As a citizen, I want to enlist you in a project. Please send this on to your friends and family. This will probably fail. Most petition drives to pressure corporations do fail. However, We the People, have to try to get the media to do their jobs. This piece is an attempt to remind you, the citizens, and the media what their jobs are and how they have utterly failed at it. Please feel free to forward or repost this.
This is the most important election of our lifetimes, perhaps the most important election since the election of 1932. The future of our country is literally on the line, the very nature of what kind of country we wish to be is the central question in this election. Yet, from the media, you wouldn’t know it. It’s not just the horse race coverage. It’s the outright tolerance for blatant falsehoods uttered by the campaigns. In another year, if we weren’t at war, if our economy was strong, perhaps, PERHAPS we could afford this cartoon of campaign coverage. But this isn’t that year, this isn’t that election.
As Paul Begala put it in a piece today:
If John McCain and Sarah Palin were to say the moon was made of green cheese, we can be certain that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would pounce on it, and point out it's actually made of rock. And you just know the headline in the paper the next day would read: "CANDIDATES CLASH ON LUNAR LANDSCAPE."
The thing is, he’s absolutely correct. The headline would NOT be, as would be appropriate, ‘“McCain asserts that the moon is made of green cheese. Is he mad?” or “McCain lies about the composition of the moon”. Rather, it would be the headline that suggests that, in fact, there’s legitimate reason for debate as to the composition of the moon. Yet, we know--not think but know--that the moon isn’t made of green cheese so why does the media treat these statements as the same?
I’m going to use two examples from today and yes, I’m a Democrat and yes, I’m an Obama supporter and I’m sure that a Republican could come up with his own examples. The continually repeated lie about the Bridge to Nowhere. Governor Palin is on the record, on camera, saying that she supported the Bridge to Nowhere but now, she can assert, without any penalty, that she didn’t support it AND that she sent the money back yet, it is again demonstrably true that she kept the money and only dropped support for it after Congress had put the kabosh on the project. Now, in my family, if you said something was so when it wasn’t and you knew it wasn’t so, you were going to be called a liar. Yet, the media is letting McCain and Palin get away with lying.
The second example, also a lie, is that Barack Obama authored and voted for a bill that would teach sex education to kindergarten kids. This is not true. He voted for a bill that would have age appropriate sex education which for little kids meant teaching them about appropriate and inappropriate touching. The language of the bill is available at the Illinois State Legislature website, you can read it yourself, it doesn’t say what the advert says it does. Again, the story is that there is ‘controversy’ over Barack Obama’s vote. But there isn’t controversy. The McCain campaign is lying and the media is actively participating in the lie by not calling it a lie. When my son would say that he had done his homework when he hadn’t, I told him he was lying.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the media should pillory McCain or Palin or any other Republican because they are Republicans. I am saying that you folks in the media get paid well to do a job and part and parcel of that job is to be the keepers of the 11th Commandment which is; “Thou Shalt not get away with it”. That’s your job. If someone on camera or on tape tells you something that is demonstrably untrue, your job, the ONLY reason you are worth your salary no matter how big or small it is, is to point out the fact either right then and there in the interview or in the article later on. It is not objectivity to say “some say the sky is blue while the McCain campaign stated that the sky is green”. Objectivity is saying “Candidate X said the sky is green, so we went outside and did some investigation and we found that the sky is blue.” Being a reporter means following up and asking the candidate, “Ms X, the sky is demonstrably blue. Why would you say it is green”. Now, it’s possible that candidate X may not like that you pointed out that the sky is blue. They may call you a New York elitist or claim that you have a bias against this party or that. Let them!!! It’s not your job to be loved, it’s not your job to be liked, that’s what your dog, your friends, your family and your cat are for. Your job is to always and forever keep the fear of the electorate in the minds of politicians! They should be terrified of telling a bald-faced lie lest it be discovered and they be called out for it. Yet, this campaign, you let them get away with the most grotesque and outright lies.
What’s more, you, media people, continue to hype up the most trivial aspects. Are we, the rest of us who can only consume your products, to understand that you don’t find foreclosures at their highest rate since the Great Depression newsworthy enough to focus on that in the campaign? Should we take your utter inability to ask direct and even-handed questions about the war to be a sign that you don’t care, don’t think we care, or you are just so utterly and pathetically unintelligent that you can’t think of a single relevant, policy-oriented question to ask the candidates?
You have a job, media. There’s a reason that the Founders put the First Amendment in the Constitution and it wasn’t to protect the rights of an 18th century Larry Flint. Rather, it was because a free and open and, quite honestly, obnoxious press was crucial to preserving our democracy. There’s a reason the press is referred to as the Fourth Estate. While your role is not Constitutionally mandated, it was Constitutionally protected. You have shown, in this election cycle (and a number prior to it that I could mention) to be almost entirely unworthy of the protections that we give you. The very least you could do is the minimal description of your job. Entertaining us isn’t in your job description. If I want entertainment, I’ll turn on The Simpsons when I want news I’m going to turn on the news or pick up my paper or surf to a news website. What I’d like to see there is reporters doing their jobs.
Do your jobs, media. Your job is as important, perhaps more so, than any three branches of government. We, the 300 million of your fellow citizens who rely on you to tell us the news of the day, need you to do your jobs. So far, in 2008, you are letting us down and I, for one, do not care about your predictable mea culpas that you will do as the 2012 campaign kicks off.
Do. Your. Jobs. If you can’t, get the hell out of the way and let someone else do it for you if you can’t figure out how to do it yourself. To quote from the movie “Network”, ‘we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!’
Adrienne Davis, Portland, OR