A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh That Liberal Media

Maybe the whole reason Bush's numbers are plummeting is due to the media. Certainly this piece by Orson Scott Card makes you wonder about anything the media tells us.

But I seriously don't know how folks are still able to say Bush follows through on what he says with a straight face, much less actually believe it. Human brains are just too damned big-- the fact that a 1000 people can look at the same info, but from different perspectives, and come to 1000 different conclusions is just so damned messy.

UPDATE: Okay, I'm sick and cranky. So, forgive me the snark about the straight face thing. I do think Bush would like to follow through on what he says more often than he does, and I do think he believes what he says. But, sadly, he almost completely lacks F.D.R's and Ronald Reagan's ability to go directly to the people and make his case. Thus, he is constrained by his own inability to communicate his vision into action, and far too often the vision is either lost, or greatly warped, in the process of filtering it through other agencies and individuals. And he unquestionably values loyalty over ability, and while that may be acceptable in a fraternity or a Yale secret society, it doesn't really work so well when you're the President of the United States.

But after reading the above OSC column, I read the preceding one, and it got me thinking. About the importance of finding the middle from time to time, and about the almost certainly dreadful choices I'm going to face in coming elections. We need a viable third candidate. Barkely isn't it.

John Stewart... hmm. Maybe. Yes, just maybe.

And if I could get OSC on board... hmm... okay. The push for C) None of the above begins next week. My head hurts too much to start today.
Hope you're feeling better, Nick.

Outside of the stories regarding Muhammad al-Dura, Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, Eason Jordan, and Jimmy Massey (some of which are blatantly false and others are misleading at the very least), my next biggest concern are in regards to the stories that don't get covered extensively by the MSM or the way in which the stories that are covered extensively by the MSM are presented.

Abu Ghraib is one story that has been repeatedly re-told and re-hashed in the media. Some continue to contend that, while it was important to tell the story initially, the ongoing coverage of the primarily negative aspects of it unfairly hurts our image in the world. Others say that it is story that must remain in the spotlight lest we become what we despise.

The MSM, however, has not given the same consideration to stories that show the type of enemy that we face. In the past six weeks, I have seen little or no continuous coverage about the two judges killed in Bangladesh by Muslim terrorists, the teacher sentenced to three years in prison and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" in Saudi Arabia, those killed in Somalia when an Islamic militia moved in to close theaters and video stores because they may promote immorality, the orphans of the Pakistan earthquake who are being "adopted" by terrorists to be new warriors in the jihad, the churches and other buildings that were set on fire in Pakistan after another alleged desecration of the Koran, the ships attacked by Somali pirates, the abduction and beheading of two Afghani villagers by Taliban rebels, the more than thirty bombs found in the Indonesian hideout of Azahari bin Husin, the inflammatory pamphlet urging Muslims to oppose Western governments that was handed out at a major Islamic festival in Australia, the father and his two sons found guilty of the "honor killing" of his pregnant daughter's boyfriend, the three Christian teenage girls who were attacked and beheaded by Muslim terrorists, the four U.S. contractors who were killed in Iraq, or the wife of a Palestinian terror suspect who tried to hide a hand grenade under her baby.

A Pew Poll from June 2005 found that 72% of those polled believe that the media favors one side over the other when presenting the news dealing with political and social issues. Overall, based on the news I find versus the news I see presented, and also based on many of the polls out there, I don't think that I'm alone in seeing a bias in the MSM.

For an example of the way that the stories are presented by the MSM, take a look at the first four paragraphs of the following CBS/AP story entitled "Still A War of Words Over Iraq."

The Pennsylvania congressman who has sparked a firestorm of controversy by calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq says Vice President Cheney will eventually agree with his position.

Cheney, meanwhile, has unleashed another salvo against critics, calling them "corrupt and shameless" for accusing the administration of twisting pre-war intelligence. However, he did say that Murtha is "a good man, a Marine" and a patriot."

But Murtha tells CNN that he's "trying to prevent another Vietnam," and predicted Cheney would eventually see it that way, too. Murtha contends the war "cannot be won on the ground."

The decorated Vietnam veteran says "the public turned against" the war before he called for a U.S. withdrawal.

Reading that, one gets the impression that Representative Murtha, a decorated veteran, is simply trying to keep a war that the public has turned against from becoming another Vietnam. He even expects that the Vice President, despite his continuing harsh words for critics of the war, will eventually agree that we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq.

Using only the facts and statements presented in the CBS/AP story just referenced, however, I could rewrite the beginning of the story like this:

Despite an overwhelming 403-3 defeat in the House of Representatives on a measure calling for an immediate troop withdrawal, a Democratic Congressman continues to call for the U.S. to get out of Iraq.

Some on Capitol Hill have called Representative Murtha's position one of abandonment and surrender, and the Secretary of Defense noted on one of the Sunday morning news programs that words have consequences for both the insurgents in Iraq and the U.S. troops opposing them.

"The enemy hears a big debate in the United States, and they have to wonder: 'Maybe all we have to do is wait and we'll win. We can't win militarily.' They know that. The battle is here in the United States," Rumsfeld said.

Vice President Cheney called Murtha "a good man, a Marine, and a patriot," but continued on to point out that "It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone."

That re-write gives a very different perception of the issue than the beginning of the CBS/AP version. Again, keep in mind that I only used information and statements that were in the original piece. The items chosen, and the manner in which they are presented, truly do create the tone of the story.

While I believe that the media is a factor in the way that Bush and the war are percieved, I don't think they are the only reasons for the President's lower approval ratings.

As you mentioned, Nick, Bush is not the communicator that Reagan and FDR were. He does have a "common-man" sort of charm, but that isn't going to necessarily move many of the fence sitters.

Also, I think that there is a lot of apathy and laziness in our instant society. It seems to me, and this is just my own observation and opinion, that most Americans would rather tune into anything other than the President addressing the nation. Speeches are boring, and other shows on cable are not. Why not tune into the Surreal Life or the Real World? One can always just get a recap of the key points on tomorrow's evening news.

My general view of all of this is that most of the negative perceptions which exist in regards to the President and the war are due to the stories that media chooses to cover and not to cover, the way the media presents the facts of the stories which they do cover, poor communication skills on the part of the President, and a large segment of the population that would rather receive most of their information in sound-bites and catch-phrases so as to not interrupt their entertainment.
Here's a good one titled
The Iraq story: how troops see it
. I'm not alone in thinking the media is leaving important aspects out, and I'd say that I'm in good company considering that the troops from one of the hardest hit battalions in Iraq seem to think so, too.
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