Friday, September 4, 2009

The media has failed us; have we failed America?

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws." - Abraham Lincoln

"Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Public; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter: Hence [printers] cheerfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute." - Benjamin Franklin

"None of us would trade freedom of expression for the narrowness of the public censor. America is a free market for people who have something to say, and need not fear to say it." - Hubert H. Humphrey
This country was founded on the idea of freedom of speech and freedom of the press; so much so it is written right there in the First Amendment, in black and white.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
See the part I highlighted in bold? Freedom of speech, or of the press; What a wacky idea. Well, the framers couldn't see a press run not by the people for the people, but by the corporations for the corporations.

As a student of journalism (graduated from Grand View College in 2006, now Grand View University), I have always been an advocate for freedom of the press as well as freedom of speech. It may not be pretty, but it is the only way a representative democracy is going to work. Even Thomas Jefferson understood this. And he hated the media of his day, the newspapers.
"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson
But even with that deep-seated hatred and mistrust of the media, he knew that's the way it needed to be. The people needed to be informed. Even after the U.S. Constitution set up the system of representative democracy (really a Constitutional Republic) we have today, which was put in place to let those most informed make the decisions while still answering to the people through elections, people need to be informed on the issues of the day. As much as Jefferson feared newspapers, he feared the idea of government without newspapers more.
"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson
But the newspapers Jefferson was speaking about, unlike the media in today's terms, were run by businessmen and citizens, not global corporations.

I have always distrusted corporate control of the media, but my trip over to the FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) Web site still felt like a punch to the gut. I knew how fucked up the media was and is, but to see evidence, data, and reporting on the subject, well, it's depressing.
"A specter now haunts the world: a global commercial media system dominated by a small number of superpowerful, mostly U.S.-based transnational media corporations. It is a system that works to advance the cause of the global market and promote commercial values, while denigrating journalism and culture not conducive to the immediate bottom line or long-run corporate interests. It is a disaster for anything but the most superficial notion of democracy--a democracy where, to paraphrase John Jay's maxim, those who own the world ought to govern it."
- from The Global Media Giants
FAIR has several Issue Areas, and I think one in particular is having a damning affect on current debates in the media.
"Given that most media outlets are owned by for-profit corporations and are funded by corporate advertising, it is not surprising that they seldom provide a full range of debate. The right edge of discussion is usually represented by a committed supporter of right-wing causes, someone who calls for significantly changing the status quo in a conservative direction. The left edge, by contrast, is often represented by an establishment-oriented centrist who supports maintaining the status quo; very rarely is a critic of corporate power who identifies with progressive causes and movements with the same passion as their conservative counterparts allowed to take part in mass media debates."
from Issue Area: Narrow Range of Debate
The media is shaping debates by leaving out major progressive (but albeit minority) views. Which brings up to the epic media fail going on right now. And I mean, right now! FAIR looked into this back in March.
"Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama's March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program, according to a new FAIR study. And advocates of such a system--two of whom participated in yesterday's summit--were almost entirely shut out, FAIR found.

Single-payer--a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada's current system)--polls well with the public, who preferred it two-to-one over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper.

Over the past week, hundreds of stories in major newspapers and on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer mentioned healthcare reform, according to a search of the Nexis database (2/25/09-3/4/09). Yet all but 18 of these stories made no mention of "single-payer" (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as "Medicare for all," or the proposed single-payer bill, H.R. 676), and only five included the views of advocates of single-payer--none of which appeared on television."
- from FAIR Study: Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare
That CBS News/New York Times Poll? 59% in favor.
CBS News/New York Times Poll.
Jan. 11-15, 2009. N=1,112 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Should the government in Washington provide national health insurance, or is this something that should be left only to private enterprise?"

Private Enterprise
So we are being totally robbed of a real debate. Only now are single-payer (Medicare for all) advocates getting a voice in the mainstream media.

And if you think this health care debate is only being fought in Washington, at town hall meetings, and in the mainstream media, I give you something that is going around one of the newest additions to the media list: Facebook.
No one should die because they cannot afford healthcare. No one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should be tied to a job because of pre-existing condition. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.
It seems a real grassroots movement is underway.
"As an amazing (and pretty clearly organic) piece of evidence to counter the "young people don't care about health reform" meme, Facebook is exploding today with viral status updates that read: "No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day."


To be clear, I don't think this is an organized campaign by any organization, but just a very clear and powerful indicator that young people do care, are communicating through their own methods and paying attention to this important issue."
- from WireTap Blog
Take a look for yourself. It would seem, while the media is failing us & America, the people might just have what it takes to make there voice heard, with or without the media.

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