Tag Archives: media

Democracy Infusion Needed – Stat

Democracy is in peril. This election season is different than those before it. We now have Citizens United, which is a game changer. While citizens are still allowed to vote (at least most of them), the information by which we learn about the candidates and issues is hopelessly compromised. In this country of capital worship, the election most often goes to the highest bidder. In turn this makes the average schmoe feel like their vote is a joke – why should they even disrupt their day? Democracy is a dead man walking.

The Citizens United ruling is so much of an issue, our democracy is shifting to shareholders. The owners of corporations have more and more power over the rest of us, and now they can decide whether or not they want to pull the puppet strings of our pseudo-democracy. The shareholders of Bank of America and 3M will vote on a referendum whether or not to use the company money to wade into the fray of politics. The difference between their corporate democracy and our “We the People” democracy, is that their main mission is to make money, ours is to secure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.”

Our best bet is that the threat of boycott for a political misstep will cause shareholders to eschew political meddlings. Our democracy is at the mercy of the corporations. Continue reading

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The Hateful Rush to Frame


Political framing can find yourself keeping strange company. Progressives might find themselves agreeing with Newt Gingrich this week, here’s a quote from Reuters by Newt,

I am astonished at the desperation of the elite media to avoid rising gas prices, to avoid the president’s apology to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, to avoid a trillion-dollar deficit, to avoid the longest period of unemployment since the Great Depression and to suddenly decide that Rush Limbaugh is the great national crisis of this week

You would think there were no news worthy events last week because coverage focused on Rush Limbaugh and what he does best – get attention via bombastic statements.  He successfully dominated at least one news cycle, if not the better part of a week’s cycle. Rush would not work as a guest blogger here because he uses uncivilized language and tone. A boycott of his advertisers must have had some effect because Saturday he apologized for his crude choice of language – not for the sentiment behind them. Many on the right and left feel that this apology was extracted and strictly about responding to advertisers.  When questioned about the language choice before Saturday, he simply added more insulting words and scenarios to his previous assault – he doubled down.

Rush and his handlers may have overstepped even the mainstream media’s standards of decency, but they certainly did a great job getting attention. Continue reading

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Lou Dobbs Doesn’t Want to Hear What the Trees Have to Say

“I speak for the trees”, says the Lorax.

Lou Dobbs doesn’t want to listen. A new blockbuster movie – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – is ramping up marketing.  Lou is not happy because the eco-friendly message the Lorax brings is indoctrinating our children. He actually puts it in 1%er terms (congratulations Occupy Wall Street for coining a term that your opponents now use as shorthand) – it supposedly “plainly demonizes the 1%”.  Lou is plainly assuming the connection between polluter/tree choppers and 1% for his viewing audience.  He is upset that “Obama’s friends in Hollywood” are pushing an environmental agenda.  In a way, I will agree with Lou – this movie will most definitely impact children’s opinions.

I haven’t seen the movie and read the book quite a while ago, but the basic message is that the short term gain of cutting trees down in rapid fashion outweighs the long term benefits of having them around. The story grows as the appetite of industrialization grows to not just take the trees, but to cut into all the areas of life that actual corporate domination cut into our life.

I have two kids that are growing like weeds. Occasionally, someone who hasn’t seen them for a while will exclaim, “look at how much he’s grown!” and marvel at the sight of my boy. While I am aware he has grown, I’ve seen him daily and the change never seemed that drastic to take note. That is how we are with our real lives – we don’t notice incremental changes. We accept small compromises on a near daily basis and it is hard to feel inspired, shocked, or motivated to fight for or against those compromises. We’ll say, “ok, dump your toxic wastes in this yucky area where no one important lives”, or, “ok, drill for oil offshore but waaay out there where we can’t see it”, or “we’ll let you pollute but you have to promise to plant some things when you’re done”. Then one day a shock happens – like an oil leak gusher in the ocean floor that takes 5 months to stave off and we wonder, ” how did we let this happen?”

Fiction helps us to understand. Fiction condenses time and events into a good story, but is often a macrocosm, a metaphor for what feels much more mundane in real time. Lou Dobbs is right in that well done stories can mold our opinions and indoctrinate our children; he knows that Dr. Seuss + slick animation + major moviehouse distribution = a major impact on American culture. Americans have proven their love for all of these things and will undoubtedly flock to the movie and buy the merchandise. This is predictable because so many other movies have gone before it with the same pattern.

Messages in movies and books count. When our kids see Transformers, they see robots, cars, industrialization, weaponry, and war glorified.  There is no shortage of glorified and romanticized materialism, warriors, sexism, and hyper-consumerism in our kids culture. Pre-school age kids can identify a plethora of brands, many not even relating to anything child friendly. We put our kids in front of screens a lot – every second of programmed viewing has been evaluated and assessed to be sure it does try to influence the viewer. Not every second has a political agenda, probably most just have a profit agenda and considerations for mental health, indoctrination, and ethics are non-existent.

This isn’t a guilt trip, screen time is a reality for us in this American world today, it’s just that Lou’s outrage is very pointed at potentially successful kids films with agendas he doesn’t care for. He starts his commentary by saying, “Now an unmentionable, a story you won’t hear in the liberal national media…” – as if liberal influences are the only messages influencing children. The fact is that our media works on a capitalist model which inherently encourages the sort of wild west, amoral, business centric philosophy that is one of the planks of being Republican.

Media literacy – developing an awareness around the “tricks” of the media and message manipulation – is very important for all of us, but especially for our kids that are growing up in a media saturated world.  Just as we don’t let any stranger with candy approach our kids, we need to be wary of who we invite into our living rooms and what we see in the theatres. Lou has every right to dislike a movie and discourage others from going, I do that all the time with our family’s media choices. Where he misses the mark is pretending as if messaging is a brand new thing that “Hollywood liberals” invented. For more information on how you and your kids can get more media literate, check out the Center for a Commercial Free Childhood here, or Media Education Films here, or the Action Coalition for Media Education here. They are all non-profit and non partisan.  Most times in this life, input=output. Be outraged if you want, but be aware of the messages being put out – not just to your children, but to you too. Be discriminate, hold a high standard, and give feedback to the media providers to influence their choices of programming.

I happen to like the Lorax’s message, maybe we’ll have a family outing to the theater and stop off to play in the woods on the way home.

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The Right Entitlement

The New York Times published an article over the weekend titled “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It“, which profiles several families and folks that describe themselves as conservative, the area recently helped sweep out a Democrat in favor of a tea party candidate. It is especially interesting because it strips individuals away from rhetoric or group think and confronts them on inconsistencies. This might be considered a “gotcha” style of report, only it’s not. It’s tone, sensitivity, and questions offer a personal glimpse into these folks lives (the individual vignette videos under the introduction). Everyone interviewed either used some of the government safety net or had someone in their immediate family who did, plus one guy who was adamant that he would not accept money from the government.

“Plan ahead! I don’t expect the rich to cough up the money that they work hard for, to give to to the people that are too foolish or too lazy to provide for themselves”, says Matt Anderson. This is pretty typical of a libertarian/republican line of rhetoric, perhaps it is more than a talking point for this guy. The only problem with this logic is that it assumes that the rich have worked hard and those that cannot provide for themselves are foolish and/or lazy or don’t plan. This is the essential crux of the “entitlement issue”; do people “deserve” benefits? If so, what is the criteria for deserving those benefits? Continue reading

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The News that Wasn’t

Camera crews are apparently not allowed at some of our so-called “public” hearings in Congress. Yesterday a journalist was arrested for doing nothing but standing by a a taping device. The arrest can be seen here. The chairman of the committee ordered his removal and the removal of all video cameras.  Apparently the reporter, an Academy-Award nominated filmmaker for the film “Gasland”, a film about fracking, was ignored by Congressional staff and therefore denied credentialing to get into the hearing. This might not be unusual, but the actual denial of entrance, the arrest, and the overt way in which the Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) avoided accountability and transparency is rare and another blow to the American dream. Here is what some Dems had to say about it in the report by Huffingtonpost:

“I was chair of the Subcommittee for four years, and we frequently had people show up the day of a hearing to film,” Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) told HuffPost. “We asked for their name, but they were told if they would not disrupt the hearing, they were free to record. A couple of times staff said, ‘You’re getting in the way, don’t stand there,’ but other than that, I do not ever recall anything like this. We certainly never turned anyone away for not providing 24 hours’ notice.”

“It’s an outrageous violation of the First Amendment,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told HuffPost. “Here we’ve got an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and it’s an important subject and the subject that he did his prior film on for HBO. And they put him in handcuffs and hauled him out of there. This is stunning.”

“I found it ironic that there was not a flood of cameras there,” noted Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). “There was the one camera and then before that, the ABC camera … if you have a camera there to bring the issue home to the public, that’s a good thing.”

This does not look good for Republicans they want to discuss fracking, or as they might prefer it to be framed, “hydraulic fracturing”, without being transparent. Continue reading

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