I spend an inordinate amount of time each day trying to remain an informed voter. Trust me, when I say “inordinate”, I mean that someone should organize an intervention! I spent every waking moment taking in and researching news from MSNBC, FOX, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, BBC, Al Jazeera, the white house press secretary, CSPAN (my favorite), The New York Times and the Washington Post. I have clocked enough time into listening to Limbaugh, that I actually qualify for admission into any bettered woman’s shelter in the country! I have to say that it’s getting harder and harder for me to get all of the facts every day.
Both parties claim a media bias against them, which is a joke, while being completely true at the same time. It’s true because we can no longer get the whole story on anything from one single source. It’s a joke when conservatives (and FOX specifically) refer to “the mainstream media” bias. FOX is the number one cable news channel (from a viewership perspective) in America. That makes them, by definition the mainstream media. There is NO city in America where a radio listener doesn’t have access to Limbaugh AND Savage AND O’Reilly AND Beck. Not a single one. On the flip side, most of the country has no access to Ron Reagan, Tom Hartman, Randi Rhodes, The Young Turks, or Stephanie Miller. We have an overabundance of conservative talk with only a smattering of liberal talk which sadly, is an improvement over where we were just 6 years ago.
The access to liberal media, which started six years ago with Air America (RIP) was completely nonexistent on television five years ago. There was no Olbermann, and no Maddow. Phil Donahue had a short lived show on MSNBC, which brought in their best ratings of the day for that network. He was canceled despite his ratings because NBC didn’t want anyone on their air that would challenge the Bush administration “in a time of war”. Shouldn’t everybody have been challenging them in a time of war? When did “challenging” become synonymous with “making shit up”? If the war was what the administration purported it to be, wouldn’t critical reporting have validated its necessity?
The shitty thing in this whole situation is that we have to pick a side before we can even get any information. You have to decide of you fall on the liberal or conservative side of an issue before you can get even one single fact about it. That puts us all in the position of forming an opinion based on (at most) half of the facts on any given issue.
We are as divided as we are because we don’t know anything.
Let me give you some examples. FOX is FOX so I won’t spend any time talking about their distorted reporting. You can go to Media Matters for that. Since most of my followers are democrats, I’m going to focus on liberal media.
We’ve heard a tiny little bit about how much money Exxon pays in US taxes. Not nearly as much as we should, but a little bit nonetheless. In case you missed it (which was easy to do), Exxon reported $40.61 billion in profit last year. They paid 47% in taxes worldwide. They paid 0% in taxes to the United States, which clearly disproves that higher corporate taxes suppresses job creation. They will pay taxes AND create jobs if they have to. You know what you’ll never hear from Olbermann and Maddow? GE earned $30 billion in 2009. How much did they pay in taxes? Nada. Not one thin dime. What’s worse, they claim that they’re owed a $1.1 billion refund! You will never, EVER hear that from Olbermann or Maddow because MSNBC is owned by GE Capital. They had to stay relatively quiet on the tax situation with Exxon because their employers are getting away with the same type of murder. You’ll notice that I left out Ed Schultz. I left him out because he’s always been a shill for the DCCC. He didn’t have to sell out at all to join MSNBC.
The liberal media left out or distorted all sorts of facts about the health reform bill that was just passed. One point that I heard over and over again, is that every insured American pays and extra $1,000 per year in premiums to cover emergency room costs for the uninsured. This figure came straight from the white house and was reported, completely unchallenged by MSNBC. This was a figure that the Center For American Progress came up with. The CATO Institute (a decidedly right wing “think tank”) came up with a $200 per year, per person figure. I was completely unable to get to the truth. Politifact (which is really good at sifting through the bullshit) couldn’t come up with a “real” number either. I know with 100% certainty, that we’re spending too much to cover the uninsured. Bringing them into the insurance system is a no brainer. But because of my intellectual curiosity, I’d like to be able to attach an actual number to the problem.
Here’s another one that goes back to the 2008 elections. We repeatedly heard from (then) senator Obama, that 90% of all of the contributors to his campaign were ordinary Americans. Olbermann and several others repeated this. After doing a little research, I discovered that Obama was 100% correct in that assertion. However, he neglect to mention that the money raised by that 90% of ordinary Americans amounted to only 50% of all the money he raised. The other 50% came from corporate donors. I’m not saying that only 50% in corporate donations isn’t seriously impressive (and completely unheard of in modern politics). I’m just saying that what we were told paints a different picture than what the reality was.
The issues with our media aren’t just limited to the distortion or omission of facts. The byproduct of receiving distorted facts is that we end up with a severely skewed ideology.
I’m going to use hate crimes legislation as an example. I, like most liberals saw what happened to Matthew Shepard and supported hate crimes legislation 100%. How could anyone look at that event and not have a strong visceral response? I held onto this point of view for months, until I really looked at the conservative perspective. They kept asserting that we already have laws against beating and torturing people to death. Adding another layer of legislation to specifically protect the gay community would create a “special class”. Sorry folks, you can’t advocate for equality while demanding “equality plus”. I ultimately ended up agreeing with that assessment. After thinking about even more, I realized that supporting hate crimes legislation was directly at odds with my anti-death penalty views. Statistics show that having a death penalty doesn’t serve as a deterrent at all. In 2009, Dallas’ murder rate was 10 murders higher per 100,000 residents than New York City’s. Texas, of course loves their death penalty, where New York doesn’t have it at all. I realized that in order to believe that beating someone to death while hating them for being gay would prove to be a greater deterrent, I would also have to believe that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. I already know that isn’t true. I had to eventually reconcile my beliefs to conclude that I really don’t support the passing of hate crimes legislation. My initial feelings were purely visceral and not at all fact based, much the same way conservatives’ views on the death penalty are. I never would have gotten where I did if I hadn’t proactively sought an opposing perspective. As much as I love her, Rachel Maddow was never going to give me the other side.
The current state of our media serves only to reinforce preconceived notions. It’s completely useless in informing us. Facts very rarely fit conveniently into an ideology the way they do in the American media.
My point here, is that we need to look at all of our news sources with a critical eye. You can’t just listen to one person or one source and have any sort of confidence in the knowledge that you’re well informed. That’s simply not true anymore. This applies to Olbermann devotees as much as it does to FOX News sycophants. If your news supports your ideology ALL the time, you’re not getting news.