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Posts Tagged ‘the media’

My father-in-law, Dick Soule, was a colorful character.  He had many sayings – some of them made more sense than others – all interesting, some timely.  And maybe none were more timely than the one I’m using as title for this post.  Lots of people have talked about the President’s fondness for ‘alternate facts,’ a behavior embodied by his press secretary and top aides.  For those who rely on digital media for their news, and tend toward information coming in fast bursts that don’t involve reading (let alone reading print publications “Of Record,”), it’s becoming tricky to know whether to believe what you hear and see.

And so the messages continue to be cranked out – about Putin, about the ‘crooked media,’ about lack of coverage of terrorist threats – even the “Bowling Green Massacre,”  which – it turns out – is one of those ‘alternate’ pieces of information ginned up by a Trump aide.

Which brings me to another of my father-in-law’s sayings.  He – and my husband as well – loved to distract our kids by pointing in a direction over their shoulder (particularly if there was, for instance, a brownie sitting on a plate in front of a child) and saying, “Look!  A Linotype!”  Linotypes, of course, haven’t been used for years…and hardly any kid (and few adults) would know what they are!  But the idea of pointing in one direction to grab the cookie off your plate, or throw you off your game (just like the old Quarterback Sneak) – now that is alive and being used with verve right now.

Because, of course, it turns out that the Administration — the one that we are supposed to respect and admire — would far rather have the media get distracted on ‘proving’ that they really HAVE covered stories of terrorist threats – and covered them enough (what the heck is enough???) to exempt themselves from the criticism of the White House.  At what point will the reputable media – the ‘failing’ New York Times, for instance; the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the like – respond to this kind of criticism by not responding and being distracted?

PT Barnum, famous showman, was well known for staging stunts.  He talked proudly about hiring a child in a town where his circus was, to carefully place six bricks outside of the tent where his show was.  People would gather, watching the child and the bricks and then, curious, they’d go inside to be entertained by acrobats, dancers, Gen Tom Thumb, and others.  They’d leave, feeling that they had experienced a great show, and spread the word to their friends.  Evidently – even though Ringling Brothers has announced the close of their circus – we haven’t learned the lessons Barnum wanted to teach us, more than 100 years ago:  we can be duped.  Over and over again, just like (as my husband likes to say) “shooting fish in a barrel.”  It’s easy, and it’s working. And more than that:  we know what this game is, yet still, we play it, over and over again.  “Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump,” said WC Fields, who seemed to embody the spirit of Barnum years after the showman had passed.  Evidently we’re the chumps, not smart enough to know that our ears are wet – and no, it’s not the rain coming down on our heads.

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There’s a quote, attributed to Bob Dole, John McCain, or possibly the Bible (I doubt it!) which says, “Don’t get into a wrestling match with a pig.  You’ll get dirty, and the pig likes it.”  A friend of mine had another version she often used:  “Don’t get into an argument with an idiot.”

Whichever phrase you go with, the intention’s the same:  don’t start to do battle with someone who wants to get down and dirty or sling mud at you – no one will win.  I thought about this when, emerging from a few days of camping and news blackout on Cape Cod last week, I returned home to find that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck had decided to hold a rally (the “Restoring Honor” rally) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  And that, in response, Rev. Al Sharpton and others then decided to have a counter-rally to combat the provocateurs’ move.

I believe Beck is despicable.  This is the man who likes to sow the seeds of hatred wherever he travels, who made a previous accusation that President Obama was a “racist” who has “a deep-seated hatred for white people.”  On Sunday, following the rally, he decided to pass judgment on Obama’s religious beliefs, saying, “”People aren’t recognizing his version of Christianity.”  This, from a Mormon who should know what religious discrimination feels like, and might do well to remember the process — as fellow Mormon Sen. Orrin Hatch does — which led to a steeple finally being placed on the Mormon Temple in Belmont, MA, despite community protests.

I, like so many of my generation, grew up being inspired and motivated by the words of Dr. King to build a country based on deed rather than creed, a country where justice would be served for the benefit of all – a country that we still have not achieved.  On the other hand, isn’t Sharpton’s response –on the surface, to try and rally King supporters and those who decry the hateful rhetoric and “lock and reload” language of Palin, and certainly, to try and capture the attention of the media — just playing into the hands of right wing hatemongers who want to bait liberals?  And who wins in such a battle, anyway?

Sharpton organized his “Reclaim the Dream” rally after he learned of Beck and Palin’s plans.  Depending on whose numbers you believe, Beck and Palin had around 87,000 attendees (if you believe Rep. Michelle Bachman, 1 million attended, but no one else counting heads gives a number close to that); Sharpton drew only about 3,000 to his gathering.  Who wins in this game?

I continue to be very, very worried by the amped-up rhetoric I hear thrown out over the air waves and through social media channels, and the acts of violence that are striking some communities — directed at one ethnic or cultural or religious group or another.  One pundit, speaking on MSNBC, suggested that this behavior is exactly what Al Qaeda wants to incite — to essentially have us eat one another alive and divide in disagreement and hate.  So far, we’re doing a pretty good job of it, and no one looks good.  In Murfreesboro, TN, a case of suspected arson occurred and gunshots were heard being fired near an Islamic center in the town.  This is hardly a lone report: cases of bias and violence against people perceived to be ‘other’ are rampant, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported over 900 hate groups active in the country.

Last I checked, this country still supported freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights, and by golly, that includes Muslims and the worship of Islam.  A number of religious groups understand the importance of this principle — certainly the Reform Jews do, for they have known what this kind of discrimination and attack feels like — and some groups have found ways to respond, with non-violence and without embrace of direct retaliatory language or behavior, to the rhetoric of Beck, Palin and others.  But not enough.

“We do not have to think alike to love alike,” said non-Trinitarian pioneer Ferenc David.  Unfortunately, we seem to be increasingly locked in a battle of who gets to claim moral and religious superiority over another group or individual.  The fight is based on hate, not love, and on who can scream the loudest, who can intimidate the best, and who can capture the coverage of the media with outrageous commentary.  We’re throwing gobs of mud at each other, and in this battle, everyone’s getting pretty dirty.

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