimony and the jury asking a few standard questions is not news. Stick with the content of the testimony and do not conjecture about what it might mean. This kind of reporting can potentially lead to a mistrial. One of the concepts that sets the USA apart, for now anyway, is that people are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Keeping the integrity of our judicial system intact is very important and we all should do what we can to help, including refraining from conjecture.
Last, but certainly not least, if the press is going to coordinate efforts I don’t think editorials are the way to go. Do it by demonstrating the value of a free press. A few examples that might serve our nation:
- At White House press briefings make sure that someone always asks for a progress report on reuniting families, no matter what the topic of the day is. All media venues should play the response. You needn’t analyze it every time. Just make sure the question is asked and the response played, every day.
- Parenting 101: Don’t let bad behavior like removing Brennen’s clearance or overt racism get much attention. It creates positive reinforcement for bad behavior. It also demeans the media.
- Focus on issues instead of personality. Try to spend a week without using the president’s name. Just report factually on issues and events.
- How about dedicating a themed news day to a specific subject, for example, the plight of the children. Explore it in depth: how the situation arose, what is being done to reunite the families, and what is or isn’t being done to prevent such a situation in the future. Yes, a lot of reporting has been done, but it’s here and there. Yes, it would be a bit repetitive, but not more so than Omarosa and the Difficult Toddler trading insults followed by a string of people sounding off that he is racist, or trying to speculate what it might mean that the judge looked at his notes during the Manafort trial. Other possible topic for a themed news day might be our election systems or the Supreme Court.
The Difficult Toddler demeans the press, but the press also demeans itself by taking the offered bait whole heartedly. We also have responsibility. Ratings rule: don’t watch garbage. Some shows are good on some nights and not on others: turn them off when they stray into innuendo and gossip instead of solid information.
I’ve been trying to stay aware of current events since I got home from Mount Rainier. This is very hard on me because they often make my stomach turn.
The US was part of bombing a school bus full of kids in a busy market place? Children, some still babies removed from their parents and put in cages?
I decided to stay in the know, as much as I can stomach, because it seems like outrage is the only thing that gets attention. That is a really stupid way to operate. Especially for a nation that is supposed to operate by rule of law.
I observe that we seem to have a bit too much regard for attitude over actuality.
The speaker was Jill Wine-Banks, I can’t remember the program, in the short segment she suggested using the word “conspiracy”* instead of “collusion”, and talked about #saythisnotthat. Totally agree with her premise. I’ve been uncomfortable for a long time about the words people are using, corrupting in some cases.
While I have you: There are a couple of other words I think we should stop using. One is “right” to describe people holding radical, and often racist, political positions. The problem is that the word “right” also has the meaning of “correct”. Instead of the “far right” (which can be a way to say “very correct”) they should simply be called “Trump Supporters”**. Using a word that means “correct” to describe a racist is wrong. (I do not believe that Trump Supporters are necessarily racists, however, evidence suggests that those who are not are either willing to be tolerant of racism or afraid to say anything, which is its own problem.)
Another word that should go away is “conservative”. A conservative has respect for institutions, like the court system, schools, government and so on, realizes a need for a rule of law and respect for the constitution, and realizes that you have to balance income with expenses. Someone like George Will is accurately described as a conservative. Many people currently claiming this identity are not conservatives; they should simply be called “Trump Supporters”. While I would, before my media blitz, have said that the word should be reserved for true conservatives I now believe that, like I can’t have a “tea party” anymore, the word is too far gone to be retrieved.
Probably we need to let “Liberal” go as well. It is mainly used by Trump Supporters to mean someone they want to bait into lashing out at them so they can play victim.
“Mainstream” ain’t what it used to be
Another term we may want to let go is “mainstream”, because it means too many things to too many different people. In my attempt to try and understand things I have been driven to watching several different venues. A thank you to someone who posted as a response to Fandango a link to a chart that judged the various media sources as right or left biased. I made a mental note of a few, trying to get different viewpoints in my media consumption. When I went back I couldn’t relocate that exact reference to share it with you here, but if you Google “right left media chart” there are a whole bunch of them…and they are not all the same.
I think, but am not sure, that this post: US Media Bias Resources, might contain that first one. I find that I am more in concurrence with the one posted in Partisan Bias vs. Journalistic Quality. The reason is that I think the person/people who put the first chart together are using how much the labeled groups like, or the opposite groups dislike, the reporting as an indication of bias. The chart seems to me more like a warning for people who have opposing views that they may not like what they see than an assessment of true bias.
You have to take into account what really happened. For example: If I love cats I can like a story about rescuing kittens, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that kittens were rescued. If I am a dog lover, maybe I don’t like the story about rescuing kittens, but that doesn’t mean that kittens weren’t rescued.
I find that these charts, in general, have a couple of problems:
- They over generalize. You are considered either left or right or liberal or conservative. I find that many real people, myself included, don’t fit into those categories neatly. To use my example from above: I love both cats and dogs, so I can like stories about both kittens and puppies, so long as I don’t bring any more animals home (my husband, the cat, and both dogs agree on that).
- The media venues have a variety of programs and the level of bias varies considerably from one show to another. I found this true of both MSNBC and Fox “News” (It really needs the qualifier, they seem to simply not report about half of what is going on because it doesn’t fit their agenda.)
Much factual news today doesn’t suit the Trump Supporters worldview so they claim bias. I don’t like news about bombing school buses…but it really happened. I don’t claim reporters are biased because they tell me about it.
When I was a kid on the evening news they always had the death toll for the Vietnam War…whoops I mean Police Action (although everyone called it a war at the time, one kid in my Kindergarten class’s dad died fighting over there). Now, just within my family, some people supported that war and others did not. But no one, on either side, claimed that there weren’t any deaths.
Rant over for now. I wish I could find out more about the #saythisnotthat stuff, but I’m not a twit…wait no, I should report accurately: I do not have a Twitter account…and I stopped using Facebook a while back for practical reasons (it ate up my cell phone battery trying to update itself).
Grace and peace to all, we sure seem to need it.
*Couldn’t help but notice that it could be re-punctuated to read: “con’s piracy”.
**My opinion is that when you get too extreme, on either “side” of the political spectrum, you should be referred to as a “wing nut”, but that sounds judgmental, and didn’t some famous dude say “judge not that ye be not judged”? …I wonder what he would have said about the current situation? Based on years of Bible study, I’m guessing that bombing school kids and folks out buying food wouldn’t fly very high with him, nor would storing children in cages. Just sayin’.