Tag Archives: media

Don't Drink the Water

As I watch (and I admit, occasionally engage in) the meltdowns on Facebook and other social media, here’s a non-partisan thought on politics:

It’s not weakness to admit the shortcomings of the candidate or party you support. It’s not treachery to admit where the other candidate or party does well. Rather than making you a traitor to your own, it reveals you’re a person of consideration and character, refusing to be swept along by a stream of half-true headlines or news bites that tell you exactly what you might want to hear.
More than the evils of either (IMHO abysmal) main party candidate, I fear the drones on both sides who refuse to see anything that disagrees with what they want to believe.

Those who dismiss everything their candidate does wrong as if it isn’t on record and readily available for public review.

Those who turn on and savage public figures who they counted as allies for years prior to some perceived slight or difference of opinion.

Those who rely on the most suspect and sketchy source as fact when it is not supported by even one mainstream media outlet (and I include Fox in that).

This year I feel left with two horrible choices and perhaps a couple slightly better options that have no realistic chance of winning.

I want to blame the parties, the system, those in power.

But in my dealings with friends on both the right and the left, it’s all too clear that we’ve got the election the American people asked for.

I don’t unfriend people on Facebook. I may not agree with everyone but I like the variety of viewpoints (which I thought was one of the strong points of social media).

In light of willful, repeated ignorance in the face of several corrections or challenges, I’ve had to consider it several times now. Even people who concede one day that their extreme points take it too far–these same people will repeat the exact same words the next day as if it’s some obvious, unassailable truth.

In Rio, some sources report the water is tainted with sewage. Athletes are reportedly being advised: “Particpate, but keep your mouth closed to avoid contamination.”

I feel like that is good advice for social media over the next few months, as well as for the voting booth in November.

100 more days. (Followed by four years of further baseless and myopic vitriol on both sides.)

Good luck, America, and good night.

Autocorrect Fail

one of the few clean examples I could find...
What the–? Auto Correct! Oh, you!

Here are some words you probably didn’t hear in the news recently:

“Some kids had some automatic weapons they didn’t need.” – First Lady Michelle Obama

The quote comes from an unedited version of an ABC interview. In context, she’s talking about the tragic death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendelton in Chicago.

This sounds like a problem! Good lord, why would we leave automatic weapons in the hands of children? Isn’t there a law against that? Can’t we do something to stem the tide of automatic weapons flowing into the hands of our sweet children?

Thankfully, ABC was helpful (like all good unbiased media should be, right?). They edited the interview “for time” before airing it on Good Morning America. By “edited for time” I mean that they took out seven seconds of words from two segments lasting over eight and a half minutes. And the seven seconds were the quote you see in italics above, helpfully removed mid-sentence with a visual cutaway to cover the edit for viewers at home.

Ain’t technology grand?

The context of the quote, from the Fox article: “She was absolutely right. She did everything she was supposed to do. She was standing in a park, with her friends, in a neighborhood blocks away from where my kids grew up, where our house is. And she was caught in the line of fire. I just don’t want to keep disappointing our kids in this country. I want them to know that we put them first.”

The original unedited quote was “she was caught in the line of fire because some kids had some automatic weapons they didn’t need.

First off, yes, it’s a Fox News article that’s drawing on a piece from the Washington Times. I can guess what my liberal friends are thinking. “Right wing agenda! Tea Party propaganda!” And I fell for it! Oh noes!

Wait, how is it a Right wing agenda to point out that ABC happily covered up a glaring error in the First Lady’s understanding of this tragedy? Was it Right wing propaganda to point out edits made to Romney campaign speeches in order to paint him as an out-of-touch buffoon? Were we falling for the deceptions of the Right when we learned about NBC editing the 911 call made by George Zimmerman?

And isn’t the whole point of the media (of whatever stripe) to report the actual facts (as if there are other kinds of facts), not their particular slant and their edited made-for-target-audience version of events?

Is Fox guilty of stuff like this? Probably. I’m sure they like making the Right look good, just like ABC and others try to put the Left in a positive light. I’m no Fox clone, unable to see their position and their bias in reporting. You’ll note that I also linked to a CNN political article in this post.

What I’m saying is, I expect it to be a rule of media that they report what actually happened. If the facts and the tapes don’t tell the story you want, that’s too bad. You don’t get to edit the evidence to paint the picture of reality you want.

(Likewise, dear White House, you don’t get to threaten the press when they report the facts. I guess I can see why ABC would be so eager to edit the interview and help the First Lady save face.)

Technology gives us tremendous tools to get the word out about a given event at unprecedented speeds compared to how news traveled throughout history. But with that power comes responsibility to stick to the truth, not edit it to suit our whims.

Watergate 2.0?

I try to be fair and balanced in my news sources. Haha, no, that means I don’t just look at whatever’s on Fox. I also enjoy CNN and BBC and a variety of reputable news sites because I know that a lot of what comes across as “news” comes with an intended message I’m expected to accept. It’s also instructive when two generally-opposed news agencies are telling essentially the same story about a given issue or event.

CNN and Fox are literally sitting next to each other on my Favorites bar… the closest the two will ever likely get in this day and age.

And this day and age of politics is what’s frustrating me today.

Because apparently it’s important that people drink water.

Breaking News: President's food-based diet confirmed.
Yes, he’s clearly done. Also we’re looking into whether President Obama eats (gasp) FOOD.

I understand that the State of the Union response is not the best time to grab a sip. In our political theater, we want stoic and powerful speakers who can stare into the teleprompter, feign concern, and deliver a stunning performance. If a guy starts getting cotton-mouth when he speaks, if he takes an awkward pause to chug some water… well, that’s it, the fourth wall is broken for me and now I start thinking I’m watching news coverage of someone debating American policy decisions and promises made by the current Administration.

You mean this isn’t a remake of West Wing? What the heck! I’ve been lied to!

This Rubio water thing is on the front page of CNN. It says “Sen. Rubio drowning in ‘water-gate.'” In other words, we’re equating this to a President being implicated in directing breaking and entering to conduct illegal wire-tapping to collect information about political foes.

A bottle of water.

Look, we have enough problems in America that deserve some attention. We don’t need to make crap up and call it news.

Maybe we can talk about our spiralling debt and our inability to turn this titanic government away from a looming fiscal iceberg. We are halfway to $17 trillion dollars of debt from the $16 trillion I ranted about a few months ago. For a refresher, $16.5 trillion means:

$16,500,000,000,000.  Big number. This big number is almost $1 trillion more than the big number that represents everything our country produces within an entire year. We could put an entire year of American production right into the black hole of debt and still owe just about a trillion dollars. Maybe that’s a bigger problem than a drink of water in a very public speech.

Popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that we [planet Earth’s inhabitants as a whole… he’s very inclusive like that] have a high-rise building-sized chunk of rock hurtling toward our planet with no existing ability to deflect it. Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was on the news talking about Earth missing an impact from that asteroid by a mere fifteen minutes. There is no silver Space Shuttle, no Bruce Willis waiting to detonate a nuke deep in an oncoming asteroid to save humanity from extinction. Since that asteroid is passing by today, maybe that’s something to think about at a higher priority than Marco Rubio’s water bottle.

Tyson also commented on the scientific ignorance afflicting the majority of Americans. Maybe that’s an issue worthy of attention.

Speaking of big numbers, abortion (always hoped to be “safe, private, and rare” by its supporters) has claimed 55 million babies / fetuses since Roe v. Wade. 55 million is pretty big. That’s over one sixth of the population of the USA. Some people think that’s a pretty big deal.

Some people probably consider the population of the US and the world as a whole to be a big deal. 7 billion people on this planet need a lot of resources, and resources in some cases are finite. 7 billion people also use a lot of stuff and leave behind a lot of trash, some of which isn’t going to biodegrade anytime soon. Kind of a big deal.

Ooh, CNN, maybe you should find out whether that water bottle in Rubio’s hand was really biodegradable. That might be another angle you can use to really focus on the key issues in the news today.

Unemployment is still higher than anyone wants it to be. Gun violence is still more rampant than anyone wants it to be. Healthcare in America is probably still more expensive than anyone wants it to be, despite the influence of Obamacare. People in America are fighting for “marriage equality” so that they can love the person they choose. Maybe you’re for that. Maybe it’s a bigger issue than Rubio taking a drink. People in America are fighting to keep their right to express their religious beliefs about marriage and abortion and birth-control. Maybe you’re on their side of the fence. You probably also think it’s a bigger deal than a water bottle during the response to the State of the Union.

Our government recently said, “Trust us when we kill American citizens, we’re totally legit and not shady at all.” And they expected the American public to buy it. Maybe that’s a big deal worth some attention and thought. Marco Rubio took a drink of water, but there’s a 16 year old American kid who got hit by an American Hellfire missile launched off the wing of an American drone flying over a foreign country, and the government can say, “No, really, it’s ok, he was a bad teenager. This is national security stuff, you wouldn’t understand. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” Kind of a big deal.

Heck, maybe that “pilot” can get himself a Distinguished Warfare Medal out of the event. We’re willing to recognize pilots flying drones from around the world as more worthy of respect and admiration than servicemembers dodging (or taking) enemy fire while performing valorous deeds in combat on the battlefield. That’s a big deal too.

If politics means looking pretty and delivering a performance worthy of an Oscar or a Nobel prize, then maybe our society is going the wrong direction. Maybe we’re missing the point, forsaking a discussion and debate of the myriad issues facing our country, and allowing people to frame political issues as a pageant where appearance is all that matters. We’re expected to tune in for the next episode in our favorite political reality show, and chuckle when the laugh track CNN provides tells us the joke is funny.

Sorry, I’m not laughing.