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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Media Complicity

Ace hits the nail on the head in a recent entry. You would have thought abortion was a minor issue in the health care debate. You might not have even realized the House plan and ever-morphing Obama non-plan covered abortion. But it turns out it may split the Democratic coalition and this news has been a long time coming, but the media wanted it to be kept under wraps:

The media is never interested in covering wedge issues that effect Democrats. A wedge issue is any issue that divides the party. They’re always damaging in terms of getting elected or getting legislation passed, because, if there is a resolution on the issue, it is clear one wing has won and another wing has lost, and that causes all the internecine fighting we see all the time on the Republican side of the aisle.

A party’s best strategy — as far as simply acquiring and maintaining political power — is to obscure these wedge issues, ignore them, finesse them, leave them unresolved, to keep it unclear as possible who has won and who has lost.

And then, only later, once they’ve accomplished their short-term goals, do they deal with the political fall-out.

It is against a party’s interests to see these splits come to the forefront before they’ve achieved their short-term goals.

Clarity, in other words, hurts in politics. Witness Obama’s gauzy, empty campaign of change and hope without many people knowing what that meant. Liberals, leftists, independents and even some Republicans each read those empty words in a different way, each believing Obama would govern as they preferred.

Three of those groups were wrong. Had Obama been clear about his intentions and politics, three of those groups would have known they would be in the Out Group in any Obama presidency, and would have voted differently.

But because the media gave Obama a free pass on remaining utterly obscure, he prevailed.

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The left has broken down every cultural standard:  on good birth, on language, on relations of the sexes, on sex itself, and on right and wrong generally.  Should it be so surprising in this milieu that the last taboo, the taboo against sex with children, is now being attacked, at least for the talented who deserve special privileges?

The left’s fervent attacks on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals might seem confusing, but it’s now clear that these attacks were chiefly a pose to delegitimize one of the few respected voices criticizing the trends of the age.  We saw a bit of the real moral idiocy at work among the left in the recent celebration of Michael Jackson, in spite of his well known penchant for pedophilia.  But in the arrest of Roman Polanski, a sexual degenerate of the worst kind who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, the tone of his supporters has been surprising even by the low standards set by the left and the Hollywood gliterrati.

“As a Swiss filmmaker, I feel deeply ashamed,” Christian Frei said.

“He’s a brilliant guy, and he made a little mistake 32 years ago. What a shame for Switzerland,” said photographer Otto Weisser, a friend of Polanski.

Who knew that making a few good movies was enough to give one carte blanche literally to rape and maim and drug and sodomize children?   Well, that, and he’s a Holcaust Survivor, which makes him the victim par excellence entitled to victimize others apparently.

The protests of the French “cultural minister” really takes the cake:

“To see him thrown to the lions and put in prison because of ancient history — and as he was traveling to an event honoring him — is absolutely horrifying,” French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said after Polanski was arrested upon arrival in Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award. “There’s an America we love and an America that scares us, and it’s that latter America that has just shown us its face.”

I’m sure glad we are shutting down GITMO to appease the well developed consciences of these people.

It seems at times that we are competing with incredible panache to win the Most Decadent Declining Empire Award, lest the Safavids or Romans retain their titles! Indeed,  I haven’t seen this many otherwise respectable people get motivated to help a rapist escape justice since Leo Frank!

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When a Kansas abortionist and a Washington DC security guard at the Holocaust Museum were murdered in recent weeks by right-wing wackos–an ardent anti-abortion Missouri “freeman” and a neo-nazi respectively–the cases rightly received extensive news coverage because they were dramatic, unusual, and involve salient social controversies. There is no doubt that in both cases the perpetrators’ extreme, paranoid, and self-certain worldviews had a lot to do with why they did what they did.

It’s also true that other people that hold those views do not commit murder. This proves exactly nothing. Most of the important information in life is probabalistic in nature. There is no doubt that people with strong, uncompromising views of moral and political injustice–particularly when a certain group is viewed as the absolute enemy or absolutely evil–will be more inclined to dramatic political violence. As a consequence, it’s at least not crazy to say that if the rhetoric is extreme enough the government should keep an eye on public source data and monitor committed members of the extremist group.

But another group we are all familiar with that also employs extreme rhetoric. This group has, in fact, murdered thousands in the name of its belief system. It’s fair to describe the group as akin to certain right-wing movements: anti-modern and anti-liberal, combined with a view of violence as proof of commitment.

But this movement is never considered in such terms. It’s, in fact, treated with the utmost respect by the media and various elites. Any criticism of it qua group is treated as unfair stereotyping. In the case of this group, little effort is made to examine the connections of belief to violent action, connections which are patently obvious in the case of anti-abortion extremists and neo-nazi extremists.

At some point a crime by someone who “happens to be ‘X'” becomes “yet another X-motivated crime” or a characteristic crime of “X group” And while there is no bright line when that happens, if the actions in question follows from uncompromising statements about the need for certain kinds of violence by the group’s founders and leaders, we should not engage in back flips to avoid the obvious.

Earlier this week, a US soldier was murdered in broad daylight by someone who considered himself a sincere believer in Islam, following the religious commandment to avenge insults to Muslims and engage in jihad. But you would hardly know this from the national news. They’ve been busy focusing on the much less common domestic, right-wing extremists. And they’ve been avoiding considering the roots of Muslim violence in a widely held interpretation of Islam itself.

Consider the contrast of this lengthy AP wire report about the Arkansas attacks and the much smaller and more anodyne blurb at the NY Times.

Here’s some of what the Times cut out:

Muhammad, 23, said he wanted revenge for claims that American military personnel had desecrated copies of the Quran and killed or raped Muslims. “For this reason, no Muslim, male or female, sane or insane, little, big, small, old can accept or tolerate,” he said.

He said the U.S. military would never treat Christians and their Scriptures in the same manner.

“U.S. soldiers are killing innocent Muslim men and women. We believe that we have to strike back. We believe in eye for an eye. We don’t believe in turning the other cheek,” he said.

Consider what’s implicit in the NY Times’ editing of this wire report. A bunch of agnostics from DC and NY believe they understand Islam better than a guy who spent time in Yemen and changed his name to Abdulhakim Muhammad. The media and various political and academic elites are doing a disservice to our understanding of Islam, and there are implications of that misunderstanding relevant to the war on Islamic terrorism, our immigration policies, and domestic surveillance that should be undertaken of mosques and other Muslim groupings domestically.

The media and other elites buy into the view that our liberal social structure works well with everyone because “people everywhere want the same things,” thus diversity is basically good, and that the Third World and its people are basically victims of the West historically and victims today of “prejudice.” This view runs into conflicts with reality regularly, especially in the case of Islam, whether it is the text of the Koran, atrocities committed in the past and today by Muslims, the anti-modern and totalitarian viewpoint of the most extreme (sincere?) Muslims, and by the relatively strong connections between the content of Islam and the acts of Islamic terrorists.

Now that we have a President talking about Islam being “revealed” on the Arabian peninsula, I don’t see this sorry state of affairs changing any time soon. Failures of analysis and understanding beget failures of imagination about the threats we face as a people.

It’s sometimes objected that these terrorists are not following true Islam. Perhaps. But someone forgot to tell the perpetrators, their leaders, the thousands who cheered the “19 Lions,” and whoever put all that stuff about killing infidels in the Koran.

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Probably one of the most amazing examples I’ve ever seen of media bias and shilling for Obama. I had a “tea party” outside my office and was impressed with the numbers. Sure, the John Birch types were in evidence, not so unlike the folks you see at any gun show, but most were middle class looking people who were fed up with big spending, big taxes, bailouts, and a government that is willing to sell out our future for short-term gain. In the video below, it’s startling how hostile the reporter is and how she can’t fathom that we don’t want to be “bought off” with stimulus dollars.

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I’ve almost always been opposed to any limits on campaign spending, campaign contributions, or spending by single-issue advocacy groups, nor am I fond of most of the other power-preservation techniques the media-coastal elite promote as “campaign finance reform.”  That said, having lived in Illinois, I do know that it matters if the few guys that contribute to the campaign of a senator or governor miraculously also get all kinds of government contracts, sinecure power-sharing jobs, and the like.  In other words, some disclosure of spending to politicians may be warranted to detect corruption associated certain kinds of lobbying.

I would make distinctions between spending tied to personal financial gain and those tied to the concerns of the broader community.  Surely, political action and spending activity is on a bit of a continuum.  On one extreme, are purely ideological groups like the NRA and the ACLU.  On the other are the Aluminum Manufacturers Association or the National Association of Home Builders.   Perhaps a third group would be groups like AIPAC or the Serbian Unity Congress that have formal and informal ties with foreign powers.   More middling groups would be organizations like the AMA or the AARP.  The latter seek goods for their members, but those members are sufficiently disbursed among the community to have at least some arguable claim on the public interest.

One problem with reporting political donations is that groups fighting for purely ideological goods are lumped in with groups engaged in naked rent-seeking.  In California, this reporting requirement has led to particularly ugly outcomes, as otherwise anonymous opponents of gay marriage have been harassed, boycotted, and unable quietly to support a cause they believe in.  A website has even popped up to show anyone and everyone the opponents’ home addresses.

Those who contribute to political causes are a distinct minority in society.  They exercise disproportionate power.  It’s appropriate that corruption be detected and avoided, and thus ordinary political donations above a certain amount probably should be reported, but beyond this requirement most of the the campaign finance rules are noxious, tending to empower incumbents and the mainstream media above organized pluralities of decentralized citizens.  Even distinguishing one lobbying from another carries with it certain risks, as groups on the margins like AIPAC or the AARP are clearly in the middle of the spectrum of rent-seeking and purely ideological political activity, and any set of rules should probably err on the side of nondisclosure.

In no sensible world, however, should Americans be required to condition their First Amendment right to anonymous speech, including the “speech” of supporting political causes, on the risks of harassment by violent opponents, such as certain cadres of gay marriage supporters in the counter-cultural cesspool that is California.  Far from ending corruption, this leads to a new kind of corruption, the corruption of private violence against those with popular or at least defensible views from organized and recalcitrant factions.

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Eliot Spitzer was, until a few days ago, a supremely powerful man. He had the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and was a rising star.  He was brash, aggressive, over-reaching, ambitious, and self-important.  He was a man of his time and place . . . a liberal politician, a self-proclaimed moral leader, an attention-seeker, and a pushy New Yorker.  He also has all the weaknesses of this human type. 

For a Spitzer to get where he has gotten in life does not come from following the rules so much as enjoying a life of people, experiences, learning, risk, variety, self-confidence, and intensity.  From Bill Clinton, John Kennedy, and Bob Packwood, to Mark Foley and Larry Craig, a risk-taking appetite for sexual conquest often goes hand in hand with political skill and ambition. It is a familiar trait in artists and actors, as well.  Even more ordinary people throw away marriages every day for the fleeting excitement of the unattainable, the beautiful, and the merely different. 

People can grow and learn from episodes of downfall.  The Greeks, after all, said we “suffer into knowledge.”  Some of our greatest saints–Paul, Ignatius, Father Ken Roberts–went from being extreme sinners to extremely holy.  Most of us, however, oscillate between the two extremes, and hopefully, with God’s help, we lean more towards the good over time. 

But Spitzer’s non-apology apology does not show that he is on the road to understanding.  In his darkest hour, where the truth and the cost of his misdeeds cannot be avoided, Spitzer committed a flagrant and public act of selfishness, the last in a long string of selfish acts:  he paraded his wife before the media to sustain his image and disarm his critics.  After all, if she forgives him, who are we to judge? But this had nothing to do with her interests or those of his family. 

I can’t know what temptations he labors under.  In a sense, I can’t judge him, at least not in his totality.  I can know that adultery and prostitution are objectively wrong, but none of us can judge a soul, which takes shape from the subjective quality of a multitude of completed acts.  I can no more know the intricacies of this than I can tell someone that he should not be depressed or in pain.  Manifest sins may overshadow a heroic inner struggle, just as public conformity to moral rules may conceal a jealous, bitter, and hateful heart.

Nonetheless, I do know that if Spitzer’s sexual sins showed an overabundance of hot-blooded passion, his use of his wife as a prop was cool, calculating, deceptive, and unnecessary.  More than any other detail of this episode, this double abuse of his wife’s fidelity makes it very hard to have any sympathy for Mr. Spitzer . . . and it was hard enough

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