Which of the following issues matter to you the most?
• The 989 billion tax dollars and 5,450 lives spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• America's growing homeless population due to the jobless rate
• America's failing public school system
• The OECD's recent report that shows the US has nearly doubled the average child poverty level of industrialized nations
• Potential nuclear weapons in North Korea, Iran and Pakistan
Inspired by Walter Shapiro's 60-hour cable newsathon diet for Politics Daily, I recently conducted a cable news experiment to find out what issues matter to the media. My roommate just purchased a fancy-schmancy television for our living room, so what better time to conduct my experiment? Full disclosure up front: I am not a scientist, nor a statistician, nor do I have a team of experts readily available for consult. But I do have DVR, timer and calculator apps on my iPhone.
My newsathon objective was to quantify the hours that the moderate and left leaning media were spending on the ever-so-hot Tea Partiers.
No surprise, the Tea Party movement was the most popular topic of the week. Altogether, the Tea Partiers and their counterparts (like their self-appointed leader, Sarah Palin, the Birthers and the anti-government militia men) received over 25% of airtime. That's an average of 15 hours spent on an unofficial political party that has no official agenda, platform or spokesperson and is unrepresentative of most American people, let alone the audience of the cable news shows I watched.
To put this into perspective, in terms of 30-second ad time, the Tea Partiers would have purchased and run 1,800 30-second ads. You cannot buy this type of publicity.
Last week, Politico reported,
Attention Mainstream Media! I have a challenge for you: "A Day Without the Tea Party." I challenge cable networks and their hosts and pundits, for one day, to ignore the Tea Party movement and focus on issues that affect everyday people, also known as their audience.
"Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks media reports, found that the tea parties consumed a steady measure of news for most of this year before exploding during tax week to compete with the Icelandic volcano for attention and outstripping health care with 6% of all media reports that week."
One episode of Keith Olbermann devoted over 50% of his airtime to criticizing the so-called movement. While I appreciate his zeal to combat the falsities of this growing popular group, I have to ask him and the rest of these cable news show hosts: Why? Why are you giving these fringers so much attention? Why are you utilizing valuable airtime to debunk their obviously false claims? Why are you engaging them? Are these the most important issues of our day?
While Obama has done an admirable job ignoring the Tea Party outbursts and outlandish claims and focusing on moving his agenda forward, Maddow, Matthews, Olbermann, Colbert, Stewart, Cooper, Crowley, Sanchez and Shultz have missed an incredible opportunity to vocalize the progressive agenda while they have the floor. For eight years, progressives were unable to bring their agenda to the table and had to constantly act on the defensive.
Instead of mocking misspelled signs and ill-fitting George Washington costumes and debunking illegitimate birth certificates and death panels, why not cover one of the issues not once mentioned during my newsathon? Issues like the growing tent cities of homeless people across the country, or Net Neutrality, or America's growing water crisis? Or perhaps the standard liberal causes like Equal Pay, Education, Homelessness, or Energy? Or--remember the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our leaders' promises to end them?
Recently, Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist mother of a fallen Iraqi war soldier told Politico, "[The Tea Partiers] are being treated with a lot more respect than the anti-war movement was." She continued, "The anti-war movement has always been treated as a fringe movement - even though at the height of our movement we had hundreds of thousands of people at protests and the majority of public opinion on our side."
But, God Bless those Tea Partiers and their "Revolution!" (Or, should I say, God bless their publicists, who incidentally are paid for by America's 2nd largest private corporation, Koch Industries?)
Recently at a United Nations event in Los Angeles, an attendee stated, "The news never covers the everyday issues and injustices. Otherwise, that wouldn't be news." The problem is not the quality of news or the ratings or the uneducated people, it is the inability by the media to ignore these people.
The Tea Partiers have mastered the rhetorical tool of the "red herring." It's the same tactic an attorney uses on an opposing witness who is on a roll. He objects on useless grounds to throw off the witness' momentum and distract him. After winning an election, Democrats were on a roll, and citizens were finally listening. They needed to be interrupted.
We have allowed ourselves to be thrown off track by these distractors who have hijacked our debate. These information hijackers are terrorists--I call them, information terrorists. And they are taking the reigns of our media and spreading their emotion evoking messages cross-country.
I suspect that the Republican Party has instigated its base to organize (on their donors' dime), intentionally not become an official party (because that would mean they have to disclose funding) and do their dirty work (because how can the GOP be vocally racist and keep their moderates?) and then throw out meaningless statements that are easy targets for liberals. (Because is there anything liberals love more than debating?)
Post-Bush, the GOP needed to rebuild. Just as they did in the late 1970's evolving into Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition taking over Southern Democrats in the 80's, the GOP is reaching out to the Tea Partiers in search of another base. Just as with Post-Nixon, and now with Post-Bush, one bad president can leave the party scrounging for support. To a dying party like the GOP, it was a mere political tactic.
But New World Media is so different than that of the 70's and 80's. And to keep up, the Republican party has been engaging the 24/7 twitter newsfeed by employing media strategists, publicists, high priced campaign directors who know how to grow grassroots support and social networking gurus, all creating the illusion of a grassroots movement.
So, while on the outside Michael Steele and Mitt Romney may not be supporting the Tea Partiers, on the inside they're jumping with joy about their newfound base.
Let's face it Dems, you have the heart but you don't have the brains. The GOP has discovered a way to make the media work for them. The Democrats are working for the media because they're answering every allegation Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin throw out.
It's time that liberals put down their checker pieces and play chess. This information terrorism tactic is sidetracking the debate--a debate that should be easily won by liberals.
I urge the leaders of liberal media to do the country a favor and ignore the media whores. Ignore Palin; ignore the Tea Partiers and ignore Glenn Beck. They are no different than Speidi, Paris Hilton or Omarosa. Spend one episode not on the defensive and discuss education, the state of AIDS in Africa, the tent cities in San Diego and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats are supposed to be the intellectuals- so please, act the part and ignore the circus show. If you try, you may beat them at their own game.