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« Reverend Wright’s Jesus | Main | Fighting Resignation »

Managing the Microphones

obama-wright.jpgObjectively unobjective, neutrally biased and innocently guilty, the American media lurks at the bottom of almost all of today’s left-leaning political issues. Their technique is fairly simple. With straight faces and pious dignity, they slyly place the microphone of public access in front of the mouths of their choosing. Few new participants of our political and social kerfuffles would achieve any notoriety whatsoever, or, they would at least sink back into the undefined masses after a brief uprising without media assistance.

An outrageous act, a tragic event, a highly unusual accomplishment or a person with an extraordinary story may all be worthy of news coverage. When this event or story resonates with the microphone-managing media, however, they rush to them with all the air time and print space in the world to amplify the news. The savvy media know that it takes full saturation of a story for several days to really impact the collective American mind. They will keep something on the front pages or television screens for the flimsiest of excuses, for as long as they need to, if it appears useful to their agenda.

On the pure success of the technique, a case in point involves the Toledo Blade’s coverage of a scandal involving a local coin dealer in 2005. For a solid year, it was a rare day that the Blade did not run a story on Tom Noe and the coin scandal. Rumor had it that, since Noe was connected to the Republican Party, the newspaper entertained the possibility of taking the fight all the way to the White House. That didn’t happen, but they did implicate the GOP governor of Ohio, Bob Taft. I have no argument with bringing the corrupt coin dealer to justice. I do think, however, that it aptly illustrates that the crusader technique works. Chances are more than compelling that without the relentless media coverage, the small fry Toledo numismatist would have gotten off lightly, or perhaps escaped without a scratch.


One wonders if Cindy Sheehan, the somewhat unhinged mother of an Iraq war Marine casualty, would have ever become a household name without the huge focus of the media on her campaign against George Bush. I think not because after she became a little too kooky for the press, she mysteriously disappeared from the front pages. Other media darlings include Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Cynthia McKinney, Professor Nikki Giovanni and Elijah Muhammad. The rantings and ravings of some of these demagogues peg the needle on extremism, but the media continues to give them access to the microphones.

Now, what about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? How did he get into the media spotlight? Here’s the catch. If this media vehicle runs great in the drive gear, it works just as well in reverse. The national media can also choose to ignore a person or an event that sabotages their agenda or that proves too great an embarrassment to them. It was a newsworthy event when Barach Obama cancelled Wright from giving the invocation at the launching of his presidential run on the steps of the old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.,in February of 2007, but the media decided not to make a big deal out of it. It was a newsworthy event when the Obama campaign forced Wright out of official involvement, but the media left it largely alone. Only when conservative talk show hosts and bloggers on the internet started running inflammatory excerpts of Wright’s sermons did the media finally start covering the—shall we say, controversial?—Reverend. Now, much attention has been given to the Obama response to his long association with Wright, in which the presidential hopeful disavowed the incendiary aspects of Wright’s positions, but not the man himself.

(If I may digress for a moment, the gist of Obama’s explanation centered around the need to understand the background of Jeremiah Wright and cut him some slack for his militant separatist views. I will do that. I will acknowledge the fact that the African-American community strongly identifies with the Reverend. My problem is this: Obama wants to be MY president. He wants to be president of ALL the people, not just the African-American segment of the population.He wants to be president of the very people against whom his mentor spews out hatred and malice.  I need Obama to do more than denounce some statements or views of Wright. I need him to tell me that Wright is a sad representative of a flawed, failed and preposterous political position. I need him to denounce Black Separatism. I need him to say that hate-mongering from any source, for any reason, from any background and for any purpose is unequivocally and innately wrong. I need him to apologize for rhetorically throwing his grandmother under the bus. I need him to laud the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I need him to acknowledge the huge strides forward made by the black population in the last generation. I need him to confess that he is a product of this progress and not a victim of the now-defunct institutional oppression of the first half of the last century. I need him to say that, although there is much work to be done, MUCH work has already been done. Unless he does these minimal things, he really doesn’t want to be MY president.)

But the larger problem remains the irresponsible media who have empowered themselves with an agenda-driven raison d’etre. They have failed the public. They have failed to be purveyors of facts and instead have become purveyors of propaganda. They are no longer the loyal opposition, in the British tradition. In their initial devil’s advocate role to the powers that be, they have become the devil himself. They rarely play devil’s advocate to politicians and public figures with whom they agree. They effectively manage the public’s microphones to assist those who have no other way of getting their views out there, contingent, of course, on that person or group’s alignment with the views of the media. “You say what we want you to say and we will make sure the world knows about it. You go against us and we will bury you.” That’s the message. That’s the method.

And it works. May God help us.

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