Wednesday, March 22, 2006

News As Entertainment And Entertainment As News

I don’t know how many people watched the episode of Boston Legal titled “Stick It”, and of the people who did, I don’t know how many heard the message or took it to heart.  What I do know is that the debate that should be taking place on news shows is taking place instead in our entertainment.  I wrote a post in December tackling this very issue, yet here we are again faced with another perfect example of how the news media is failing while those who have been charged with entertaining us are attempting to pick up the slack.  If you haven’t already seen this clip from Boston Legal (courtesy of BuzzFlash’s Wings of Justice), I hope you will do so now.  If only our politicians would speak with the clarity of moral purpose and the conviction of principles that is exhibited by this fictional character.  In this case, I am hoping that life will imitate art.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Richard Sepcic said...

I am a new reader of this blog and have enjoyed the content and expression of its perspective. Given that, would it be too strident and too much of an exaggeration to say that US citizens are facing a two-pronged terrorist threat: the potential threat of terrorism from abroad, and the ongoing terrorist attacks from our own government against our civil liberties? If the polls are to be believed, US citizens fear the potential foreign terrorist threat far more than the ongoing and growing domestic terrorist threat we face but seem to largely ignore each day.

8:28 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Richard--I think you paint an accurate picture of what we are facing. I am at a point where I fear my own government much more than I do Al Qaeda. And you're right, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the complacency of the American public. I remember seeing a clip about a year ago (I think it was Jay Leno) of people trying to gather signatures on the street for a petition. It was the Bill of Rights and people wouldn't sign it because it "went too far"!

Far too many people in this country do not know what their rights are, and therefore they are uninterested in fighting to protect them. That is a failure of the educational system and of the media. We are being threatened and we must fight back. Informing our fellow Americans of the dangers posed by this administration's overreaching is the first and most critical step.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Richard Sepcic said...

Thank you for your response. I do remember hearing about the "Bill of Rights" petition, someting both funny and sad at the same time...

One of the (many) reasons I called the Bush Administration actions against civil liberties / government accountability "terrorism" is to test its feasibility as a possible frame for a national security debate between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans perceive that they come out ahead in these debates now because of their framing of "national security" = "war on 'terror'" (to use the President's frequent rendering of it). But for the average American, terror has a much more mundane, and more threatening guise...lack of affordable, understandable healthcare options (if any at all)...threats to the solvency of Social Security...failures to adequately fund education initiatives, leading to a decline in US citizens skills in key technical fields...constant attacks on environmental concerns (like the Clean Water Act, which impacts all of us)...spiraling energy costs...spiraling national debt and its potential impact on our children's and granschildren's futures, especially when considering some of the countries who hold a large portion of it - China and Saudi Arabia...a sharp decline in international standing and respect (and not just toward our government, but toward average citizens as well)...a demonstrable inability to provide support for its citizens in cases of natural disasters...relentless attacks on civil liberties, including free speech and the basic right to vote...an executive branch unanswerable to the law, and a complicit Congress that has permitted it...and of course the list could go on and on. But if "national security" were defined to citizens in this way, would the threat from foreign terrorist attacks really outweigh the real "terrors" that we face every day? In every case, the basic Democratic positions on expanded national security would come out on top.

9:52 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Richard—You’re right, Bush's economic policies are class terrorism and the religious right's push for more legislation of their morality is social terrorism and the erosion of our civil liberties is domestic terrorism. I just wonder what it will take to get the average working American to make that determination on his/her own.

However apt a description they are, some people are going to view it as an overreaction. But, maybe it's time for some stark language to wake people up and make them realize they've been afraid of the wrong thing. It’s a dangerous way to frame the debate though. Just like there’s been a backlash (however small) against Republicans for calling Democrats unpatriotic, there could be an even bigger backlash if Republicans accuse Democrats of calling them terrorists. I get the sense that the public is tired of rhetoric and mud slinging and would respond much better to a positive agenda.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Richard Sepcic said...

Agreed. There is plenty of positive to focus on in strengthening what the Democrats could define as "national security" without resorting to more name calling. My own personal sense of things leads me to call Bush Administration policy execution "domestic terrorism", but the term would not elicit a positive response where one is sorely needed.

There was a recent British documentary (I think released through the BBC) called "The Power of Nightmare" that really illustrated in stark terms how US policy makers manipulated the 9/11 atrocity through half-truth and innuendo and used as a tool for creating a fearful populace and a leadership who appeared ready to protect and deliver them from the fear. It revealed nothing that you are not already aware of, but its presentation was quite powerful. The Bush Administration still relies on this basic messaging, but in the fullness of time, its hold over Americans is starting to weaken. Seen through this lens, this is another reason why I frame Bush Administration policies in action as more literally "terror-ism".

As you indicate, a positive message is needed, not because we face no external threats, but because we all need to see the threats as they are.

If a person can see the whole post-9/11 story unfold in retrospect, as is slowly happening now, the manipulation is easy to recognize, but once trapped in the dance of irrational fear and the synthetic need for protection from it, as you observed, it is hard to break out of it. Under any conditions, it is a test of character to admit to being wrong or misled, and we Americans now find ourselves facing this test. A positive Democratic message now could lead citizens to confront this test in a non-threatening fashion and to confront the challenges that we face as a consequence.

I'll go easier on the "terrorism" term in this context, but it does help with my own personal motivation!

Thanks for the forum to express this.

12:47 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Richard--I like that, it is terror-ism that they have been most guilty of. I did watch "Power of Nightmares" a brilliantly put together series. Kind of puts the whole thing into perspective when you learn the philosophical reasoning behind the neo-con agenda and their means for furthering it. They were right in how effective it would be, so many people have acted against their own best interests out of fear, but the neo-cons may have missed that fear does have a shelf life. If they don't scare people pretty soon, they're going to lose the opportunity for future testing of their wacky theories. Thank goodness for small favors and all that.

1:48 PM  
Blogger clash said...

I accidentally ended up here. However, the content impressed me a lot. I am not anyone to judge your writing, but it did create a tumultuous feeling in me!

12:12 AM  

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