What does it take for someone to stand up and say "Hey, that guy just said something unacceptable to me. I object to it and I want to help stop that person from repeating that crap" ?
I ask this in response to some of the extreme, repulsive remarks or actions by right-wing individuals aimed at President Obama during the past month or two. The ratings-driven television news media has chosen to cover these rants as "news" and failed to present them as the irresponsible acts they are. (The Right, historically, takes advantage of the superficial, entertainment-dominated news the most often).
There are too many examples to cover, but, here are a few that drew my attention:
1) First, the continuing efforts of a tiny, tiny minority of people to raise questions about whether President Obama was born in the United States -- the so-called "birthers" - who, for some puzzling reason, have continued to get covered by the national media. There's NOTHING to the questions - so, there should be NO more stories. Period.
2) The people who inexcusably carried guns outside town hall forum events where Obama spoke on a few occasions this summer. This, apparently, was some sort of sick way of drawing attention and making a point, I guess. I just know I heard too small an outcry of protest about this display of guns. It was a low moment that should've been rejected and criticized more harshly.
3) The ugly, unacceptable comments made by right-wing TV talk show host, Glenn Beck.
4) The ludicrous, incredibly disturbing attention paid to an initially very tiny protest of concern about President Obama's remarks made to the nations' schoolchildren on Sept. 8th. This mushroomed into a large story, thanks to the media coverage. (More on this in a second).
Right-wing radio and TV talk show hosts know, all too well, what drives the nation's news media in 2009: It's ENTERTAINMENT and that means whatever constitutes entertainment - even it the content is false, misleading, distorted or reckless. These entertainers who pretend to be "journalists" know that in this Internet-dominated news arena, the consumers of information have a VERY short attention span. So, if one of them makes an off-the-cuff remark that's inaccurate or offends some group, that's OK, he rationalizes. The specifics will be "forgotten" or will fade a few hours later -- and the initial impact is what counts, anyway.
Well, when I was growing up, it was NOT enough to simply be "entertaining." A news organization felt obligated to have at least some credibility and responsibility. It attempted to show respect and decency for other people in its coverage. These standards don't apply in 2009.So, I guess this helps explain how an idiot like Glenn Beck can somehow use a fraudulent "shock-jock" formula to attract attention, get a show, and attract ratings. However, when Beck back in late July, called President Obama "a racist" without providing any substantiation, I didn't accept that - and I don't accept that he should even have a show now. Do you recall what he said?
Beck, in a July 28th appearance on Fox and Friends, said that Obama "had a deep-seated hatred of white people or the white culture." He added: "I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying that he has a problem. This guy, is, I believe, a racist.."
Then, Beck's comment was circulated and discussed, when it should have been condemned and dismissed instantaneously. I think he should've been fired for such an off-base, ugly, unacceptable remark ---particularly when he made it so deliberately - with his eyes wide open.
While that Beck comment was "off-the-charts BAD," some of his right-wing peers - Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham and Bill O'Reilly, to name only a few examples - tend to routinely attack Obama in excessive, hysterical fashion. Often, these or other right-wing hosts describe "liberals" as if they're dangerous inhabitants of another planet. A number have continued calling Obama or his policies "socialist" even though it's an embarrassingly FALSE label. Is anyone intelligent listening out there? Do members of the audience know or care if this crap is spouted all day long?
These and other right-wing hosts use the most juvenile, stupid approaches to draw attention: Name-calling, exaggerating, lying, distorting, sensationalizing. They cleverly attach their extreme language to real-life news and strands of truth or reality in order to create an appearance of relevance when, in fact, much of their content is so false or out of context that it's serves no good purpose.
Consider the fuss that was made over Obama's remarks to school children on Sept. 8th.
First, some conservative got all up tight about a draft of the plans for Obama's remarks included a proposed "lesson plan" that made a reference to giving students a chance to volunteer ideas or ways to "help the President." It was clear to most that there was no bad intent here -- no effort to score political points; but, soon, right-wingers were spreading claims that Obama was trying to "indoctrinate" children and "promote his agenda" in an inappropriate way. Soon, news stories covering these unsubstantiated claims, fears and speculation began multiplying and a controversy was created out of nothing.
A few public officials actually stirred the pot, including Jim Greer, the Republican Party chairman in Florida, who was said he "was appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread Presiden Obama's socialist ideology." Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who reportedly has presidential aspirations, said the thought Obama's planned remarks were "disruptive."
The White House tried to reassure people the President's remarks were aimed at inspiring kids to be responsible, but, the story was off to the races. I think it was largely a "media-created" episode. I find it hard to believe there were thousands of "concerned parents" out there -- or, at least as many "concerned parents" as suggested by news accounts. For instance, the New York Times ran a Page One story on Sept. 4th headlined: "Obama's Plan for School Talk Ignites a Revolt," but, while the article reported anecdotal responses of concern or protest from citizens, it cited no evidence that large numbers of Americans had been impacted at all by this matter.
More importantly, when Obama actually spoke on Sept. 8th, his remarks were without controversy or politics; rather, his statement was what his advisors had promised -- a pitch to students about the importance of taking responsibility. Obama did a great job, by the way.
After I watched Obama on the 8th, my wish was that all the right-wing talk shows be held accountable for their false, irresponsible claims about Obama's speech. The entire episode illustrated how ridiculous the world of talk shows and media have become. Of course, we've seen evidence of this during public debate over health care reform too.
Right-wingers have leveled many wild, inaccurate charges and criticisms at President Obama as a way to hurt his chances to win a victory over health care. Perhaps the worst claim - taken up by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin - that, under Obama's plan, there would be "death panels" that would decide the fate of senior citizens at the end of their lives.
President Obama, in his Sept. 9th speech to a joint session of Congress, finally confronted this bluntly by saying the following.
"Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claims, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It's a lie, plain and simple."
Perhaps Obama learned a lesson about the need to respond far more directly and immediately in simple language that ensure everyone will at least hear the truth. (I think one unfortunate reality is that a segment of the right-wing "attacks" on Obama is due to an undercurrent of racism. The prejudice is manifested in negative or hateful rhetoric that, on the surface, targets other Obama-related topics).
In today's world covered by entertainment-driven media, leaders - including President Obama - must be swift and clear about clarifying misunderstandings and lies.
It's time the rest of us did our part to help label and reject irresponsible comments from the Right. Speak up and put an end to irresponsible, right-wing extremism !!