Friday, April 17, 2009
The Big Lie
"Saying so don't make it so."
"A (member of the press) young man with years of notorious success behind him and a cynical look of twice his age said suddenly, 'I know what I'd like to be:
I wish I could be a man who covers news!' "
--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (empahsis in original).
NOTE: This post is specifically about the news media. I am not talking about talk radio, "news-lite" programs such as The View or Fox and Friends, nor Internet sources like the Huffington Post or World Net Daily.
It has been noticible for some time that newspapers and the network news have become increasingly irrelevant to people in their quest for real news in this country. The reason that is usually given is that the Internet has become more useful to people because it is available to them anytime, and they can search for information that targets their interests. One problem that is frequently brought up in the mainstream media is that the veracity of the information on the internet can be difficult to ascertain, and that much of the news that people view on the internet has not been "vetted" by professional journalists.
"You need us," the Fourth Estate claims. "Because we are professionals and we will tell you what is true."
Except when they don't. Except when what really happens does not fit into their predominantly east-coast understanding of what the people of this diverse country value and want. Except when reporting gets in the way of being opinion-shapers, vetters of presidential appointees, and those running for office. (For more on the media's extremely rude and virulent attacks on certain presidential candidates, see the film Media Malpractice). And this is, I believe, the main reason that many ordinary Americans find the so-called Fourth Estate increasingly irrelevant.
Consider the stunningly incompetent reporting of CNN "reporter" Susan Roesgen, who interrupted a man at the Chicago Tea Party who was discussing Lincoln, telling him (and her viewers) what to think: "Do you know that the 'state of Lincoln' gets 50 billion dollars . . ." She did not let the man finish, and she ended her confrontation with Tea Party goers by saying that they were all anti-government and anti-CNN. At the end, you hear the crowd chanting at her: "You are not a reporter." And this is true. She moved from reporting to confronting, from telling viewers what was happening, to telling them what to think about it. She ended that particular discussion by becoming a salesperson for the "stimulus" package.
(For a better, if not "professional" look at the Chicago Tea Party, see The Chicago Tea Party that Susan Roesgen Missed, by the guy who wants her job).
It was clear that Ms. Roesgen went to Chicago with an agenda, and that agenda was not to report on what was actually happening (good, bad and ugly), but rather to obtain footage for a particular point of view: that the Tea Parties were "anti-government and anti-CNN." Whether this was her own agenda or that of her bosses, she is nevertheless responsible for her unethical behavior. She was not reporting on news, she was, rather, creating propaganda.
This is incompetent reporting.
It was also clear that Ms. Roesgen went to Chicago, the largest city in the "Land of Lincoln" in complete ignorance of that great president's economic views. Any Illiniois school child could have educated her about this, since she failed to prepare herself for her day's work. This is stunningly incompetent.
FYI Ms. Roesgen: The man you interviewed--the one whose child was "already in debt"--was refering to this statement made by Abraham Lincoln:
"Property is the fruit of labor...property is desirable...is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." Reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (March 21, 1864).
It took this former Illiniois schoolgirl exactly 40 seconds to pull it up on the Internet. I simply googled the italicized phrase along with the word "Lincoln." Susan, the next time you go to Chicago, and you are dealing with real people--those who can both walk and chew gum at the same time (unlike the Pols) and who (unlike the Pols), do not tell you exactly what you want to hear--be sure to do your homework.
I suppose one could argue that neither CNN nor Fox are real news outlets because they have to foment controversy in order to produce 24 hours of nonstop "news" every day. So, should we consider "responsible" newspapers, like the Los Angeles Times? In an editorial in that paper, Marc Cooper had already labeled the Tea Parties this way: "Anti-Obama Taxpayer Tea Parties steeped in insanity." That was before the Tea Parties had even happened.
And then there's my hometown paper, The Albuquerque Journal. I tend to be partial to it because it is independent and published right here. But they have gotten a new breed of reporters lately, ones who are so lazy that they go out to an event for 15 minutes, quote liberally from the AP, and believe they have a story. Thus they told us that "a few thousand" attended the Albuquerque Tea Party, even though there were official numbers that could have been obtained with one phone call to the police. From the AP, they got the idea that all of these Tea Parties were anti-Obama rallies promoted by Dick Army. With a few phone calls and some additional leg work (there's that word again, the one that the lazy reporters avoid), the reporters could have interviewed the five housewives who organized the Tea Party here, and they could have found out that none of them had even talked to Senator Army, and that all funding was local and private, and all the work was done by volunteers.
Instead the Journal has piled on to the Big Lie: The Tea Parties were partisan, about taxes, and poorly attended. And therefore not very important. In fact, they were so unimportant that the President of the United States had a press release put out saying that he didn't know about them. (Consider the logic of that!) Because according to Janet Napolitano of DHS, Tea Party goers are all insane nutjobs that are a threat to the United States. Right up there with war veterans and those of us who understand that the Constitution limits the powers of the Federal government in the 9th and 10th amendments.
This is the strategy of the Big Lie. It is a propaganda technique first defined in Nazi Germany, but it has been in use since Pericles. It means to keep repeating an untruth over and over again, baldly, and without evidence, until it is believed by most people.
President Bush used it to sell the War in Iraq. (We have evidence of weapons of mass destruction . . .)
The press used it to smear Sarah Palin during the last election. (That baby isn't hers. It was conceived by space aliens and implanted . . .).
The President is using it to sell his budget. (Yes, he's going to cut the deficit by cutting entitlements AND provide us all with a chicken in every pot and universal health care ).
Congress used it to sell the Patriot Act and now the so-called Stimulus Bill. (Gee, I didn't know that was in the bill 'cause, well, it was too long to read).
The Press is using the Big Lie now to try to convince us that our concerns are ridiculous and that they "know better" what is good for us. They know more than we do. They are from New York City.
We have gotten to the point where the Executive, both houses of Congress, and the so-called Fourth Estate lie to us with impunity. In fact, like the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984, I think they have lied so much that they actually believe it all.
And they wonder why the rest of us have begun to see them as increasingly irrelevant to our daily struggles with reality.
In the meantime, the circulation of The Albuquerque Journal is about to be decreased by at least one household. Why should I pay those reporters good money to tell me what to think about events they were too lazy to actually cover?