Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Tough Questions

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I've been very frustrated politically over the last year. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that the media is letting us down. Not that it doesn't give ample air time to various viewpoints, as it surely does. But it seems to me that with only a few exceptions, much of the time pundits and political figures spend in the media spotlight is merely  to spout thinly veiled propaganda. I don't include formal speeches and news conferences, as those are clearly the showplaces of the most naked of propaganda. I'm speaking of talk shows and interviews.

I've watched a good deal of TV news and opinion shows, or snippets thereof and it infuriates me to watch a guest spout off a long string of what they claim are indisputable facts and yet the interviewer will simply nod or offer up an opportunity for the guest to elaborate without ever challenging any of their claims. I've watched Senators confidently assert 'facts' that are demonstrably false. I don't mean that I disagree with their interpretation of policy. I mean straight up, no gray area, easily refuted lies. And this happens all the time. This isn't journalism, it's Public Relations. For example, I've watched Republican Senators and Representatives smile confidently and dismiss the various health reform bills as an unacceptable 'Government takeover of healthcare" and I keep waiting for the host to lean in and politely interrupt. I want to hear them ask exactly what part of the bill constitutes a takeover of healthcare? But they never do! This is where the media can make a difference. It's where they can help cut through the misinformation and the far too numerous lies. But far too often the moderators are little more than game show hosts.  So guests are allowed to come on and make blatantly misleading statements or lies with the tacit approval of the host. What's the point of this? It's just a media provided lectern from which guests can proclaim the sky is red to millions of people without contradiction. I don't expect the hosts to fact check everything on the fly, but when these whoppers come rolling out I'd like to see something!

Also, we've entered into an era where many media outlets have turned to an echo chamber style of journalism. You'll have a host who will interview almost exclusively politicians and pundits of the same political bent as they are. While you will occasionally get some decent analysis out of these, you rarely get anything particularly insightful. The guests are generally there just to provide backing for the host's views. What would make these much more interesting would be to see more liberals on Fox and more conservatives on MSNBC, for example. Of course, I have no idea if the main reason for much of this is due to guests refusing to come on a show that might actually press them on issues. This is certainly a likely reason, as I've heard Rachel Maddow note on several occasions that they have tried to get this person or that to come on the show but they've never accepted. In other words, they refused so they wouldn't have to answer a bunch of inconvenient questions.

Now you can say that some of this comes from the guest's demands for a friendly platform, therefore what can be done? Well, if the majority of news and opinion shows stopped providing unhindered propaganda time for guests, that would be a start. If these people stopped having this plethora of outlets vying to give out free air time, they would have to deal with a more adversarial format if they wanted to get their views broadcast. I bet if this was the norm rather than the exception, there would be a bit more truth mixed in with the self serving blather. This could only be a good thing.

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