Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who needs balanced journalism? EVERYONE.

This clip is the latest thing that’s tapped into the same rage I’ve been feeling ever since Fox started advertising its own tea-bagging protests.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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I know it's supposed to be funny, but it left me feeling infuriated. I have this crazy idea that news networks should report on news, not create it. It bothers me enough how much power mainstream media has to frame and oversimplify issues, but using a 24 hour “news” network as a platform to promote anti-government protests, or really protests of any kind, is reprehensible. Fox, please take “news” out of your title if you would rather be a 24 hour ideological network. Free speech allows you to have a network to promote your ideology, but masquerading under the guise of “fair and balanced” news is just downright deceptive.

I am so surprised by the even tone I’ve been able to adopt so far, because this is one of those issues that automatically makes my heart pound, my cheeks become hot, and I unleash the foulest combination of swears I can think of. Seventy-five thousand people showed up to the teabagger protests in DC on 9/12. I suppose that’s a lot, but I’m not terribly impressed. You see, on January 18, 2003, I went to an anti-war protest in DC which hardly anyone heard about, and we had 200,000 people. The same day, San Francisco had 150,000 people. Cities across the country participated with their own events, and I can’t find much information on it. This is just from my memory, but I believe the protest in Minneapolis had 50,000 people, and that’s in January when it is really fucking cold. That weekend there were coordinated protests in 25 countries across the world. And you know how all these people got together? E-mail campaigns and word of mouth. We didn’t have the country’s most-viewed 24 hour news network repeatedly telling us about these protests, hosting gatherings in cities across the country, singing the praises of being a good, patriotic American and protesting our administration. We just had e-mail, and in regards to turnout, we were a hell of a lot more successful. Not only that, but the crowd truly was a diverse representation of Americans of all ages, races, and backgrounds, from priests to anarchists, all marching together to oppose a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. Afterwards, I was eager to read all the coverage of the protests, but I was disappointed. The DC local news covered it the most, and after that I didn’t see a single mainstream network mention it. They must have at least a bit, but I never caught it, even though I was looking. There were a few blurbs online. If I had access to LexisNexis, I’m sure I could find more, but this is the most comprehensive article I could find. When I told people about what I’d been doing that weekend, aside from the people who were on the same mailing lists as me, nobody was even aware of the protests going on, not even the ones in their own cities. Not only that, but we failed. Despite the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans showing their opposition, the administration told us to fuck off and started the war in about three months.

I remember when I began my anti-war activity as a freshman in college, I was all fired up with civic dissidence. I eventually became jaded. I remember talking to my mom, who had gone to anti-war protests in the sixties. “They figured out how to handle us,” I said, “They just don’t report on us.” The time leading up to the Iraq war was a horrible period in journalism. The mainstream media constructed a false consensus, was too spineless to ask the tough questions, and we went to war. In a few years, things got a little better. I lived in Japan for the end of the Bush administration, and missed a lot of the changing political climate. When I see archival footage of O’Reilly calling anti-war protestors “loons” mashed up with him talking about how awesome and patriotic the teabaggers are, my first reaction isn’t so much “What hypocrisy!” as “They started covering the anti-war protests?” But Fox News providing extensive coverage to the measly protests that it organizes itself is one thing that really makes the bile rise in my throat. Perhaps because it reminds me of how dependent civic movements are on the media, and how the media can be really fucking dishonest about it.


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