An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Rachel Maddow’

It is starting to look like the police want a war

Watching the Occupy protests across the country is getting a little harder for a person to do without wondering what exactly the thinking of the leaders of this country is when they have people who are supposed to lead it, and lead it peacefully, are having cops who are given free-reign and told that they will not have any consequences violently putting down peaceful protests.

All of the actions against the Occupy protesters have been for bad reasoning.  The clearing of Zucotti Park was because of some worthless litter laws.  As YouTube vlogger TJ Kincaid put it

I mean, maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m crazy, but I just feel like a local litter ordinance should take a backseat to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The reasoning behind the police and their attack against the Occupy protestors is getting stretched.  But they keep at it.  They keep pepper-spraying crowds.  They keep attacking innocent people.  They keep using “non-lethal” force against people who have done nothing wrong.  It is getting to the point in this country where it looks like the police want these peaceful protests to become violent, so they can just kill all the protesters off.

There was a segment that Rachel Maddow did on her show where she looked at all the new “non-lethal” weapons that the military has invented.  A lot of military-grade weaponry is being used against the protesters!  What is going on here?  If the police are using military weapons, it looks more and more like they want a war.  They want those they are attacking to fight back.

It is a critical flaw that has never been addressed in this country – how we are giving people who have had very little training, and have no real credential or any other significant requirements the power to have power over others and to be accountable to no one.  They are given power over people who have no power, and throughout this nation’s history, this power has been abused.

Perhaps the best example is at UC Davis this last week.  Two cops walk up to eleven students who are sitting on the ground and start macing them.  They have an unprovoked attack against them, and immediately, the other cops jump up and defend them.

It was for the safety of the officers and the arrestees, so they could get out, so we could leave!”

That was a quote from Chief Annette Spicuzza.  That is a lie.  It is an outright lie.  Take a look at the picture to the right.  Does it look like this guy who is mercilessly attacking these students is surrounded?  Does he feel trapped?  No.  That’s an outright lie.  But this is how it always works.  It is how it worked in the case of Anthony Bologna, and it is how it is working here.  The police face no real charges when they abuse their mandate to protect and serve.  They never feel the hammer of the law come down on them.  The fact is the police have demonstrated why they are not the protectors of the people.  They are thugs who are above the law.

And more and more, it is looking like they want a war.  There was a great quote by John F. Kennedy which seems to describe what is looking to happen in this country.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

And that is what it looks like is going to happen now.  Why don’t the leaders of this country understand this?  President Obama has been oddly silent about this peaceful revolution since when he came on and said that we shouldn’t blame all the bankers for what has happened in this country.  Now, he is nowhere to be found.  He once promised that if we weren’t content with the situation and we decided to protest, he would put on a pair of shoes and go out into the streets with them.  But he is nowhere to be found.

This government had better figure things out fast, because if you put down peace for too long, JFK was right, it does turn violent.

Peace out,

Lefty

Amanda Knox and the Failure of the Media

It is getting a little bit too annoying, really.  When we are in a societal calamity.  The EU is in real economic trouble.  America’s economy is heading in the wrong direction again.  The Middle East is still in chaos.  There are problems that are everywhere.  The vote on Pebble Mine is just around the corner.  The Alaskan economy isn’t all that great right now either.  All of this is going on, and what does the media see fit to either have as “Breaking News” or as the “Top Story” is the story of Amanda Knox coming back to America.

The story goes that there is a girl named Amanda Knox.  She was an exchange student in Italy.  Her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was found with her throat slit.  Knox and her boyfriend at the time, were charged and found guilty for the crime.  That was four years ago.  The rest is history, until recently.  The verdict of her appeal acquitted her, and now she has returned home.  And what has the news seen fit to do – talk about it to death!  I am starting to agree with Jon Stewart about what 24-hour news networks are designed to do

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 apparatus that exists in this building and exists at the other 24-hour are 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 are 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.'”

Really, this whole event how shined a spotlight, to me anyway, of something that really does need to be examined in the world of professional journalism – where the priorities are.  Stewart is absolutely right.  These networks won’t just admit that they don’t have anything that is worthwhile to talk about.  Thankfully, NPR, PBS, BBC, and the alternative media sources are doing the smart thing and giving this issue the attention that it deserves.  But really, when one examines this issue critically, it has to be pointed out that what does this matter?

What possibly contributions does this event give society.  What’s more, why does everybody care so much?  There is a greater societal problem that is displayed here – that the people of this country are starting to look less like an informed populace and more like Mike Judge’s creation, Idiocrisy.  When one examines what gets in the news anymore, and where the people tend to focus their attention, it is easy to see why the socially aware are starting to lose hope in the human race and their ability to make any productive change anymore.  This is not a key issue in this debate.  In fact, Amanda Knox is nothing more than a symptom, or even less than that, but a skin mark, on the problem that is the massive ball of corpses that is America and the priorities that this country has.  She is just a sign of what is to come in the media that has grown up around the corporations of this country.

Fox News may be the great white whale of journalism, but MSNBC and CNN are not innocent of what plagues Fox News – bad journalism that is intentionally made to seem much more important than it actually is.  Does anybody remember the Casey Anthony trial?  Or maybe you remember the example that Stewart gave in his article above, about how there was the press conference after Anthony Weiner was found out for having shown his weiner to a girl.  How when Pelosi said that she wasn’t going to talk about Weiner, but rather about jobs and the economy, everybody left.  These are just a few of the many examples of how these news networks are all completely ignoring the important issues.

There is another issue that seems to have been completely ignored by the media – Rick Perry and his massive political project/blunder – the Trans-Texas Corridor.  Put simply, it was a giant complex that was intended to route all major traffic to heavy population centers of Texas.  Costly, disruptive to private property, and just a giant waste, not to mention a very big bit of ugly business.  While it looks like Perry is losing some of the clout that he had, this issue has not been raised at all in any significant way.

See, this is the problem with the news – they seem to have a hard time reporting the news.  They seem to have it all mixed up that when you are charged with reporting the news to people, which means things that are of consequence happening in the local, state, national, or worldwide level.  Something like this Corridor would be a huge thing to talk about, especially with a candidate who bashes the federal government, but then goes around and does things like this.  Call it what you like, Perry, but government by any other name is still government.  That goes for the Ron Paul fans too.

But there is hope on the horizon.  The alternative media seems to be gaining traction.  More and more people are seeking out places where they can get the news and not have it be a corporate machine.  It used to be that just the eggheads were watching shows like FRONTLINE and listening to NPR.  It used to be that the corporate machine believed that nobody cared what those on the internet had to say.  But that isn’t true, not anymore.  Now, with YouTube, journalists having blogs, and several other blogs and vlogs being watched, the world of social commentary and journalism is growing.  This is a good thing.

In a world where the economy is heading in the wrong direction again, we need to have some voices who are above the sensationalist maw and are able to take the bag of snakes and lay them out straight.

Peace out,

Lefty

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

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 Newspaper’s Job

There was a recent discussion that I had had with a young man here at the college.  Normally, speaking about one’s self in a professional way with a newspaper or media outlet is not generally acceptable, but in this case, there really was no other way to do this.  This young man had the belief that the college newspaper here at UAA was nothing more than junk.  His contention was that it was a joke, not worthy of even the slightest consideration other than the articles that are written by me.  This man didn’t seem to realize what he had said, and how horrible a thing that it is to say until it was said.

There is a contention among the politically motivated in this country on both the left and the right that the media’s job is to do something other than what it is doing.  People seem to believe that the media’s job is to report dark secrets, expose corruption, keep everybody accountable, and never let anything that they care about go unreported.  The media’s job, the new’s job, is not that.  The job of people in the news is to report on things of consequence.  That is really all it is.  It is to report on things that matter in the real world. 

“You know, when was the last time you turned on the news and you saw a story about how there were no massive fires in your town that day?  Or how there weren’t any horrific car accidents, or rapes, or murders, or how- that nobody was killed in Iraq today?  I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume, never really happened,” said Glenn Beck on his syndicated (and ending at the end of the year) talk show on the hopelessly biased network Fox News.  This line of thought was absolutely foolish in every single regard.  And the sad fact is that Fox News has brought up and issue that the aforementioned young man put into perspective- the fact that there is no real respect for the media these days.

It isn’t exactly a mystery that most people believe that the media is biased these day.  Even the great zions of straight reporting, like the BBC, NPR, PBS, etc. are considered biased.  Of course, since they are in favor of an open discussion and exchange of ideas and examining both sides, people generally tend to believe that they have a liberal bias.  Another false assumption in this country is the idea that there is a liberal media in the same way that there is a conservative media.  There isn’t.  But people believe that it is.  People believe that there is a hardcore effort to either sway people one direction or the other.  But that isn’t the case. 

The fact is is that most reporters and most news organizations that aren’t on the major networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox) are not biased.  In fact, there are codes of ethics that are pretty clear about what a news organization is supposed to be.  Of course, say that to a typical American, and they won’t believe you.  That’s how it goes in this country.  It is people like the student mentioned at the top who are responsible for this belief that there is bias.  People like him are what is wrong with this country.

Left or right, the problem in this country is that everybody is trying to be a pariah for a cause.  And we have networks who cater to this image.  There are certain liberal pundits who are just as bad at tarnishing the image of fair and balanced (the real kind) news.  Every time that Ed Schultz is on television, I have a deep feeling of revulsion go through me when I listen to his clearly biased form of talking about political news. 

But then there are people like Rachel Maddow, who is dedicated to seeking the truth.  She has an obsession with facts that shows in her reporting.  She doesn’t miss details, and doesn’t let the fact that she has a bias influence how she looks into something.  She is one of those reporters that is in line with how Bill Moyer, my favorite journalist, said a reporter should be- having a bias, but is open about it, and still seeks the truth. 

The great reporters throughout history have all had bias.  True objective reporting is a myth.  Personal bias will influence what you do in one form or another if you get into the job of reporting for a news organization.  However, it is when you are able to work with your own bias, and are able to create something of substance, that you are making your job worthwhile.

And that is where it comes back to what was said at the top.  The job of the news isn’t to expose dark secrets, or corruption.  The job of the news is to talk about events.  Things of consequence that happen in our world.  And people who believe that the job of the news is to report on the dark going-ons, and to act as a hammer of justice, don’t realize that there is more to this world than politics.  There are a lot of things that happen, and it is the job of the media to look at all aspects of this world. 

And to this young man- I take great offense to what you said.  The young man mentioned that the only reason that he read the paper The Northern Light is simply because I write for it.  I mean this in the most sincere way when I ask him to stop reading the newspaper if that is all he reads it for.  Those who work for this paper work very hard.  We are all volunteers who are donating our time to this job.  We don’t have the biggest newspaper in the world, and our readership is very small.  However, that is not what matters.  What matters is the fact that we are trying.  We are doing our best.  And when we hear that somebody thinks that our paper is a joke, I honestly don’t want people who think that way to read my articles and to tell me that that is all they think the paper is worth.  I don’t want that kind of burden on my shoulders.

This paper means something to those who write for it.  We work hard.  If people think it is a joke, I would appreciate it if you kept that to yourself.

Peace out,

Eli

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