Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ignorance is Bliss

This past Saturday, a peace march was held in Concord. It was a collaboration of peace organizations and the faith community. There were well over a dozen ministers present.
By 2 pm, there were at least 1,000 people in front of the State House. Did you see it on TV? No, you didn’t!! The only thing missing was the media. One would think that a gathering of 1,000 people anywhere in our little state would be newsworthy, but, one would be wrong.

NH has some serious media limitations. We have one television station. We have one statewide newspaper, the paper now known as the NH Union Leader. If we are ever to receive better news coverage, we need to have competition, isn’t that what the free marketeers would say? Luckily, not even the silliest of conservatives has ever dared suggest to me that the NH media has a liberal bias. The Union Leader has always had a strong far right bias, and that continues to this day. The paper may not be quite as rabid as it was during William Loeb’s life, but Loeb continues to influence the paper, and NH media and politics from the grave. To be fair to WMUR, they can’t cover everything, but, in looking at what they do and do not cover, one can detect a rather conservative bias. WMUR showed up at the peace march when only about 200 people were there. Pictures with 200 people look very different from pictures of 1,000 – and that is often done intentionally. For some reason, NH media in general does not want to acknowledge the fact that within our state there is widespread opposition to the war.

Media has changed in my lifetime, and not for the better. Once upon a time the people who read the news were actually reporters. These days, networks try to find pretty celebrity entertainers like Katie Couric to read us the news, and do softball interviews with President Bush, or Condoleezza Rice, where no tough questions are asked. Coverage of world news has tapered off in the last 2 decades, while coverage of celebrity gossip has increased to epic proportions. Media monopolies are in place, where most mainstream media is owned by about 6 corporations. It isn’t like this in other countries. CNN’s European broadcasts are very different from the pablum we receive. The October 2 issue of Newsweek had a cover titled “Losing Afghanistan” complete with a picture of a terrorist and that was sent to the rest of the world. In the US, the cover was a picture of photographer Annie Liebovitz. Think we’re deliberately being dumbed down? You’re right!

We now know that the infamous Dean scream was manufactured, but that information came after it was broadcast repeatedly, for days. As so often happens, the retraction was printed once, on page 12. Statements are taken out of context and broadcast as gospel. It happens over and over. Meanwhile, harder questions – the kind 60 Minutes used to ask, aren’t asked any more. No one ever asked why Jeff Gannon, the male prostitute posing as a journalist, spent nights at the White House. Investigative journalism is dying a sad, sad death in the USA. Instead, we get John Stossel, pretending to be an investigative journalist, giving us his right wing biased (and funded by right wing think tanks) view on education, and political correctness.

It’s a great time for politicians, because of political polarization. The Union Leader printed an editorial this week blaming Democrats for the Mark Foley sex scandal. They whined that it’s because of Gerry Studds that no safeguards are in place. Right. The GOP has had control of the US House for 12 years. Apparently in that time they were powerless to enact policies to protect pages. Lies repeated often enough become true for many people, and that’s how the right wing media succeeds in spreading propaganda.

There was an attempt at it in the Conway Sun, just this week. Every year or so, someone in the Bradley camp feels compelled to try to smear me, so they give one of their buddies a letter to sign. This week, one was published that made the claim that I am a paid activist working for a grassroots organization backing Bradley’s opponent. Now – it is no secret to anyone in the area that I work for a statewide non-profit called the NH Citizens Alliance. I’ve been on both statewide and local television, radio, and in newspapers. Our local state reps all know me, and they all know this. NHCA is a 501 (c ) (3) non-profit. We are not partisan, we do not work with political parties, and we do not endorse candidates. The sad thing about this accusation is that Congressman Bradley knows me, and he knows NHCA. Whomever it was that put Don Koziol up to writing the letter, told him to lie, and he did. It’s hard to decide whether I should laugh or cry that a small town newspaper columnist wields such fearsome power that the Bradley camp would resort to outright dishonesty. Mostly, I’m embarrassed for them.

My eighth grade history teacher used to tell us: “Don’t believe everything you read, or hear, and only half of what you see.” I would add that it’s important to try to find out what you aren’t able to read, hear, or see. As we all sift through the constant flow of information aimed at us every day, it’s important to be a little cynical, and a lot aware of media manipulation and propaganda.

The peace march was great. Maybe the next one will make the news.

“The news and the truth are not the same thing.” Walter Lippmann

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