Headlines, Special Reports, And Nasty Labels

When the average soul takes a look at the news of the day, it is hard to see how anyone is ever happy. Nancy Grace reports; “Somewhere there is a victim I can exploit for ratings.” TMZ reports; “Jesse James and Tiger Woods vie for the title of most mistresses by a man not in a country where harems are legal.” Fox News reports; “Mainstream liberal elite media ignores Republicans who call Democrats Communists.” The rest of the media reports; “Fox News is GOP propaganda machine and anyone who likes Sarah Palin is a crazy fool.”

The Rational Middle reports; “Americans who like to sit down with their neighbors or coworkers over a cup of coffee to discuss problems and opportunities, would like the network blowhards and punditocracy to shut the hell up!” There are very few things in the world that have only two sides; our nation isn’t a game of chess. This pattern of name calling is past ridiculous and moving towards dangerous, and I see plenty of fault to go around. Invoking a speech given in “The American President”, “America isn’t easy…this is advanced citizenship…you want to talk about the land of the free, let’s see you acknowledge someone standing center stage, advocating something at the top of his lungs, which you would advocate against at the top of yours.”

For the record, I can’t stand Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann. The absolute lack of awareness that trio demonstrates about our democracy, coupled with their absolute disregard of traditional civil discourse, is stunning. I will guarantee you that none of the three has read the Constitution since their senior year in high school (if then)…and this is a problem since their supposed arguments with the left are based on the Constitution. The point of this post friends, is that they all have the RIGHT to say what they will. The good folks who listen to them, do so because they identify with them as people. The act of labeling Beck or Palin fans “wingnuts” or “bigots”, unfairly condemns a multitude of people who trust their statements for the same reason that others trust Olbermann, Blitzer, or Cronkite.

Sarah Palin is someone who struck a chord with many I know, including my wife. The “hockey mom” image is not a result of branding, and her level of knowledge about the “big issues” is representative of average Americans. Most folks who have real jobs, real kids, and pay real bills, don’t have a lot of time to read foreign policy blogs or economic papers. The tactic of labeling Palin as an idiot that has no business in government is ineffective because by doing so, one labels all who identify with her as idiots. The same logic applies to Beck, Bachmann, Coulter, and others. This is the great irony of the last week in American politics; many people rightly pointing out the danger, hysteria, and irresponsibility associated with the labels applied to the Democrat’s reform of health care; whilst simultaneously undermining their moral authority with the usage of these statements for fund-raising and ad hominem attacks.

We are certainly at a crossroads in our nation, although not for the reasons that usually come to mind. We face a dangerous separation, not in individual income levels (although its bad), or in tax and spending levels (which is also bad); rather, we face a divergence between our knowledge of issues as individuals, and the ability of the free press to accurately and completely report FACTS. We the people know less about how our governments operate, the workings of the financial markets, and the environment in which we live than our forefathers. Simultaneously, our press, focused on ratings, circulation, and the IMPRESSION of straight reporting, is less capable of keeping us informed on government, finance, and environment. In the days when my father was an editor, op-eds were back page items; the publisher may have been able to put opinion on the front page, but all others belonged behind the reporting. Today, 90% of TV news is opinion-generated controversy battled by representative loud-mouths of the “two sides”.

This divergence is the fertilizer that feeds the attack mentality of today’s politics, and the bias battle is the false argument that drives the destruction of fact-based reporting. Folks, news reporting isn’t worth a darn when the reporter starts worrying about “balance”; you find and report the facts and let your viewers or readers decide. A news story is not supposed to have a liberal or conservative point of view; the point of view should be supplied by the viewer. The state of our free press is, unfortunately, not getting better anytime soon. Understanding the facts will have to fall to us, despite the time entailed. Fortunately, there are a number of sources available on the internet where citizens can quickly find good information. This blog has a number of those sources linked on the sidebar (both on the “Blogs I Follow” and “Good Solid Info” tags).

I highly recommend learning to use the “Thomas” site, which provides text and summaries of pending legislation, and “Beat The Press”, which provides (mostly) easy to follow commentary on stories we all read and hear on finance and economics. The author of Beat The Press is an economist named Dean Baker who was on record in 2004 about the coming housing meltdown and its effect on our financial markets. He provides regular commentary on the reporting of financial and economic issues, and is not shy in his critique of stories regardless of source. Other sources are also available for every aspect of our democracy, and I encourage you to use them…”Don’t trust me…I am just a blogger” is my motto!

The number of folks who have trusted this blog enough to make occasional visits is approaching 200 now, and I appreciate every one who has come through the virtual door. I hope to continue providing reasonable commentary and useful information to you the readers, and I am ever hopeful of reading more comments on the blog. Discussion and criticism, done without slings and arrows, is the difference between our country and a great portion of the rest of the world. I hope to continue to provide a forum for that discussion. If you enjoy the site, feel free to share the content through Facebook and Twitter. Regardless, please join the discussion!

The Rational Middle is listening…