Monday, January 30, 2006

Media, Politics, and Agita

"Democracy is the theory that holds that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

First, let us lay the notion of a "Liberal Media" to rest once and for all. There have been books written on how the "liberal" media is a myth; I can destroy the myth in three paragraphs. To-wit:

1. When it was revealed many years ago that George H.W. Bush (the Republican president) had an extramarital affair with a diplomat, nary a word was mentioned in the mainstream media (MSM); certainly, the story did not "have legs" and wasn't pursued. When it was revealed not-so-many years ago that Bill Clinton (the Democrat president) had an extramarital affair with an intern, the story never left the lead spot of the network news nor the front pages of America's daily newspapers.

2. When it was revealed back in 1992 that, while in college, Bill Clinton had tried smoking marijuana (but never inhaled), the revelation became a source of much mirth and finger-pointing that dogs the former president to this day. When it was alleged in 1999 that Dubya was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972 ... well, nobody really seemed to care to pursue the story. (Footnote: Whether Dubya actually was arrested for coke possession or not is beside my point. What matters is that the story was briefly reported, but never pursued, by the MSM.)

3. The MSM in the United States is financed by its advertisers (i.e., big corporations). Big corporations are, by their very nature, extremely politically conservative. No one can seriously suggest that the advertisers don't exercise some editorial control over the MSM's news content. Indeed, most MSM outlets these days are owned by such huge conservative corporations. If a "liberal" viewpoint might alienate the corporate owners or advertisers, that viewpoint is quickly squelched; and if news breaks that might hurt the conservatives in power (and, by extension, the conservative corporations), there is every incentive for the MSM to bury it. The notion of a "liberal media" is simply propaganda designed to suck all credibility out of any news stories that the conservatives in power deem unflattering. So let's be adults, and face the truth here. Call the media whatever you like (and I frequently do), but it is NOT "liberal".

There we go. Three paragraphs, myth destroyed. "Mission accomplished" (another example of the "liberal media" abdicating its responsibility to be a government watchdog ... but I digress)

Now then ...

There was a story released last week that revealed some very interesting truths about the ability of voters of both political parties to keep facts from getting in their way, and indeed, to flatly ignore information that's contrary to their point of view. This research project involved monitoring the brains of test subjects (assuming, for the sake of discussion, that they had one) while they evaluated information that threatened their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 presidential election.

The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, [Emory University director of clinical psychology Drew] Westen and his colleagues say.

Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.

The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

I was shocked -- shocked!! -- and amazed to read this. You mean that there's a reason why John Kerry (and, for that matter, Max Cleland and John McCain -- in short, anyone who opposed the Republican machine at any time in the past eight years, for any reason) is considered a traitor despite his military service, and Dubya (a draft evader) is considered a patriotic hero?

Thank goodness for that. Finally, an explanation. Not one that I particularly like, but an explanation nonetheless. So what we have learned is that, once the typical voter has made up his or her mind which candidate they prefer, no amount of evidence or -- heck, let's face it, TRUTH -- is likely to change their mind.

So, with that in mind, let us turn to another story from last week (which the right-wing blogs have been crowing about), in which we find that among those who have decided whether they would vote for potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008, those polled who have already decided that they will not vote for her outnumber those who have decided that they will vote for her, 39 to 29 percent.

This, despite the fact that most Americans couldn't tell you where Hillary stands on a single political issue. Seems people just flat don't like her. I guess a strong, intelligent woman who values the sanctity of her marriage and supports her husband, even when said husband is a confessed philanderer, doesn't make good presidential material. (Although, on the surface, you'd think this would be somebody the Republican "Family Values" party could rally behind, wouldn't you? But again, I digress ...)

From the way Hillary has been vilified by the "fair and balanced" hatemongers since before Bill Clinton first took the oath of office, you would think she had been discovered harboring Nazi torturers who escaped Germany after the Holocaust. (Although, now that we have a world leader -- Iran's new president -- who has publicly asserted that the "Holocaust" is really just a myth, I'm sure such torturers couldn't any longer be called "Nazis". I suppose these days we can call them "freedom-defending interrogators". But there I go, off on yet another tangent ...)

I had a fantasy the other day (no, not that kind of a fantasy, please), about a conversation I might have with one of these Hillary-haters:

"Hillary Clinton sucks! I will vote for ANYBODY in 2008, as long as they're running against Hillary!"


"Pardon me?"

Why would you vote FOR somebody, when their only qualification is that they're NOT somebody else?

"Well ... I just don't want her to be President, that's all."

Why not?

"Um ... huh?"

What is it that Hillary stands for that you oppose?

"Well, um ... I don't know."

So why are you so against Hillary?

"Well ... well, first of all, she's a bitch."


(exasperated) "Why what?"

Why do you think she's a bitch?

"Okay, listen. I just don't like her, okay?"

Why not?

"Listen, you ..."

Do you know Hillary? Has she done something to personally offend you?

(long pause) "Why do you hate freedom?"

(And the sad thing is, knowing what I know now thanks to that research study, I think a conversation with a Hillary-hater these days would probably proceed exactly along these lines ...)

posted by Gary @ 8:05 PM


At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems Billy having fun .. ah the good ol days

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Angie said...

Just stopping by to say Hi, Gary. :) Even thought I RARELY agree with you on the political side of things, I still like to read what you have to say. Hope things are well with you. Come chat sometime!

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Jetting Through Life said...

Hey Gary! Boy you come back with lots to say!! I guess I can agree with you about the MSM regarding Democrats vs. Republicans. Some things are easily dismissed... But to each his own...

Take care!!


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Mitey Mite said...

I asked my mother what she had against Hillary.
"I just don't like her."
"I just don't, that's all."
"What don't you like, her looks, her political views, her success?"
"I just don't like her at all."
And my mother is normally an intelligent woman!

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Kimberly said...

I like Hillary. Well, kinda. I don't know her personally, but I think it's cool that she didn't act pissy that Bill had to be her President on a string, when it was she that should of been sitting in the chair in the oval.

At 12:15 AM, Blogger Brad said...

As much as I like what Hillary stands for, I think nominating her in 2008 would be the official end of the Democratic Party, partly for the exact reasons you discuss here.

Great, succinct debunking of "liberal media". I read Eric Alterman's book on the topic, too. Good read.

I gotta tell you, though, if Ann Coulter ran for president, I would vote for ANYONE running against her.

At 12:12 AM, Blogger Zach Gates said...

Bowing down to ya. The "three paragraph proof" is damn solid. Well done across the boards.


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