News has seemingly ceased to exist in this country. We are submerged by tales of the GOP presidential race. Every flub, utterance, Gotcha!, and implication is blazoned across headlines as if we were talking about being at war. Wait, we are still having two undeclared wars – one with our troops in Afghanistan and another by proxy – lawless (but American) contractors in Iraq. I suppose progress was made when our troops were withdrawn last month – what?! Our troops were withdrawn from Iraq?!?! Why didn’t anyone say anything? I heard more about Kim Kardashian’s tweets.
Am I the only one that notices our American ADD? Aren’t there still yellow ribbon car magnets adorning our countries minivans? A few years ago if you didn’t make a visual statement to the world about your support of the troops you were assumed to be a terrorist sympathizer. These days our so-called news is shoving sweater vests, hair helmets and old racist newsletters at us fast and furious. They are desperate – as are the campaigns – to keep attention focused on the Republican race no matter what triviality is the “headline” of the day. Why this is the way things are is simple – a tense conflict captures the interest more easily than a deflated pull out where our mission, presence, and actions were never fully explained. One thing we all understand is that we did not “win”. I would bet if you took an informal poll of Americans, you would get a different synopsis on the war from each person. This country is using a grab bag of suspicions and accusations as their military morality. Sadly our legislative and Executive branches are using a similar logic in performing their duties.
The frame has been set: The story is about a GOP race and if you are not on the cutting edge of that story, you are leaving an audience (and advertisers) behind. As another sinister layer this particular frame is especially lucrative to a certain set – folks who run campaigns (obviously), folks who run ads accompanying news, folks who own media that would like particular candidates or philosophies to prevail in favor of their business, folks who would like to see attention go to ANYONE but Occupy Wall St., the list could go on. When we ask questions outside of the story du jour – like about war or social justice – we are seen as killjoys that throw a wet blanket on the catty festivities. Most of us aren’t Republicans, Gallup reported that as of 2010, 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 29% as Republicans. So what they hey? Now we found out that 25% of the (really zealous and proudly involved) caucus goers in Iowa – a state mostly known for their caucus and corn – have voted for Romney. Our entire nation is being told to get terribly excited/worried/happy/mad because .04% voted for the lesser of a handful of evils. When you combine the top three vote getters you can’t even get to 100,000 people or .039% . The Occupy Wall St crowd has a much broader impact and implication than the GOP horse race – it is relevant to 99% of us. Nearly all of us could relate to struggles to keeping our standard of living from slipping too much. We’ve all had real life experiences or extreme worries about keeping our homes, getting laid off, or dealing with devastating health or education debt. If we haven’t, we know we are very lucky and probably know lots of folks who have dealt with these very real and serious issues that directly effect us. This is why getting the frame right is so important in any discussion – when you determine the frame, you win before the discussion starts.
What I’m describing is a Big Media frame – they set the topic and tone of discussion and we follow. We don’t necessarily follow because we are stupid and don’t care about other issues, the reasons why it’s difficult to wrap our heads around the actual concern of the times – instead of the daily headline – are many: we are busy, we are only piecemeal informed, we aren’t shown civil reasoned thorough discussions, we are encouraged to take a side and camp out there, we are supposed to be shopping and tweeting. When folks are too concerned and start actually making life inconvenient for the powers that be – Wall St., Big Business, 1%ers – there is an active effort to get the masses back to a “safe” issue like a horse race, a celebrity fling, or a hair helmet.
So, what to do? First of all, I would encourage everyone to really take a good hard look at your news sources. How many trivialized stories, celebrity stories, or “empty trend” stories do your sources publish? I personally believe that straightforward television news is not a good value for my time – though I see clips online often. I have to sit through way too many pieces that amount to commercials for some new drug, product, or personality. The 4th estate – our media that is supposed to provide for an informed public – is failing us in lieu of making more money off of the airwaves that we the people allow them to use for free in exchange for this service. I’m sure this is not news to you. Look online for good news sources, look to other countries to find out info about our country. Some of these links are posted on my links page here. I also review some news pages from news sources I think are biased against my opinions. I want to know what they are saying and what their tactics are. I like supporting media watchdog and free media groups. The strength of our online community (including all of us using the internet democratically) is the only thing that has kept net neutrality.
Personally you can start to notice frames in media as well as everyday conversation. Notice how your “problem” relationship counterparts frame things – do you find yourself scrambling in a reactionary mode? Keep reading and you can train yourself to see the conversation under the conversation and get to the heart of matters then change the frame in your favor.