Bias in the Media

Media bias comes in two forms, the suppression of news coverage and the coverage of news in a manner that constitutes propaganda. Propaganda, or what we are being told and sold, makes up half the problem of biased reporting, the other half of the problem lies in the suppression of news.

In an article I was reading this morning, published by POLITICO, there was a great quote by Sharyl Attkisson, “The images that the public sees every day, in many forms, are influenced and manipulated by political, corporate and other special interests through orchestrated and well-financed campaigns.”

I had great hopes, for a brief moment, that for once the media would discuss the presence of and issues caused by corporate or special interest bias in the media. Sadly, rather than branching out past the standard issue of political bias in the media, the article only focused on the well discussed presence of political bias.

Political bias/propaganda is fairly easy for most people to identify, and the educated can maneuver through it with little difficulty. Although frustrating, political bias is not the real danger because it is relatively obvious. It is the corporate and special interest bias/propaganda that hold the real danger for the public, because of the difficulty identifying the motivation. We could say, “It is all about money,” but this oversimplification obscures the difficulties we face in identifying what money is purchasing. Certainly, a corporation would want to increase its earnings and thereby wish to wage a campaign against anything that threatens earning potential, but unlike with pure political bias, the public is more often then not unaware the campaign is being waged. Special interest bias/propaganda is even more difficult to identify, because unlike in a political campaign where the special interest group is identified at the end, news coverage does not include a “paid for by” statement at the end of each news story. Nor will you hear a “this story which we did not cover was suppressed by” statement during the news coverage.

While many can learn to read between the lines of propaganda and glean an understanding of bias, one cannot read between the lines when there are no lines due to suppression.

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Stop Condescending the Youth

Stop Condescending the Youth – my thought on banning books. Inspired by John Green, after reading one of his recent tumblr posts and watching a 2008 volg.

Parents should have a voice in their student’s education, and balanced curriculum is vital, but at the heart of any book banning discussion seems to be the perceived notion that the youth cannot handle the material. Is it any wonder that so many 18-20 year-olds make terrible choices once they leave the confines of parental oversight?

I would rather have my youth confront life while still at home than to have them face it for the first time when they are on their own. This philosophy has not made parenting easy, but I didn’t sign up for easy.

I grew up in a very conservative community where one very conservative religious group dominated the society and the politics. Yet, I still read books considered controversial, some that have been on banned lists elsewhere. The best classroom discussions came from these books and prepared me for the great human stories I went on to read in college. More importantly, these books have aided me throughout my years as a mother.

So my take on controversial reading material – Parents READ the books, and then DISCUSS them with your teen before they discuss them in class. The shock you will receive from the book is nothing compared to what your kid already faces or will face in school, particularly in college even if they attend a very conservative/religious college.

The material that seems to be at the heart of this latest controversy pales in comparison with what my son encountered while taking classes at a nearby school. It was not material addressed in class but was the conversations and actions outside of class, and it shocked the administration when my son finally reported the language and behaviors he encountered in non-classroom activities. As a parent, I assure you, I would have been much happier if my middle-school child would have had exposure due to “book discussion” rather than exposure due to normal youth behavior. Normal had changed since I was in school and since the administrators had been in school. We were all shocked, dismayed, and deeply troubled by what we learned.

Discussion of the issues and norms needs to be part of a youth’s education. Maybe if the older students had been more aware, more educated, then they could have acted where adults could not have. We need to stop condescending our youth and instead empower them with knowledge gained from discussing hard, controversial topics.

Since I am personally acquainted with the people behind the latest petition to remove books from school curriculum, I would ask that anyone reading this avoid emailing the people directly, but instead only contact the school district in question with comments. While my readership is small, only a minuscule fleck of dust compared to John Green’s, I would not wish to cause issue for the people involved. Comments of criticism and/or comments of support should ONLY be sent to the district. Edit – it appears John Green removed the link to the petitioners. Good.

 

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Here’s My Cape – Does Anyone Want It?

This morning’s breakfast conversation centered on the international events headlining the news, and my ongoing attempt to write a thesis on the diplomatic history of the twentieth century. The central theme of the discussion revolved around the notion that great powers prefer a world were there are many large nations rather than many small nations. The conversation also turned to the problems created by superpowers.

When the Cold War ended, many in the United States naively celebrated the idea of being the only superpower. Many believed that being a superpower was better than being one of the great powers, and the opportunity to shed the role of superpower was waived.  Now, after a quarter century of being the sole superpower whether in reality or in myth, a greater comprehension  of the responsibilities and the dangers of being a superpower has developed.

The problem, however, is that when the United States now asks, “Here’s my cape, does anyone want it?” no one steps up to take it.

When Edna Mode, of The Incredibles, said “no capes,” is this what she was really warning us about? Are superpower capes just too dangerous? Should the capes simply be retired and replaced with the plain clothes of diplomacy?

It is with this question on my mind that I return to the realm of history and try for a few hours to shut out the political realities of the day.

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Saith Me… Post-Traumatic Cold War Disorder

I have reached a point when my thesis and the events of the day have brought me to a strange observation. Those of us born before 1980 seem to be suffering from  Post-traumatic Cold War Disorder.

Traumatized by the endless Cold War propaganda and rhetoric of our youth, we can no longer view the world through any lens other than a Cold War lens. Even the slightest hint of turbulence or discord between the USA and Russia sends us hunting for our bomb shelters or our protest signs. We see the world as us or them and begin to verbally attack anyone who does not sound like us as we split the world in two. We even view neutrality as an enemy.

Sadly, this disorder makes us paranoid that the actions of the other side are indicative of their determination to eradicate us from the earth rather than simply a manifestation of their desire to protect their own self-interests. In our race to divide the world, we neglect to see how the other side is acting just as we act. We see only differences and never similarities.

I love studying the Cold War, but I would like to see it remain in the realm of history rather than reignited by those throughout the world with questionable motives. I would love for the Post-traumatic Cold War Disorder to be a thing of fiction and not of reality.

 

 

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Reporting the News: a Psychic Creation

I  wish journalists would study more than historical talking-points before tackling foreign policy issues, particularly the effectiveness of intervention wars.

If the history of foreign policy is not their strong suit, bringing in an ‘expert’ would be fine. Bringing in two opposing ‘experts’ would be better, especially if the ‘experts’ were really ‘experts’ and not just the talking heads of the day.

When did reporting the news become nothing more than selling the news? Maybe it has always been that way but there are simply more annoying ways to sell it today.

Propaganda has always had a role in war, and even without governmental encouragement media has spread war stimulating propaganda. It all seems to revolve around having a good story to tell. Sadly, the good story, which spreads like wildfire in the blink of an eye or the click of a share button, can and does affect the public and the officials who in the end create the events that make the news. Reporting the news, therefore, takes on the nature of predicting the future, but a future the psychic has helped create.

It has been fascinating to discover how often propaganda has been shared by the media without the urging of a government. As we swim through the dangerous waters of governmental oversight, we should worry about the other dangerous creature in the water. Drowning may not be what kills us, but rather the sharks feeding off our fear of the water. 

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Outward Expression of Who You Are

I teach a simple statement to both my son and my daughter, “Your clothing is an outward expression of who you are.” This statement hinges on a very important factor – knowing who you are.

I recently taught my son’s youth class about how in everything we do, we are communicating something. Knowing what we communicate and how we communicate it is very important. I made the simple demonstration of putting on and taking off an oversized, black cardigan. The class was amazed at the transformation one garment could make in my appearance. I then proceeded to have the tallest, coolest boy in the class stand next to me. I asked him to read a passage and then I read the same passage. Then I asked the class what were differences about the two of us. This time the class was intrigued. Youth vs. age, male vs. female, pitch of voice, and the list went on; each of these things can affect the way people see and hear us.

How we dress, how we move, how we interact – great tools of communicating who we are and what we believe – BUT first we must learn to know ourselves. This is what I wish more parents and leaders would focus on rather than simply listing what today is considered modest or popular. Teach the endless possibility of Dos rather than always the specific Don’ts. Certainly providing boundaries and guidance is important, but more important is providing guidance on how to become the wonderful individual that each of us is. This guidance must include teaching our youth how to dress in a way that is an outward expression of who they are because then we are helping them develop of the courage they will need to be that person in the world.

In my experience, it takes much more effort to provide a creative, personal wardrobe than it does to provide either a modest or popular wardrobe. It does not necessarily take more money, but it certainly takes more time and sometimes more skill. It also takes a really strong parent/child relationship because it must be a team effort or it will not work. I have had a wonderful time working with both my children and will miss this part of parenting and homeschooling. In reflection, I believe I have learned as much as my children have, and that is truly a great blessing.

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FYI: I cannot view, nor do I endorse any of the ads that are shown on my blog.

What will be remembered?

Being fully aware of political spin and propaganda, I am wondering if in the end this letter will be what history records for future generations to study.

Willingness to come together for war, but government shutdown in an attempt to stop a health care law. Where does this leave us and what does this mean for our future? Most importantly, what does this really say about us as a nation?

Reid to Boehner 2013

 

PDF of the letter can be found at the ‘letter’ link and at the following:  harry-reid-letter-to-john-boehner.pdf

Saith Me… A Note to My Child

It is easy for people to hate when times seem tough. It is also easy for people to justify their hate because they are ignorant of real history – they only know the glossy myth. I am proud that you are not one of those people, but seek to love all of mankind. I am also proud that you seek out the history and culture behind the myth. I love that you ask “why” and have learned to chart your own course rather than to allow yourself to blindly follow those who would seek to lead you astray (even if they know not what they do). I am proud of you for who you are and who you will grow to be because of the choices you make, particularly the choice to love not hate.

Intervention versus Peacekeeping

What was I thinking when I doubled up on these two history classes?

Intervention or peacekeeping.

One is good and one is bad. One is wrong and one is right. One should work and one should not.

But there is no consensus as to which is which. Are they not just the same thing with different names?

In the end, are they not simply outside entities imposing a course of action on a weaker, more chaotic entity or region?

Isn’t it all just about the spin which is placed on the action?

Speaking of spin, this makes my head spin and I need a nap.

News of Declassifications through FOIA

The real news is not simply that stuff gets declassified. The real news is that every day scholars seek more declassification of information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without seeking fame. It is from their efforts that we have a chance to broaden our understanding and not simply our talking points.