Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hey, MSM: What's the difference between a "birther" and a Big Foot hunter?

When's the last time you saw an in-depth interview with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist in the mainstream news? What about one of those folks who thinks we never landed on the moon? How about a member of the "Elvis is alive" crew? One of those guys who thinks he's hot on the trail of Big Foot? Can't remember? That's because legitimate media see these viewpoints as outlandish, unproven and beneath examination. Journalism is about presenting facts, uncovering lies and asking hard questions for the American public, which is very different from entertaining every half-assed, crackpot point of view on a given subject. No one expected that amid this year's celebration of the 1969 moon landing, Brian Williams might feel compelled to give voice to "the other side" that claims there is no anniversary to commemorate. "Real" news outlets would never deign to give credence to the freaky shit you read in News of the World at the checkout counter.

So why is "birther" Orly Taitz all over my TV, spewing nonsense seemingly every day? Even supposedly left-leaning Salon has an article on its front page today about "What Orly Taitz Believes." It's not just the Queen of All Obama Conspiracies getting media attention, though. Coverage of recent healthcare town hall meetings implies that the screeching and foaming mobs are merely presenting a legitimate opposing view. There is a legitimate opposing view, but I've seen none of it offered by the gun-wielding, Rosa Parks poster-ripping crowds on my set. But the MSM silently captures the cries of "death camp" and "Nazis" and "socialism," rarely pointing out the outrageous fallacy of this thinking--even, sadly, when the fact-free rhetoric comes from elected officials, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Note this Des Moines Register article about Grassley's town halls:

Grassley has become the target of conservatives disappointed with his willingness to negotiate. At times he stoked his party's base.

In Winterset, he was asked about a provision in a bill in the House that includes federal money to help senior citizens plan for their final years.

The provision has become a rallying point for opponents who say the federal government would play a role in decisions such as when to end a person's life support.

"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end of life. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear," Grassley said.

"You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out.

"And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on Grandma."

Grassley later told reporters he would not support such a measure, while explaining there is no talk of such language in the Finance Committee. Read more...

Later in the piece, the Register does report scoldings from state Democratic leaders, taking Grassley to task for "fearmongering." The paper notes that President Obama denied the "death panel" meme at his recent town hall. But it stops short of actually offering the actual text of the bill sitting in the House--a fact that puts the lie to Grassley's claim. The paper neutrally reports two different sides of an issue without offering facts that might help readers properly analyze the information. In truth, the "death panel" talk has as much validity as grainy footage of a Sasquatch. So, why are "deathers" getting more unchallenged attention and ink than midnight callers to "Coast to Coast?"


I would say that the media has no agenda save "if it bleeds it leads." In other words, of course the media is all over Orly Taitz, her fellow "birthers," "deathers" and wacked out Obama conspiracy nuts--it's tension, man! It's sexy! Didn't Don Henley already explain this in "Dirty Laundry?" But if it was all about conflict and shock, then CNN would be interviewing Skeeter who spied "The King" at the Kwik Trip Saturday night.

I think it is more likely that the gears of the media industrial complex are grinding in its best interests--that the earnest-faced anchors and talking heads, at the end of the day, are part of a corporatocracy that doesn't want any hope or change when how things are right now works pretty good for their privilege, power and bottom line. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but when people who think the President of the United States is out to kill their grandparents are given more credence than your typical tin foil hat-wearer, something is mighty strange, indeed.

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