Sunday, September 13, 2015

Breaking Opinion

Remember when real breaking news interrupted "regularly scheduled programming?" That was long ago, before the advent of cable and 24/7 news channels. I'm going to interrupt my commentaries on politics with an observation on the news media.

Illustration: last week, a rather unlikely character, Kim Davis, became the nexus of a classic left - right confrontation - gay marriage and religious liberty. You all know the details of the story. What intrigued me, though, was the coverage of her release from jail and the near unanimous disdain shown for her personally.

Her release "ceremony" seems to have been organized by Mike Huckabee, former preacher, former Fox News contributor (as they are wont to say) and, soon to be, former Republucan presidential candidate. Huckabee was undoubtedly trying to resuscitate his candidacy by acting the champion to his evangelical base, but I do not question his basic sincerity in supporting this woman's position.

But the ceremony was easily mockable in severable obvious and uncomfortable ways. Kim Davis is not particularly telegenic. Huckabee introduced her with "Eye of the Tiger" playing prominently. Oh my goodness, and then Kim's husband appeared. A large, but in shape, white man wearing overalls, his head topped by a straw hat with a colored visor cutout to shade his eyes.

It was a spectacle that made you shift your bottom in your seat, trying to find a more comfortable position, but allowing you to avert your eyes periodically.

Regardless, Shep Smith of Fox News, who was anchoring at the time, commented repeatedly about how Ms. Davis was refusing to acknowledge our new social reality: that because of a heroic Supreme Court ruling, gay couples could and should be married anywhere by any public official. No exceptions.

He then brought on set "Kennedy" whose occasional appearances on Fox mystifies me. Kennedy was a relatively obscure "talent" for a brief period on MTV. I guess she's supposed to represent millennials, has a more pronounced conservatism than some of her contemporaries and wears these mannish glasses as her fashion signature. But she seems as qualified to present analysis as Meghan McCain, who has also begun making periodic appearances.

What ensued was even more cringe worthy than the Davis ceremony itself. We were blessed with the opportunity to share some great inside cosmic joke with the two, as they snickered about how the scene reinforced every preconceived notion one could have about Kentucky, religious zealotry and white rednecks wearing overalls. It was unadulterated New York, elite media condescension at its finest. I know. I came from that world.

My purpose is not to argue the merits of same sex marriage or the limits of personal religious freedom. It is to reflect on the changes - mostly negative - that have occurred in the coverage of news by the media.

The tremendous popularity of opinionated, conservative talk radio has triggered in my view much of what has followed. There is no opinionated, liberal talk radio. Not of any consequence anyway. It just hasn't gained any audience traction. We know that this talk radio phenomenon has beaten the drum against Barack Obama consistently and vociferously. Many on the left chalk it up to latent, or worse, overt racism. I have and will continue to reject this tawdry generalization categorically.

As I have tried to detail in my own small way, the resistance to Obama is to his stated objective to fundamentally transform this country. And, much to his credit, which I begrudgingly acknowledge,
he has succeeded spectacularly. But he has accomplished this by demagoguing and by using the
complete devotion of his party to do so.

He has received unprecedented cover from "mainstream" media whose members are substantially liberal and whose objective seems to be to counteract the influence of this talk radio uniformity. How else to explain the lack of critical reporting on Obamacare, for example? Have we heard a word about how costs or deductibles might be changing or whether people are satisfied with coverages under this new program?

How is the Iran deal hailed as any kind of foreign policy "victory" when debate was smothered and it effectively became national policy with a minority vote of 42 Senators from one party? There has been no critical reporting on this specific issue; not whether the agreement itself is proper policy or not, but how it's come to be. Is that not a relevant matter for legitimate news reporting? What if George W. had sent the military into Iraq using a parliamentary trick and only 42 Republicans

Just one small example of this: headline in today's New York Times - "Gloomy Republican Campaigns Leave Reagan Cheer Behind". This is objective journalism? The Times bashing the current crop of Republican candidates with Ronald Reagan? The Times despised Reagan when he was President.

The "gloomy" statements that seem to trouble The Times so is the suggestion by these candidates see that "the country is diminished and unrecognizable - imperiled by forces foreign and domestic...." This is a statement of complete conjecture by the reporter, not supported by fact. He uses campaign rhetoric which he weaves together to draw his speculative conclusion. It is offensive reportage - a slanted opinion cloaked as "real news" because of where it appears in the paper and the consent of editors.

The line between news and opinion continues to thin and it doesn't serve either well. More importantly, it intentionally confuses and misleads the uninformed which, of course, is its purpose.

We now return to our originally scheduled programming already in progress.

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