Trayvon, Media and the State of American Political Discourse

This started out as an off-hand Facebook post after reading through and commenting on a thread about Trayvon Martin’s death from several viewpoints, but just sort of outgrew the medium. 

As vitriolic as the state of political discourse in the USA is, it’s always refreshing to know individuals with whom you can virulently disagree on the merits of just about every issue, but can do so in a way that results in a calm, passionate — sure— but reasoned and respectful manner. And love her or hate her, I think this is something Rachel Maddow as well as Morning Joe do extremely well and, for the most part, consistently (as far as basic cable hosts go; I would add that I consider Democracy Now! the unparalleled best media organization around when it comes to spending your daily media budget — which is a revolving and auto-renewing credit account if you’re like me; and if you don’t get Pacifica or have a local independent station that broadcasts Democracy Now!, just follow the above the link and get the daily podcast, which is what I do.)

The great thing about the above three organizations (TRMS, MJ, DN), and representative individuals (RM, Joe Scarborough, and Amy Goodman) is that, while a viewer, reader, or listener never loses sight (or whatever better metaphor) of the ideological substructure influencing their particular line of inquiry, they all respect facts, willing to admit their mistakes, and most hearteningly — they’re all at their best when interacting with their ideological opponents.

And — I have to say — I find that uplifting, even if that seems too strong a word. It seems — to a 26-year old who’s not alone in this sentiment — that the exact Rovian (via Lee Atwater) political tactics of demeaning a political or ideological opponent’s strengths while accusing her or him of representing and featuring your weaknesses does exactly what it’s always intended to accomplish: the complete tuning-out of a good part of the electorate along the thought of “Well, screw it; they’re all the same, and hey! Gossip Girl is on!) — entirely counterproductive, to put it kindly, and idiotic to be honest.”

I think there are at least three things about which even devout partisans or devout adherents to a particular Weltanschauung can broadly agree. 1) It benefits the interests of no one if political discourse breaks down into angry individuals shouting at each other across police-lined streets; 2) A deep understanding and observation — for which most people just, frankly, have neither time nor interest in which to take note — of the manner in which contemporary corporate media works has taken a role central perhaps only to fundraising as far as the failure or success of people or ideas. “Corporate” not intended as a dirty word necessarily, but as the correct adjective to distinguish media that exists to make a parent corporation a profit for its shareholders as over against media that exists on its own terms in order ideally to serve its viewers’, readers’ and listeners’ interest. I won’t hide my personal biases here, as I believe independent media essential to any potential concept of a fourth estate, though Maddow/team and Scarborough/team transcend the limitations of their jobs better than anyone not working for Comedy Central in terms of basic cable; and finally, 3) The critical role individual campaign donations and Citizens United outside funding binges have completely altered the focus of campaigns from developing policy positions and lining up some semblance of hierarchical structure within the “it’s his turn” paradigm to making eyes at billionaires. I’m not naïve enough to think that plugging into to whatever available channels of power at whatever price hasn’t been a primary feature of American politics from day 1 is somehow a new thing. Yet it does seem that Citizens United has done something — quite exactly what in a general election we have yet to see — has, at least thus far, changed the rules of the game.

All of which to say that — as any astute observer of relatively recent politics will throw down as readily as a Wild Turkey (though if I ever in my life get to make Colonies with Rachel, I can probably die happy) — that the current scorched earth strategy adopted on the right and the pretty much half-assed efforts from the Obama team to re-engage my particular part of the electorate has been both surprising and bewildering, respectfully. The scorched-earth bit not really that surprising, as Romney has had to do pretty much whatever it takes to attempt to appeal to swing-state socially conservative and economically-left-of-center (even if they’d never admit it on those terms) voters has been as predictable as his complete lack of knowledge re: any of said voters lives’ are concerned. And with regard to Obama, his failure to take active credit for what his administration has thus far done for socially-moderate and middle- and lower-middle-class voters has been outstanding, displaying a reticence both to take ownership of what few things the administration has done to further the interests of a shrinking middle class along with a complete whitewash of an ignorance of American poverty (affected or not), American plutocracy (mostly unaffected per FEC rules), continued chumminess with Wall St., etc opens up space for a Romney attack.

In other words — and the sad thing is that no matter how well we know this, it seems the greatest taboo in party politics — we remain a society democratic on the surface, but in which — as in China and Russia and yeah, I went there — she or he who holds the coins, holds the power. Americans Elect isn’t as idiotic on paper as it is in reality, but a nice gesture at least. And idiotic not in terms of concepts but apparent enthusiasm for existing in an alternate world in which 16-bit Gingrich and Paul would at least appear human. Yet we execute more prisoners than China, Syria, Malaysia, Iran, and S. Arabia: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/27/death-penalty-2011_n_1382937.html#s816728&title=China_amount_unknown), 3K CCTV cameras in New York, 10K in Chicago, without even mentioning the sort of society in which it’s acceptable to short a few hundred thousand South Side folks because Waukegan and Willamette will more than make up for it.

I’ll readily admit that I got off topic out of some fever pitch, but the statistics cited just to point out that the worlds both Romney and Obama inhabit are equally ones in which Mitt doesn’t lie in bed wondering if he needs to find another job at the plant, or if Barack wonders what to do about Sasha’s loose molar.

The original point was that both campaigns — and Santorum’s, but even to mention or link to his absurdities would be to intrude on Jon Stewart’s area of expertise — should likely, yet likely won’t  engage in a genuine dialogue about national priorities that are somewhat (in the sense of critically) relevant issues.

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~ by Benji on 5 April 2012.

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