For a long time I've been a political junkie. I love reading about politics and getting mad at whatever crazy thing I've heard this politician say, or that talking head say or whatever. I enjoy this kind of thing and I enjoy discussing these topics with others, although it's gotten harder and harder to do that when most people have their minds firmly made up (and I'm not really that different) and so things just devolve into a yelling match.
One thing that bothers me though is that much of today's news sources are extremely biased, even when they say they are not, and/or they are malicious in how they go after those they disagree with. And at risk of enraging some of my friends on the right and the left, both sides have websites and news programs that do this type of thing. I know that many on the left scream about "false equivalency" but in reality both the right and the left have their little bullshit that they do, and I'll give some examples of them.
1. Misleading and/or malicious headlines.
Fox Nation, which is Fox News' website, does this a lot. They'll craft these headlines that really don't have anything to do with what is in the article, because they assume most people aren't going to click the article and read it, they just read the headlines. So they can have a headline reading "Obama Bureaucrats Imposing Radical Homosexual Sensitivity Training?" while the actual article they link to is called "USDA gay-sensitivity training seeks larger audience"
It's all designed to stoke up anger and rage against the current President while also catering to homophobic readers as well.
And then you have websites like "Raw Story" which routinely has misleading headlines that are not backed up by the actual article. One of their most glaring, but one that is indicative of a regular issue with them is the following from October of 2011: "Santorum: I Want To Go To War Against China".
Now you read that and think "Holy shit! We have a candidate for President who openly admits he wants to go to war with China?" Yet when you read the article that's not exactly what he said or meant.
At Tuesday's The Washington Post/Bloomberg Republican presidential debate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum declared that he actually wanted "to go to war with China."
Notice the inclusion of the word "actually", as in "can you believe it? This crazy bastard ACTUALLY said he wants to go to war against China? Yet just in the next couple paragraphs, you see that implication that Santorum, if President, would seek to go to war with China militarily, is bullshit.
Fellow candidate Mitt Romney promised that if elected, he would immediately label China as a currency manipulator, but added "I don't want a trade war with anybody."
"You know, Mitt, I don't want to go to a trade war," Santorum remarked, "I want to beat China. I want to go to war with China and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business."
Now who in their right mind could read that or hear the remarks and come back with he wants an actual military war with China? He didn't, and they know that. They know that most of the people who read their site already are on their side, so if they post up negative stuff about Santorum or Gingrich or Romney, or whoever on the Republican side, they figure people won't care. But when you call them on it, as I did, they say "he SAID 'I want to go to war with China'", and technically they're right, but they are grossly disingenuous in the process.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with someone on my Facebook who kept posting this nonsense picture of Albert Einstein with a quote about how he believes in God. And I said that Einstein actually ridiculed people who believe in God, and he deleted my comment but left others who were praising the comment. And I asked him why he would keep posting stuff like that when i pointed out that it wasn't true, and he said that it didn't matter if it was true or not, he liked the quote.
And sadly that's why so many of these rumors get passed around so often that they become accepted as fact, because whether it's true or not, nobody cares. It makes them feel better, and it reinforces what they believe so who cares? Besides, they hate Santorum and hey he probably does want to go to war with China even if he hasn't said it, right?
2. Belittling the opposition by adopting demeaning and mocking voices.
This one really gets on my nerves, and there are those on both sides of the political aisle that do this including someone who I respect a great deal and it just kills me to put him on this section but I have to because in a way, his inclusion is the reason I'm writing this post. But I'll get to him in a second.
Glenn Beck is known for a variety of crazy shit. Whether it's railing about how the US dollar is going to fail and everyone should buy gold, right before cutting to a break where there's a commercial about how you can buy gold, to boiling fake frogs, to pretending to set people on fire, he's known for bizarre stuff. He also resorts to that time honored tradition of mocking their opponents by adopting "funny" voices. He's been called out for it numerous times, but it doesn't matter, because that's his schtick and that's what he's known for (among all those other things). He also does it to rile up those he disagrees with. Rush Limbaugh does the same thing (intentionally troll those he disagrees with to spark a reaction).
I've never enjoyed that though. And it has nothing to do with it being Glenn Beck either. Keith Olbermann did that nonsense during his "Worst Persons in the World" segments and it was nearly unlistenable at times. The Bill O'Reilly voice was kind of funny, because it was based on another character, but the disgusting ones he did for Rush Limabaugh, or the absurd ones for Lou Dobbs was, I felt, beneath his position as someone who was purporting to speak truth to power.
It lowers you to the level of those you are supposedly railing against.
Which brings me to the other half of this coin, and that is Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. I'm a fan of the show, and I've been a paying member of theirs for awhile (on and off). I believe in what they are doing, I subscribe to their youtube channel, I send out their videos and posts on twitter and facebook and I encourage others to check them out as well.
So this isn't coming from the side of someone who dislikes him or who is ideologically opposed to him. I like him a lot and think that more times than not, we see eye to eye on the issues of the day. There's a few times that I've thought he was flat out wrong (such as the recent Lance Armstrong issue) but those things aren't regular.
I agree and I like that. I don't want a boring and drab news broadcast, and I like that they have fun and play soundbites and that type of thing. I like the soundbites, and downloaded the iPad app for that very reason, so I could have the soundbites.
I didn't even mind when he started that dreadful "Bane" impression because I thought it was funny, and it was Cenk being Cenk.
That said, there are other times when he just flat out goes crazy with these obnoxious and frankly quite childish voices, and it, in my opinion, just completely takes away from any point he's making. A friend came over recently right as the live show was starting, and Cenk was goin on about Paul Ryan and it was just almost non stop with the voices, until my friend finally just got up and said "this guy's a fucking idiot" and walked out muttering something about "obnoxious".
This is someone I've been trying to get into the show, who was immediately turned off from it because of this. I've been telling them for awhile how this guy is really smart, he knows his shit and he's a fighter, and as soon as he sits down, he sees that.
Now for every one that doesn't like it, there'll be more that do I would guess. And Cenk has gotten this far and been this successful by knowing what works for him. He's got a successful formula and I would never presume for someone to change what they are doing because I didn't like something.
But it's seriously hampered my enjoyment of the show to the point that I have essentially skipped most of the first hour and just watch the second hour with Ana, because usually he's calmed down a bit with the voices in the second hour, but occasionally not.
Just as an example of what I mean, here's a clip from recently that really shows this obnoxious voice thing off.
To quote Cenk Uygur himself, "10-2, 10-2"
While watching the show The Newsroom, I was struck by the idea that Sorkin had that was the basis for the series: A straight forward news program. No bullshit, no playing to ratings, just report the news, and if someone comes on spouting bullshit, give it back to them and make them defend their lies. Push back against the idea that there are two sides to an issue, and that often there is the right way and the wrong way. The Young Turks do that very well, and I think that it has the potential to be so much more than what it already is.
It's already made history as the largest online news show, it gets an unGodly amount of views every day, and has strong progressives on there that are not afraid to stand up to the lies and bullshit that many in the media are pushing both on the right and the left. And now it's on the upstart network Current along with some other strong progressives as well.
But we have to be better than those we are opposed to. We cannot sink down to the level of those we profess to be against. When another site runs articles with unflattering photos designed to humiliate and embarrass the person they are profiling, it doesn't mean that websites that we agree with should do the same (I'm looking at YOU Raw Story & Huffington Post!).
We don't need to mock and belittle people using childish voices, when we can do that with their own words. Throw their logic back in their face and make them defend it. Never stop fighting, but NEVER allow yourself to get sucked into playing their game.
Because then there's no sense in continuing to fight, due to the fact that at that point, you've already lost.
You've lost any high ground you hoped to hold over your opponent. You've lost any sense of speaking from a place of superirority as it pertains to morals and decency. You can no longer point the finger at anyone for abusing the people's trust in you because you have abused it yourself when you engage in these tricks like misleading headlines, and embarrassing photo attributions and mocking/denigrating your opponents using funny voices.
As one final example, I was a supporter of Alan Grayson, a Democratic politician from Florida. He was a hard charging hard fighting guy who would take it to the opposition. When they lied, he pointed it out, when they tried to bullshit, he exposed the bullshit. He was a true progressive fighting for the people.
Then he got caught up in his own hype and he allowed himself to get down into the muck and he did something that immediately lost me as a supporter. He lied.
He was running against a Republican named Dan Webster, and he released an ad referring to Webster as "Taliban Dan" Webster, and the ad had this audio clip of him saying things like women should submit unto their husbands, because it's in the Bible. The ad had this clip of him saying that over and over, to hammer home how horrible he was on women's rights, and how this neanderthal wants women to submit to their husbands because of the Bible, playing to the folks out there who are against politicians governing with their Bible, as well to all women everywhere.
Problem is, that's not what Dan Webster said. The entire clip showed Webster saying THE OPPOSITE. He said that you should NOT just listen to the parts of the Bible that say submit to your husband. So he took that audio, edited it so he showed him saying one thing, while editing out the part that proved he was saying the opposite.
When caught his response was essentially "yeah...but he's still anti-women!" He was counting on his supporters to just say "well, yeah but ...that guy probably believes that anyway!"
But that's missing the point. You can't do that. This is a perfect example of a quote that I love by Henry David Thoreau that reads, "Most of all I must see to it that I do not lend myself to the evils that I condemn."
Raw Story and Huffington Post have no doubt done articles assailing other sites for their misleading headlines, while they themselves have done it. Liberals have attacked conservatives for editing audio and/or video, while members of their own party have done it too. And TYT have referenced Glenn Beck in the past for making those goofy voices.
We have to be better than this, folks. We have to be better.
But back to my main point of this, and my search for rational non biased news. Is there such a thing? Can there ever truly be non biased news? That's the goal on the series, The Newsroom, but I think it's failed miserably in that department. While I agree politically with the show, it's clearly biased. They couch it by having the main character of Will McAvoy be a Republican, but it's clear their disdain from conservatives, and that stems from the creator of the show.
And hey, I have a disdain for many conservatives. I don't have a problem with that, I just think that perhaps it's a futile effort to have anything be non biased. You can't be non biased, but maybe you can just be biased towards the truth.
I can live with that.