Below are some of my thoughts and observations on the strange competing realities in our political universe.
Once upon a time in America there was a media that was known as the 4th estate, a term that is attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797), a British politician, as quoted in Thomas Carlyle’s book, “Heros and Hero Worship in History” (1841)…
Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all.
I remember when I first became aware of politics, in my teen years…the mid to late 70’s…the role of the press was still focused on presenting the truth. It was a noble goal that all major media outlets adhered to. I think All the President’s Men shows it very well. Sure there were differences of opinions and op-ed pages and politics was politics, but facts were also facts back then. I think politicians and people in the media were a lot more careful about what they said, especially if it was being recorded in some way. I imagine there was a lot of trash talking going on “off the record”, which was a concept that used to be respected too. Now we have people secretly recording or openly recording damn near everything. Twitter is causing all sorts of trouble for people, especially if they didn’t think before they tweeted.
With Rush Limbaugh rising to national attention around 1988, a whole new dynamic began in the media that in the mid 90’s was magnified by the introduction of Fox News. I first listened to Rush Limbaugh during the summer of 1992, I believe. I was painting a house and thought I should listen to what the opposition was pushing in the lead up to the presidential election. It as maddening to listen to, he was blatantly and unabashedly lying without any remorse. If he ever took a call from a listener, it was a supporter or the person was shut down pretty fast if they challenged him at all. I was enraged. That was my first exposure to the right-wing’s master plan of misinforming the mass electorate and conditioning them to block out any conflicting information. They are given Frank Luntz generated slogans to repeat whenever they are confronted with information that doesn’t fit with their well programmed beliefs. It is really an alternate reality that they’ve created, sort of like the one President Bush worked within, from Ron Suskind’s classic piece on the Bush presidency…(emphasis mine)
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
And I would add to that the fact that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh were the media wing of that reality. The effect of all that alternate reality is a whole lot of confused people in this country. You can’t really necessarily blame these people, many are unknowing victims of the misinformation. Recent polls where they break out the Fox News viewers, show some pretty stunning results…
- 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
- 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
- 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
- 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
- 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
- 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
- 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
- 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
- 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
For the trolls out there nodding in agreement, every one of those bullet points is the opposite of what is true. Just so we’re clear.
The other impact that Fox News and Rush have on the misinformed masses is to stoke anger and hatred towards President Obama and the Democrats in general. Media Matters has hundreds, perhaps thousands of examples of how they do that. Some of it is subtle and much of it is not so subtle. They clearly like to throw fuel on the fire of racism that continues to burn, particularly in the south. Probably the best examples of this are the folks at the Tea Party rallies who speak up about how they feel. I really don’t understand how someone can be so hateful and let that hatred direct all of his/her opinions. The Republican noise machine and brainwashing apparatus that is Fox News has warped their ability to distinguish lies from reality. This noise machine seems to inoculate their followers from either knowing that it is a lie or subconsciously they may know it, but they play along because the hatred and demagoguery overwhelms any moral reservations they might have about lying. This phenomenon has become more and more pervasive and since the compliant, agenda driven media never seem to call bullshit on them, it only encourages them to continue. Don’t feed the damn bears, people.
What is the answer to this phenomenon? I certainly don’t know the answer to that, but I certainly will do my part to help shine a light on these people that seem to be intent on destroying our democracy.