Monday, September 13, 2010

Your media narrative is going kill us all (part 2 - updated)

The current media narrative is that the elections in November are going to be a disaster for the Democrats, with massive numbers of Republicans getting elected. (This message is often accompanied by metaphorical battlefield narrative, with the victorious conquerors striding over the bleeding bodies of their fallen foes.)

And this has many people panicked about the fate of America, with teabaggers coming into office and strengthening the obstructionist Republicans who are doing their best to ensure that the first black president's term in office is an abject failure. Because, after all, Americans have notoriously short memories and will always choose instant gratification over long-term gains: it actually sounds plausible that, since Obama did not immediately create untold wealth and prosperity, the small-minded people will decide to give the keys back to the people who drove the car into the lake in the first place.

What they're failing to rememeber, of course, is that the media narrative is usually wrong. For one thing, it's being driven by people who are motivated to tell you that the Republicans will save us all.
While right-wing media chooses stories that serve its political agenda, progressive media increasingly covers the same "news." True, the focus is on disproving right-wing accounts, but from the "death panels" for granny to the alleged "Ground Zero" mosque, the right wing is setting the agenda for the progressive media.

No wonder Americans are unaware of President Obama's many accomplishments, or think that he, rather than President Bush, signed the unpopular bank bailout bill. With progressive media primarily focused on rebutting conservative "news," little time is left to promote stories that build support for progressive policies.

And, unlike progressive media, Fox and right-wing radio feel no obligation to cover stories that boost their opponents. The right-wing media avoids news that does not serve their cause, which limits stories from echoing through the broader public.

That's why so few Americans know about the Ensign, Vitter and other Republican political scandals, but everyone knows about Charles Rangel's problems. And why so many are unaware of the jobs created and preserved by the Obama stimulus, or about the many positive actions Obama officials at the EPA have taken to improve the environment.

Many noted how the media never connected former President Bush to the Exxon Valdez spill, but directly associated Obama with BP's reckless conduct. That's because Fox News and others made Obama the issue from the start, and traditional media either parroted this line or joined progressives in noting that the Bush Administration imposed lax oil drilling regulations; either way, Fox's framing of Obama as a central figure in the spill prevailed.
The slant even makes itself apparent in who they choose to tell the narrative. A new study from George Mason University School of Law shows that among the panel guests making up the Sunday Morning talk shows, "diversity" is a myth. The most common panelist is overwhelmingly an older, white, male Republican.
The study, of the five network Sunday shows from February to December 2009, found that while 14.6 percent of members of Congress were minorities, just 2.5 percent of the Congressional TV guests were minorities; and that while 16.9 percent of members were female, 13.5 percent of the guests were female.

A supplement to the study also singled out a group of “30 white, male U.S. senators in office six plus years” who represented 5.6 percent of the Congressional populace, but 61.4 percent of the TV guests.
Other fine examples of media compliance with promoting a false narrative can be found with allowing Republicans to call the act of allowing the Bush tax cuts expire a "tax increase," or the continual references to a community center as the "Ground Zero Mosque" (despite the fact that it's partly modeled on the 92nd Street Y, which is a Jewish community center, and nobody ever calls it "the Upper East Side Temple").

So, where does that leave us? Where should we turn?

Perhaps to the facts.
Flash back with me to February, 2008. Check out the headlines. If you alter the search terms from "Clinton leads" to "McCain can win", you get results like this. I love that first headline, don't you? October 29, 2008, just a couple of days ahead of the election, and the headline from the Seattle Times and others around the country is "McCain can still win..." Just for more fun, look at the news results for August-September 2008 when Palin came onboard -- she was a "game-changer".
We don't know what will happen. But really, we almost never do.

In the end, all we can bring away with us is that things are probably not as cut and dried as the "liberal media" would like us to believe.

Update (9/16): So meanwhile, if you're looking for more reasons to doubt the media's narrative about the unstoppable GOP machine, perhaps you should consider that the Republican party is currently curled up in the corner, trying to gnaw its leg off. And as for the public, well, it turns out that while they don't like the Democrats much, they like the Republicans even less, and they believe the Democrats have a better chance of fixing the mess we're in. So, you know, calm down. And don't forget to vote.

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