Meanwhile, conservative-turned-liberal commentator
Huffington has criticized the “self-loathing” liberal
media for placing “unabashed propagandists” on their payroll,
deceptive individuals such as Karl Rove at Newsweek,
Tony Snow at CNN, and Bill Kristol at the New York Times.
Perhaps a most fitting example of what is wrong
with much of the mainstream media in general - and their coverage
of this campaign season in particular - was the Pennsylvania Democratic debate. Hosted by ABC, it is more aptly called
The Trial of Barack Obama. Despite the myriad crises facing
this country, including recession, home foreclosures, health
insurance, global warming, and a worldwide food shortage,
much of the debate focused on patriotism, flag lapel pins,
and angry Black preachers.
To add insult to injury, one of the debate
moderators, George Stephanopoulos, a former advisor to Hillary
Clinton’s husband when he was president, was a walking conflict
of interest. And
he appears to have received some of his questions from the
right-wing Fox News. Fox host, Sean Hannity, suggested that
Stephanopoulos ask Obama about his ties to William Ayers,
a University of Illinois
at Chicago professor who was a member of the Weather Underground in the
1970s. Stephanopoulos complied with Hannity’s recommendations,
and his conduct was criticized even by much of the mainstream
media, and the thousands of people who left comments on the
ABC website. How many of us long for the days when the League
of Women Voters sponsored these debates and focused on the
issues that mattered, as opposed to today’s sensationalism,
gossip and guilt by association?
This leads us to Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
The Wright issue was tailor-made for the mainstream press.
Small portions of Wright’s “controversial” sermons, taken
out of context, were played continuously over the airwaves.
The mostly white-conservative-male punditocracy - political
hacks and establishment tools who are culturally insensitive,
wholly ignorant about the history of the Black church and
the history of this nation, yet well-versed in race-baiting
– ran with Dr. Wright. The 24-hour cycle of cable news, with
its emphasis on the sound byte, and the need to entertain,
divert attention and make a buck, demanded no less.
It was far easier for them to create the narrative
of the wild-eyed, irrational Black radical than to present
the truth: a scholar and theologian with a master’s degree
from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from United
Theological Seminary, who is far more educated than those
who would unfairly critique him; a man who served his country
for six years in the Marines and in the Navy, and was part
of the medical team that cared for President Lyndon Johnson;
a man who has served his Chicago community for thirty-six
years, and a man who has received death threats, and whose
church has received bomb threats since his statements were
Then finally, the media allowed Dr. Wright
to tell his own story. Bill Moyers had a lengthy and thoughtful
interview with Wright on PBS. CNN and C-SPAN aired, in its
entirety, his April 27, 2008 speech before the Detroit
branch of the NAACP, and his April 28 speech at the National
Press Club in Washington, DC. In those presentations,
Wright gave the audience a lesson on the Black church and
the legacy of racism in the United
States. Agree with him or not, Dr. Wright
has provided something which is sorely lacking in much of
today’s mainstream news coverage: historical context, relevance,
and an unfiltered voice speaking truth to power.
I do not want to paint broad brush strokes here in my condemnation
of the media. I have spent a number of years involved in various
media organizations - mainstream, Black, Latino and alternative
press, in print, online, on the radio and on television. And
I have learned that there are countless journalists, capable,
hard-working and experienced, who perform their job with integrity,
attention to detail, and a sense of responsibility to the
public. But it seems that the empty-headed talking heads,
the fashion models and over-scripted, over-rehearsed cue card
readers, increasingly are the norm. And fewer and fewer corporations
are controlling what we see, hear and read. Unfortunately,
style prevails over substance, and the real issues get lost
in the process.
The public outcry over the Pennsylvania
debate was a warning to the corporate media: If you hope to
survive and regain credibility, you must change your ways.
Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and journalist based
in Philadelphia, and a contributor to
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune
News Service, In These Times
and Philadelphia Independent Media
Center. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons
(St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a
former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national
police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center
for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two
Black federal judges. His blog is davidalove.com. Click
here to contact Mr. Love.