Monday, September 3, 2012

Go Where the Silence Is

... failing to engage the public in a fact-based discussion of the hard choices that will very soon be forced on Washington.

Getting to the bottom of things; I wish sometimes that I had the skill and guts to be a journalist.  Too many gaping holes in the news; sensational tidbits with no backing.  Can't help thinking... honest questions have been left behind, along with the facts, the objective truths we were trying so hard to face. 
Dear God, this is not what we need.

Spotlighting competitive spins on a controversial issue does not constitute good journalism. Facts coupled with a wide range of perspectives on those facts does.
Amy Goodman,
investigative journalist
For a non-provocative example from a few years back: a headline on NPR in '04 was “Bush's plan to reform Social Security.” The show aired a clip of Bush claiming that Social Security is in crisis and that our record budget deficits are caused by shortfalls in the program. Cut to next story—we heard no follow-up, no checking on whether there's any truth to the claim (in fact, the reverse is true—the Social Security trust fund is subsidizing the rest of the federal budget). It's as if there are no facts beyond what the president says. You'd never know by listening to Morning Edition's segment that there is a controversy over whether Social Security is really in crisis. Contrast that with a subsequent independent news program. After listening to guests debating the merits of privatizing Social Security, the host, Amy Goodman, asks a question that shows she's done her homework:
“… Every ... proposal acknowledges that private accounts by themselves do little to solve the system's projected shortfall ... Instead, these proposals rely on deep cuts in benefits to future retirees. ... The controller general of the Government Accountability Office … said that the creation of private accounts for Social Security will not deal with the solvency and sustainability of the Social Security fund. Your response to that?”
It's a straightforward question.  It assumes there's a world of facts that listeners have a right to know and that deserve the light. Spotlighting competitive spins on a controversial issue does not constitute good journalism. Facts coupled with a wide range of perspectives on those facts does. 
Goodman is a recipient of journalism's highest honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the George Polk Award, and the Alfred DuPont-Columbia Journalism Award.
"Independent media can go to where the silence is and break the sound barrier, doing what the corporate networks refuse to do."
Which brings us to Presidential Campaign Politics '12
  • Democrats and Republicans have spent hundreds of millions (actually) of dollars in talking about each other and in spinning the truth. 
  •  Neither candidate has yet objectively or accurately portrayed either themselves or the other.  Each party has deliberately misrepresented the truth, and in some cases, lied outright.
  This isn't what we want or need!
"... the deplorable tone of this particular campaign. Besides being marked by a cavalier disregard for facts on both sides, the campaign also has become bitter and trivial. It is failing to engage the public in a fact-based discussion of the hard choices that will very soon be forced on Washington."

... and I approved this message.
Triviality 1:  In Chicago, the Obama campaign for weeks has been consumed with the date (1999 or 2001?) of Romney’s departure from Bain Capital, the venture-capital firm he founded. The reason? The Obama campaign wants to blame Romney for management decisions made after Feb. 11, 1999, at a few of the companies in which Bain invested. 
Romney did retain ownership and corporate titles listed in routine SEC filings after February 1999, but no evidence has yet shown that he exercised any active control over Bain’s investment decisions during this time. Romney was working 12-hour days, six days a week, as president of the 2002 Winter Olympics committee and was not actively involved in Bain.

Factless claim 2:  Obama's team has even stooped to make a false claim that Romney favored banning abortion in cases of rape or incest, as though the contrast between their actual positions was not sufficiently clear.
 In doing so, the president mirrors the distortions of opponents who once accused him of favoring “infanticide.”

... and I approved this message.

  • Neither party has been willing to concede their own mistakes, their expensive and ineffective solutions, their big ideas that didn't play out and got dropped.  
  • Neither party is willing to note their own contribution to difficulties we now face.  And ...

Exaggeration 3:  For his part, Romney has claimed to have created as many as 100,000 jobs while at Bain, happily taking credit for hiring that happened long after he left, and offering no actual accounting for the figure. 

Groundless accusation 4:  Romney has accused Obama of waging a “war on women” based on job losses from a recession that started more than a year before Obama took office. 

Outright lies 5: Romney has falsely stated in a TV ad that an inspector general found stimulus contracts “were steered to ‘friends and family,’ ” when the IG made no such finding. 

Knowing misrepresentation 6:  Romney has repeatedly misrepresented Obama’s new health care law.

Pointed Slander 7:  Obama campaign aides recently suggested Romney was guilty of a “felony.” 

Groundless insult 8:  A Romney surrogate said the president should “learn to be an American.”

And as yet, there has been SILENCE on many things that matter.
  • ... And neither candidate speaks candidly of what he would actually do if elected.  
Here's a route from facts to decision.
Skipped steps leave you foolish and
inadequately informed.  Decisions,
particularly the big ones, deserve the
care and study that brings wisdom to
the table.  In its absence, all we have is
an opinion that someone else has given us.

The choice of president deserves more than an
advertising campaign where the wealthiest
clique wins.
  • Romney won’t say how he plans to cut taxes further without losing revenues. Cutting or eliminating the deduction for home mortgages or for state income taxes? 
  • Obama says nothing about how Social Security is to be preserved. Raising the payroll tax, perhaps?
  • Big deal? Well, we're left to choose on popularity instead of the candidate's offered content.
Neither has offered a coherent plan.  Neither dares talk about past performance in depth.  Promises to repeal this or balance that are unsupported and in many cases, somewhere between unsupportable and impossible.  Both sides are avoiding objective discussion, and major media is letting them do so. This is not what we as a country and as thoughtful citizens need.



More silence: ... and neither party has heard or responded to the vocal dissidents.  Now world wide, OWS protesters are being routinely abused, illegally detained, but none so far are being heard or answered.

We criticize the middle eastern countries for their violent response to dissent and protest.  In the west, we offer the same response only with a somewhat reduced level of violence.  A disappointing hypocrisy.

Rather than sincerely engage the protesters, government here is doing what it can to intimidate them, to silence them, to push them aside.  Federal, state, and municipal regulators are reshaping the law to preclude a public forum for the dissenters.

Much like the Vietnam War era protests, dissidents are classified as anarchists, traitors, anti-American trouble makers.

The establishment will probably have to kill a few before we realize that their protest belongs to us all.

How many times have we seen this same scenario?