President Obama's recent visit to India was a symbolic gesture to cultivate an atmosphere of goodwill as well as to celebrate the announcement of business deals that will create over 50,000 American jobs. However, Obama's tour to solidify quality relations with what could become America's closest financial and industrial ally in the 21st century was immediately met with a smear campaign of misinformation from the conservative media machine.
Now, I know this is not too surprising, but bear with me while I explain how this event is a symptom of a greater problem.
The rhetorical shenanigans on Obama's trip reached a deafeningly absurd level when, during an interview on Anderson Cooper 360, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann stated that the President's trip across Asia was costing taxpayers more than $200 million dollars a day. When asked to substantiate this claim, Bachmann responded with the adorable vapidity of a Pixar princess: "These are the numbers that are coming out in the press."
The "press" Bachmann referred to was, of course, an anonymous Indian official that no one can seem to track down.
Not only was Bachmann clearly intent on breaking this unsubstantiated tidbit to the American public, but she was so overeager to blurt "Obama Bad!" that she couldn't even wait for the appropriate moment to discourse all over herself on national television. Here was the opening of Cooper's interview with Bachmann:
COOPER: Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, I think we know that, just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him.
Aaaaand scene. Thank you for watching Tourettes Theatre, goodnight. I like turtles.
If you asked a co-worker a question and he or she responded by going off the rails on a point you didn't bring up in the first place, you would think that person:
A) Didn't hear your question correctly.
B) Must be another one of your supervisor's cousins who got to skip the HR interview.
C) Was running for political office, had no substantive answer for you, but yet was bold enough to completely insult your intelligence with a comically transparent straw man argument roughly equivalent to shouting "LOOK! A BEAR!"
So this $200 million/day falsehood, non-fact, bugaboo, or lie (whatever you want to call it) was quickly debunked, right? Well, not before Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, Michael Savage, and Glenn Beck all broadcast it to their audiences as further evidence of how appalling it is to have Barack Obama, and any Democrat associated with him, in a position of political office.
Even sadder is the fact that The White House and The Pentagon had to address this fallacy. In two separate press conferences, officials made statements meant to put to rest this rumor touted as truth by prominent conservatives in the media who had very little interest in that mystical, pagan art of "fact-checking."
But what's the big deal here, really? After all, the whole thing $200 million myth was debunked, right?! Go ahead and ask 5 people today if they heard how much Barack Obama's trip to India cost. I think you'll see that a poorly-publicized correction can do very little once the damage has been done through a well-coordinated effort of collusive media bombardment. It's the equivalent of your drunk friend nodding off while holding the bottom of the ladder you were on and then bringing a box of discounted Whitman's chocolates to your hospital room.
Now, many talking heads in the media simply follow the elephantine rhetoric and jack-asinine soundbites of the political parties they subscribe to. However, our country's right-wing media personalities and politicians are no longer even pretending that they actually think for themselves. At this point, conservatives have exposed the fact that they subscribe to a network that distributes a single, consistent idea which, in turn, and not coincidentally, becomes what every single one of them thinks, believes, and says. It's a unified, manufactured front.
See, the problem with this is that true analysts, journalists, and politicians will always have differing opinions on social issues, even if they subscribe to similar schools of thought, because their ideas are not processed on an assembly line. If Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin really were thinking for, of, and by themselves, then they should have at least slightly different opinions about which cubby hole they want to put their mittens in. One can subscribe to a political methodology and still hold distinctly differing opinions on certain matters with others who are under the same ideological umbrella; this is how healthy discourse is created.
Am I the only one who finds it kind of odd (and more than a little disturbing) that whatever viewpoint is expressed on FOX news becomes, nearly verbatim, the across-the-board party, media, and social line for anyone with a right-leaning mentality? And the fact that this act of hive-minded regurgitation is then repeated over the radio, TV, the Internet, and in print, is an undeniable red flag that this manufactured front is being created in an ideological factory as if it were a commodity no more unique than rat feces-infused dog food.
Variance in opinion and a desire to encourage healthy debate is how we can recognize those who are truly concerned about our country as opposed to those who are power-hungry panderers who would do anything to reach the spotlight. The nature of selectively and irresponsibly reporting news in a day and age where information is as cheap as a two-dollar Alaskan governor, is to deceitfully and deliberately impose a dangerously myopic view upon one's audience; and thus, any pretense at uncovering truth must be recognized as an absolute sham.
It's actually fairly easy to identify the pundits whose greasy hands are thick with dogmatic snake-oil. If a politician or member of the political media appeals to your intellect with well-contextualized, factual information, then they're probably giving it to you straight.
However, if someone attempts to theatrically manipulate your anger and emotions by identifying with you as a chum, a pal, or just another fellow victim of the status quo, then they're doing that to make up for their lack of hard facts and logical rationale.
In short, if someone in the political media acts like the two of you are buddies, they have another agenda in mind.
Nobody in the political media is your friend.
And they shouldn't be. After all, it's not their job to be your friend. Their job is to report the truth.
I'm actually convinced that conservative pundits have such a large audience because their methods of stroking anger and insecurity play well to a growing segment of our population that is socially anxious and very lonely. However, I have no facts to verify that statement, so I'll retract that right here.
Or maybe I'll just throw it out there and wait and see if The Pentagon will denounce it for me.