Monday, August 3, 2009

Our Media Is Failing Us, Chpt. 1,047

Via Frank Rich comes an astonishingly frank admission from MSNBC’s political/financial reporter Dylan Ratigan. It explains how, in the middle of a national debate on healthcare reform, we were presented an opportunity to have a national conversation about race, and instead got distracted by a conversation over which brand of beer is sufficiently manly for the POTUS to quaff:
“Health care is bad for ratings,” explained one cable anchor, Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC, with refreshing public candor.

This of course will surprise absolutely no one. But I’d like to ask our American news media to consider how it helps them in the long run to continue dumbing down the national discourse.

Here’s another example. Over the weekend the birthers claim to have obtained Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. This is like the third one of these things that has popped up and, like the rest, it appears to be a forgery (read the debunking here.) I’d like to remind our news media that one of the chief “birther” mouthpieces is Jerome Corsi, the man behind such smears as “Unfit For Command” and conspiracy theories about a plan to use NAFTA to merge the U.S. with Canada and Mexico. This is crazy stuff, way-out-there stuff, yet Corsi continues to be treated as if he has some legitimate points--not just by Fox News, which books Corsi as a guest with regularity, but by the New York Times:

In an October 7 article on author Jerome Corsi's detention in Kenya that day, New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman wrote that Corsi's recent book smearing Sen. Barack Obama, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, "raises pointed questions about Mr. Obama's history of drug use, his 'extensive connections' to Islam and his relationships with Kenyan politicians, among other things -- allegations that Mr. Obama's campaign and others have widely disputed." However, the Times did not point out that The Obama Nation in fact contains numerous proven falsehoods -- not simply "widely disputed" allegations -- as Media Matters for America has documented and as the Times itself has noted.

You know, the left has its share of far-out there folks, too. Seems like during the Bush years, six months out from every election day I’d hear that Bush was going to declare martial law and cancel the election.

You know, I don’t remember any of those people being quoted in the New York Times or getting booked on MSNBC. Just sayin’.

And thank God, too. We don't need more of this wackadoodle crap getting on the news. There's enough of it as it is.

I also don’t remember people on the left who had fact-based concerns about the real estate bubble, our fragile banking system, or Iraq’s lack of WMD’s getting any airtime, either. Again, just sayin’. It seems even reality-based concerns from the left are ignored by our media, whereas the craziest hairball the right wing can cough up is deemed newsworthy.

This is how the media fails us. Someone needs to be the grown-up and be able to distinguish between crazy-assed conspiracy theories and real issues that we need to be concerned about. If Jerome Corsi and Orly Taitz want to peddle their crazy theories on talk radio and at Amazon, that's great. But I see no reason why our mainstream media needs to pretend their views are credible or worth our attention. Do they air every crackpot theory about asteroids destroying the earth or the latest news about when the Rapture will occur? Of course not. Maybe that's just not good for ratings.

Do you want another example? Okay here’s one: on Sunday, George Stephanopoulos hosted Michelle Malkin as a panelist on ABC’s This Week where she promptly made a fool of herself railing against government cheese.

Really, George? The nutcase who promoted the Iraq surge with pompons and a cheerleading outfit, who supports the Japanese internment camps of World War II, who flogs ACORN conspiracy theories and trashed the homeless for having cell phones? The same idiot who stalked the home of Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old boy who gave the Democratic radio address in 2007 when expanding SCHIP was on the table?

This is who you consider a credible source of information to discuss things like healthcare? Not a partisan hack? But I bet it was good for ratings, eh ABC? Feh.

It seems the American media needs to get its own head out of the trash. The people of this country are not mushrooms, you cannot keep us in the dark and feed us shit to boost your ratings before those chickens eventually come home to roost. An uneducated, disengaged public does not serve the news media’s long term interests and it does not serve the country’s long term interests.

I say to anyone who can hear: stop hurting America. You are only hurting yourselves.