I’m thinking this morning about the way the war is being portrayed, and the way people’s perceptions are shaped by their biases, and what this all means in terms of the next presidential election, which I’m more or less convinced is going to end up being a referendum on the war.
It’s a concern. I believe that a majority of voters in this country, if they have access to a reasonably full, balanced account of what’s been happening, will choose to take a step back from the cliff Bush is doggedly determined to march us over. But the chance of their getting that sort of account seems to be diminishing.
A nice article on this, published in American Reporter and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, is Randolph T. Holhut’s The war I saw.
According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 70 percent of people the paper polled said they got most of their information from the all-news cable channels such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. But the coverage these people got sounded suspiciously like NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, where the United States is the only country that gets covered and the other nations are bit players in a red, white and blue melodrama.
The New York Times is already talking about a “Fox Effect” on television news – what reporter Jim Rutenberg called “a new sort of tv journalism that casts aside traditional notions of objectivity, holds contempt for dissent and eschews the skepticism of government at mainstream journalism’s core.”
Holhut himself listened to the BBC World Service via public radio. Another good alternative would be the sampling of an array of non-US news sources via the Internet, which is the approach that I, and probably most of you, used to keep informed about all this.
But what about that nearly 70% of US citizens that are getting their news from the cable news channels? It gets worse with the hard-core fans of right-wing talk radio; these people get a non-stop stream of fantasy entertainment, and a lot of them actually believe it, with scary consequences.
Like the consequences seen by John Fleming, as recounted by the Denver Post’s Reggie Rivers (again, via The Smirking Chimp): Protests are fine; just not here. Fleming hung an upside-down US flag in his store’s front window as a protest against the war; shortly thereafter he received a visit from the local chief of police, along with two other armed officers, who told him the display was illegal, and that he’d have to take it down. Which was, of course, thoroughly untrue, but the police chief still asserted it, and the display still came down.
Multiply that by many thousand times, and you get a picture of what’s going on all across the country. Bringing it home, again, to the smallish farming-cum-surfing community I live in, I already mentioned the flap that resulted when the wife of a local right-wing gadfly went around tying yellow plastic ribbons on every tree and lamppost, and a young woman of a different persuasion followed behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The larger context is that going back a number of months, a group of local activists have been gathering for an orderly peace vigil on a downtown corner every Friday evening; since the outset of war they’ve been opposed by an increasingly large, noisy, and occasionally violent group of pro-war counter-protesters who gather on the opposite corner.
A dialog about the conflict is taking place in the letters to the editor of the local weekly paper. Last week’s paper carried a letter from one of the regular counter-protesters that asserted the following:
Anybody who keeps saying that we have no reason for fighting in Iraq keeps refusing to see the facts. It has been stated time and time again Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11, supporting terrorist groups and supplying them. They came and attacked us, killed our men, women and children in an act of war. There is and can never be a reason for doing such a cowardly and terrible act of murder.
Yes, Saddam has brought this war on himself. Thank God we have a president right now who saw what needed to be done and being a leader did the right thing.
I was momentarily outraged at the linking of Saddam with 9/11, and was close to sending in a reply, but I didn’t. I figured that such an obvious lie would doubtless draw many such responses.
Well, it didn’t. Or if it did, the paper chose not to publish them. Instead, this week’s paper contains a new letter, from a different local right-winger, with a new lie:
Sadly, the true agenda of the “anti war” crowd is anti-Bush. Even with the phenomenal success of our military, they refer to our government officials in ways that I will not even dignify by quoting. Even as we find the “smoking guns” that prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate actions of our president.
Sigh. For our system of democracy to actually work the way it’s supposed to, the people casting their ballots need a clear understanding of what’s going on. I should have written a letter pointing out the lie in the first letter, and I should write one now pointing out the lie in this one. Not out of any delusion that I’ll actually influence either of these letter-writers to question their sources of “information,” but because left uncorrected, those lies are like a cancer that will spread through the minds of more open-minded people.
Those of us with access to better sources of information have an obligation to share that information. And not just with the other well-informed folk we interact with online, but with people in our own geographic community who don’t have access to those sources.
Whew. That was a rant and a half, eh?