An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Lawrence O’Donnell’

Partisanship has Always Been Around

So, I got the most recent edition of the paper when I returned to UAA to resign my contract for the next year.  Annoying, but whatever.  I got to read an article written by a very articulate and very passionate writer at The Northern Light named Brett Frazer.  He wrote a very good article, but I will admit that I do disagee with parts of what he says.

His article talks about partisanship in this country, and how it is a very big problem that people are not devoting enough time to thinking about and not realizing what a dangerous issue it actually is.  I don’t disagree with his conclusion, just some main points.  And since I’m always looking for a new concept for my professional blog, I thought I would address that.  Here is giving a shout out to Brett Frazer, for giving me today’s blog idea.

In any case, partisan warfare has always been around, in my opinion.  The only real difference between then and now is that back in the day, they didn’t have the platform that we have in this country today.  A YouTuber by the name of Pat Condell made an assertion that the “9/11 Mosque” (the worst moniker that I have heard in a long time) divided America like nothing ever has.  But he missed it too.

The fact is that partisan battles have been going on in this country since we have had a country.  We call it partisanship, but truly it’s just different ways of thinking.  Even back when America had only one partly, the liberal and conservative way of thinking often clashed.  They clash because it is in their nature.

Frazer quoted Jon Stewart in his article, and rightly so, but there is another quote by Stewart that I think works much better to describe the modern atmosphere of politics in this country.

The embarassment is that I’m given credibility in this world because of the disappointment the public has in what the news media does.”

Stewart argued on Chris Wallace’s show on Fox Sunday that the “liberal media” that Fox so unabashedly attacks is not some huge liberal counterweight to their massively overwhelming conservative and Republican bias.  They are more sensationalistic and somewhat lazy.  He also pointed out when Wallace said that Fox viewers are happy to be getting “the other side of the story” that studies consistently show that Fox viewers are consistently misinformed.

But he is right, none of the 24-hour news networks are innocent in it all.  Personally, I get my straight news from PBS and BBC.  But I like the political commentary of Rachell Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Keith Olbermann.  I don’t like Ed Schultz all that much.  His mannerisms are way too much like a liberal Rush Limbaugh.

However, partisanship in this country is definitely not a new thing.  Back in the days before the Civil War the partisan lines were pretty clear.  Frazer quotes George W. Bush from 1992 for bringing about the huge partisan movement in this country on the premise of a kind of holy war.  While he did start something pretty major, the fact is that part of what we are seeing today is brilliant political manuevering by the conservative elements in this country.

My good friend, John Aronno, had a thought about modern politics.  It used to be in the 90’s that the Democrats and liberal and progressive elements of this country could talk about the real issues, like legalizing pot, gay marriage, getting rid of DADT (we finally got to that, but there was a gap), all sorts of things, and it was accepted.  There was real debate.  However, the modern political landscape has been for at least the last nine or ten years that the conservatives go further and further to the right and get increasingly more crazy with their ideas, keeping the liberal and progressive and even the moderate elements from not even bringing anything to the debate table.  They are kept too busy trying to stop the insanity that they can’t do anything for the issues that actually matter.

I don’t think some of what has happened with modern politics is all partisanship in the way Frazer does.  I think that partisanship has evolved into a game of chess.  I am absolutely with Frazer when I say that it shouldn’t be a chess board with pieces on one side and the other, but the fact is that this is what it has become.

But more than that, the entire system is crooked, from top to bottom.  One of the key things that Obama said during the campaign was how the problems that sunk our economy couldn’t be fixed by keeping things the same.  And now he has two of the guys who got us into this mess in the first place as his chief economic advisors.  Economic Reform was a joke.  Elizabeth Warren was put (sort of) in charge of yet another toothless government agency.

The partisanship in this country is a problem, but it is a problem that has always been around, and will continue to be around.  The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that the entire system is built around this government really working for the lobby groups, and the American people not choosing to stand up and get involved because they are so apathetic because of seeing how unpleasant modern politics is.

Another good quote from John –

The reason voting doesn’t work is because nobody does it.”

Peace out,

Eli

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The Difference Between Corporate News and Real News

Fox News has had a big event that they published on their network as being one of the major campaign hits against the liberals.  Fox News Sunday had Jon Stewart on their network.  It was an interview with Chris Wallace.  This was a pretty cool interview to watch.  Thank goodness somebody on YouTube had the sense enough to post the interview.  Part one is here.  Part two is here.  This was a great catharsis for those of us who believe in the genuine media that it is supposed to be.  For those of us who believe in real reporting, who believe that political commentary can be combined with getting all the facts, it felt good to listen to Jon Stewart bash all of the corporate news networks.

Jon Stewart had a great quote about what he believes 24-hour news networks exist for.

 24-hour news networks are built for one thing, and that’s 9/11.  And the type of gigantic news event that the type of apparatues that exists in this building and exists in the other 24-news hours is perfectly suited to cover.  In the absence of that, they’re not just gonna say ‘there’s not that much that’s urgent or important or conflicted happening today, so we’re going to gin up.  We are going to bring forth more conflict and more sensationalism because we want you to continue watching us 24-hours a day, seven days a week.  Even when the news doesn’t necessarily warrant that type of behavior.'”

A long quote, yes, but absolutely correct, and horribly brutal against the networks who do 24-hour broadcasts.  Sure, I get my political commentary from Keith Olbermann (so glad he’s back!), Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Lawrenece O’Donnell, but there is a reason that all straight news that this reporter gets is from BBC or PBS Newshour.  The major corporate media is not designed for the kind of news that isn’t in conflict, isn’t sensational.  Because let’s face it – the news is boring.  To most people, who don’t care two craps what happens in the world, news is not something fun.

Watch the BBC news or PBS Newshour and you’ll see for yourself.  The news is generally delievered in a monotonous way that doesn’t seem all that entertaining.  The talk in a very low-key way.  They do this because the bulk of information that matters isn’t sensational.  It’s important, yes, but it’s often dull.   Talking about politics can be pretty fun.  Finding the funny side of things is the reason that Jon Stewart has a job in the first place.  But it also needs to be taken seriously, which is how O’Donnell, Maddow, and Olbermann tend to treat it.  But the fact is that raw news is rarely a lot of fun.

You can drive in your car and have NPR playing, and most times, you won’t listen all that hard.  It’s not a bad thing to be that way.  It’s the way of the world.  You perk up and turn the radio up when something really catches your interest.  That’s how people work.  There are different things that interest different people.  But to even listen to something on a topic you like in the monotonous way that NPR reporters talk takes an amount of dedication and, I guess it would be patience, that the bulk of people in this country don’t have.  So, how does the corporate media make up for this?  They sensationalize.

Does anybody remember the backlash after Anthony Weiner was found out for having sent images of his junk to other women?  The media went off their nut about this!  Jon Stewart brought this up as an example.  After he decided to capitulate to the six-year-old (in spirit) members of Congress and step down, Nancy Pelosi was going to make a press conference.  Everybody from the major media organizations was expecting her to blast Weiner (I think the only reason people got upset about this is because the guy’s name is Weiner).  They thought she was going to come out with both barrels blazing.  And what happened?  She decided not to let the six-year-old American audience rule her, and talk about things that matter, like jobs, the economy, stuff like that.  Stewart asked Wallace what happened after she said that –

What did everybody do? (Stewart?)
Left (Wallace)

Stewart went on to make another REALLY good point –

The embarrassment is that I am given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.

Stewart went on the attack against Wallace, which was great.  It was great to listen to a guy who is openly a political satirist getting bitter and upset with being called biased.  He said that his bias first is comedy, next comes politics.  The problem with the corporate media like MSNBC, CNN, and Fox is that they go out of their way to make things exponentially bigger than they actually are.  Fox blew the Shirley Sharrod thing totally out of proportion.  Anderson Cooper on CNN has introduced stories in the most cataclysmic of tones that even his guests agree was nothing.  MSNBC has had Ed Schultz go off on tangents.  There is a reason that Rachel Maddow has such respect on that network – because she had an obsession with the fact, connecting dots, and getting the information to people.  I think she is the person who has done the least amoung of sensationalizing on MSNBC.

Stewart closed his interview stating that he has seen no significant change with how things are run in this country after the fall of this economy, which is a great point.

But the fact is that people believe that they are being given the correct news by the big corporate 24-hour networks, but they aren’t.  They are being given news that is sensational, and news that is often either blown out of proportion, or dumbed-down so that people won’t think about it too critically.  But people need to realize that that isn’t what the news is always, or in my opinion, even often, about.  There real reporters like my friend, Heather Aronno.  She did her first report on APRN today.  Here’s a link to it.  Check this it, it’s good stuff.  It’s fair reporting about a pretty nifty topic – teaching young people how filmmaking is done.  People think that all media is biased.  I agree, but not to the same extent that they believe it is biased.  I think true objective reporting isn’t possible, because nobody is completely objective, but I do also believe that the bias is not so big, and most reporters genuinely want to get all the facts, or as many as they can fit.

Peace out,

Eli

The Death of Free-Thinking Education

A rather interesting issue was raised recently in the news.  There was a student named Damon Fowler.  He lives in what is called the “Bible Belt” of the United States.  He was a student at Bastrop High School in Louisiana.  He is an atheist.  When his graduation was coming up, Damon decided to raise an issue that he had with the ceremony.  He was upset that they had a prayer at graduation, and wanted it to be removed from the ceremony.  Since this is a public school, he was well within his rights to make that request.  In all honesty, this shouldn’t have been part of a public school’s ceremony to begin with.  Damon wasn’t asking for special treatment by the school officials, just omit an event.  That’s not too much to ask.

However, this brings a rather unpleasant issue to light – majority being taught as the rule.  It is something that is seen constantly on various elements of this country – having the majority be right, and the minority be wrong.  Fox News makes an example of the minority groups all the time.  Does anybody remember Glenn Beck’s little campaign against the group ACORN?  The conservative elements of this country seem absolutely bent on making the majority the rule, and quashing opposing opinion.

It happens time and time again in this country.  Conservatives say that those who don’t agree with them are “un-American” or “unpatriotic.”  It recently appeared again in the discussion of renewing The Patriot (Unconstitutional) Act.  Those who opposed it were met with vitrial and scorn by the conservatives. (See http://youtu.be/_GO1tI1FF6Y)

The very idea of having a differing opinion in this country seems to be so unbelievably awful to conservative elements.  Bill O’Reilly talks repeatedly about how challenging conservative ideas makes you a terrorist (*cough*Bradley Manning*cough*).  Any group that actively opposes that status quo, like Wikileaks or Anonymous are called terrorists and should be killed.  Another rather terrifying aspect of this is how the conservative community often has the idea of killing people as a means of stopping different opinions (Joyce Kaufman, anybody?).

The conservative community seems bent on not having differing opinions and not having people express them.  And the campaigns against those who express anything they don’t like is almost ruthless.  Does anybody remember Shirley Sherrod?  Fox News jumped on her bandwagon so fast that it made most people’s heads spin.  If you are against the Patriot Act, you are a terrorist.  I absolutely hate the argument in the worst way that if you aren’t a terrorist, you have nothing to hide.  That is so hopelessly degrading that it should make more people sick.

There was a clip today from Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell where he talked about the stupidity of the conservative campaign against socialism (if only a third of them, or a quarter, or an eighth knew what socialism actually was, maybe it would be a true debate in this country) and how Bill O’Reilly actually said something true for once in his career (See: http://youtu.be/e83GsyNaJqQ)

But back to Damon Fowler.  Even after he approached the school administration first with his grievances, giving them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to do the right thing.  It was after he went to them that he approached the ACLU.  But even after the school decided to take the prayer out of their graduation ceremony, a young woman who was speaking at the graduation decided to get up and to make a stand against the supposed threat to her freedom, by saying the Lord’s Prayer and encouraging the audience to join in.

This issue is important and shed a rather disturbing light on the American education system.  Maybe we can chalk it up to just being a Louisiana thing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  What she was saying here is that she was the victim.  The girl said, flat-out, that she “couldn’t go on” unless she could pray to her God.  Does that mean that she was going to kill herself?  That is pretty serious, but also just strange.  It is strange how the overwhelming majority of this country acts like they are somehow the victims of some kind of crime against them.  The overwhelming majority is acting like victims, being abused by the minority.

This is genuinely disturbing because it seems now that the message that is being put out there by conservative elements is – don’t challenge the status quo, don’t question, don’t voice your opinions, just let the majority rule and not be challenged.  It seems to have escaped the notice of conservative elements in this country that all the major changes that have happened in America have been the result of a determined minority who was dedicated to change.

Our students are supposed to be being taught that they are supposed to think for themselves, and to act on their beliefs and to challenge the status quo.  If this country starts genuinely telling our students to do the opposite, then America is doomed.  Not metaphorically, but literally doomed to failure.  Advances into the future are caused by people who are willing to speak up.  If nobody is left talking, who will be left to listen?

Peace out,

Eli

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