Central to the theory of the constitutional republic is the press—or news media—as a facilitator of political discourse as well as a means of political information of the masses (5). It follows then that any constitutional republic must therefore contain and utilize a body that serves this purpose; the United States, as an example of this governmental mode, must adhere to this basic principle. In opposition to this view is the argument that the contemporary news media should shape their output material with readings of informational or program popularity as its main content barometer.
Constitutional framer Alexander Hamilton argued for a dynamic conception of the press, with respect to its liberties and restraints, subject to the opinions of the people (1). This point is often extended to argue in defense of “infotainment”—a form of media that mix information and entertainment in response to the reception of the people—and includes stories of which the chief aim of content is to entertain rather than to inform (4). Playing to popularity in this way is not universally bad; there are some important points to be made regarding this. First, a definition of the news must be understood: in an article for The Poynter Institute, David Zeeck thinks of news as a “manifestation of a human desire to know what’s going on” (6). This definition provides for a wide variety of interpretations as to the role of the news media by the way in which they fulfill this desire. Based on this understanding it is clear to see that the media in general must be separated into categories depending on the specific desires each category intends to fulfill; news of which the chief am is to fulfill the desire to be entertained should be distinct from that of which the chief aim is to provide a platform for political discourse. Key to understanding this concept of media compartmentalization is the idea that the chief nature of the specific material must cohere to the desire to be fulfilled.
A perfect example of an improper mixing of material under a single category is Bill O’Reilly’s interview with “Obama Girl,” a sensationalist political icon from this past election. In one of his intended “hard news”—news concerning issues of import—segments devoted to the 2008 presidential campaign, O’Reilly interviews “Obama Girl,” legitimizing in the sphere of public political discourse sensationalism that is irrelevant to critical political evaluation (3). There is a place in the media for entertaining news and a place for news relevant to political discourse but issues of the former should never be cast as that of the latter. Journalist Christopher Patton argues that viewers of infotainment programs such as The Daily Show actually are among the most informed and therefore this form of infotainment can be and is a good thing (4). However, the problem with this argument is that it assumes a link of causality between viewership and viewer knowledge that cannot be derived from mere correlation: this finding only states that these viewers are more informed, not why they are more informed.
Finally, the strongest argument in support of the news media as a function of popularity is that hard news is more difficult to sell and that news should be sensationalized in order to retain the attention of viewers—surely if there are no viewers, the material presented is pointless (2). Stephen Harrington, contributor to Journalism, argues that if the content and means of analyzing supposed hard news is altered in order to gain popularity, the content can become something that can no longer be considered hard news and therefore fails in its purpose to serve public political discourse. It should be explicitly noted that this argument holds true only in the specific case that the actual substantial content of the news is altered for purposes of viewership.
There are, however, ways of getting around the problems of low interest in hard news and a degradation of the political news media in the seeming failure to adequately provide for responsible public discourse. This solution rests on three key points. First, the general media should be divided up based on the intent of the content itself: political news media should be distinct from entertainment news media. Second, the primary mission of the political news media must be to educate the public and to encourage honest, accountable political discourse on all levels. Lastly, the way in which the political news and analysis is presented must be enjoyable but the content itself must not be altered as a result. There is no reason why political discourse must be drab in order to be considered legitimate. Indeed, it is conceivable for a model similar to The Daily Show to be implemented in the political news media but with a distinct focus on hard news, solid discourse, and the use of comedy only as tool of analysis. The issue of media functionality and purpose is much more complex than many give it credit for and therefore should not be thought of in terms of simply “popularity or education,” but in terms of how it best serves both society and individuals’ interests.
This morning President Obama signed four executive orders (I’ll provide the link when the white house puts the text up) shutting down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. (Click Here for the video)
He signed the first Executive Order:
“In order to affect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the DOD at Guantanamo and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the united states and in the interest of justice. We will be setting up a process whereby [Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now].”
The second order:
“Ensures that anybody detained by the US for now is going to have to abide by the army field manual. we believe the afm reflects the best judgment of our military, that we can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need.”
“set[s] up an special inter-agency task force on inter-agency on detainee disposition [...] they are going to provide me with information on how we are goign to deal with the disposition of some oft he detainees that may be currently in Guantanamo that we cannot transfer to other countries, who could pose as serious danger to the US but we cannot try because of various problems related to evidence [...] and detainee policy going forward so we don’t find ourselves in these kinds of situations in the future.”
And the final is a more specific order asking for the delay of a detainee whose case is currently before the supreme court in order to properly review evidence.
By Nathan Schmitt
With the dawn of a new administration and an exciting new political atmosphere, the Deaf Claque will again start to be updated regularly.
I’d like to start by providing a few new resources that I believe had enormous potential to be incredibly informative and will hopefully encourage genuine political discourse:
1. White House Blog: This is the newly established blog for the White House. Its priorities are as follows:
“Communication: This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated.
Transparency: The President’s executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review.
Participation: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it” (1)
2. State Department Blog: Statement of purpose:
“Blogs.state.gov offers the public an alternative source to mainstream media for U.S. foreign policy information. This blog offers the opportunity for participants to discuss important foreign policy issues with senior Department officials” (2)
3. Congress’ Daily Digest: Congress’ Daily Digest provides a daily summary of the events of congress and is, of course, updated at the end of each day. It is separated into two parts: the House and the Senate. This is not RSS subscribable but hopefully it will be soon.
4. Speaker of the House’s Blog (Pelosi): For a more detailed look at the House. Updated multiple times daily by both Karina Newton (Pelosi’s Director of New Media) and Speaker Pelosi.
This seems to be a huge step in the right direction and though this is still a new direction, I hope the Obama Administration’s focus on transparency and public accountability is developed and utilized to its full potential. The Judiciary has yet to update its website but hopefully this will take place soon.
If you’re interested in learning how to stay informed with minimal effort let me know and I’ll show you how to set up a blog newsfeed so the news you want comes to you instead of having to search it out (this is mostly for my friends around these geographical parts).
Tonight OPB aired an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind whose new book, The Way of the World, came out this past Tuesday, August 8th. In it, he puts forward harsh allegations against the Bush Administration based on credible sources–the most important of which are on the record–with respect to misleading the American people on the path to war.
The interview follows. Click here then click on the “Listen now” button on the top of NPR’s page.
Yesterday after hearing about and reading through the FISA bill, I sent an email to Senator Obama/ his campaign. It basically said that I supported him and was very disappointed to see that he voted in favor of the bill.
I also said that though his message is of empowering the people and encouraging them to participate in the political process, his vote had the opposite affect on most that I’ve talked to. It’s one thing to be let down by the Bush Administration, but it’s something else to be let down by someone you support.
Here’s the message I received back; Obama’s statement in response to criticism for his vote:
Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.
It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.
I, sir, am not convinced. The bill is considerably better, but taking the opportunity of just compensation for losses from American citizens is just not acceptable, no matter how much better it is than the original bill.
If a car dealer asks $2 Million for a Hyundai, I’m not going to pay $500,000 for it just because it’s a lot better than $2 Million.
So. A rather depressing realization just struck me. Our political process here in the states has become, LOL like totally, dominated by brands.
Brands are simply, specifically a means of you telling me what you mean for me to see. Basically. That is to say, a brand is the personal feeling–emotional aftertaste, as Ze Frank likes to call it–that is felt when a word or phrase is heard, read, spoken, or otherwise experienced. Brands are often used to convey a complex message or feeling in very few words.
In the first paragraph above, “the brand” is responsible for the awkwardness of the presence of the valley girl expletive in the context of an otherwise…arguably intelligent…sentence.
We don’t usually think about them, but brands very much shape the decisions we make. Would you rather eat “Spew’s Potato Chunks” or “Lightly Salted Kettle Chips”? Familiarity notwithstanding, your decision is probably the latter, thanks to the concept of the brand.
I’ve been reading The Federalist Papers lately–the single most important document in American political history. The difference in methods of persuasion between then and now is unmistakable and unacceptable. To me at least. I guess.
In the The Federalist Papers, persuasion was achieved or at least attempted chiefly through a clear, content-based presentation of arguments. But now it ain’t no thang.
If you pay as much attention to politics as I, two thoughts may have crossed your minds:
1. “I pay far too much attention to politics.”
2. “These politicians talk more than an excited Valley Catholic schoolgirl but never really say anything.”
How is this tolerated you may ask? My answer to you, dear friend, would be “brands.” In the case that you don’t ask, on the other hand, my answer to you, dear friend, wouldn’t be.
Because I am authoring this essay into–this examination of–the brand, and because it is a tradition among pseudo-philosophers (and philosophers alike, I might add) I will now pull two terms out of a certain one of my human orafaces that have no real meaning. BUT! They will when I’m done with them.
The first is this: the “Explicit Brand”
The second is this: the “Implicit Brand”
By the first, I mean what we normally think of in the rare instances that we think of the meaning of brands. The feeling you get when you hear the word “warm cookie,” for example.
By the second, I mean the feeling you get when you hear a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Or a speech by Adolf Hitler. This is one of the rare instances in which those two men can stand in common example of a singular idea so I thought I might as well make use of it. Seize the moment or something. An experience can be recalled, and only in part, by the phrase “Adolf Hitler’s speech” (and explicit brand) but it is initially constructed by the experience of the speech itself–the implicit brand. (I realize “explicit” and “implicit” aren’t really the proper terms but flow is more important to me right now as I write.)
Contemporary politicians use both. Regularly. In fact I would argue that politicians almost entirely rely on brands when communicating with the general public. They give speeches, appear on telivision and radio, make visits to various locations, etc…. But, when you listen to what they are actually saying–and I’m speaking about 99% of the population of politicians in an attempt to seem legitimate by avoiding generalizations–you see that, though there is some kind of content, it is clearly not the focus of the experience.
It’s not JUST the fault of politicians though; we demand it of them.
In order to compete in the politics of a nation that has sooooo many people and is so like-totally-instant-gratification-nowly-minded you HAVE TO create a brand for yourself or you just won’t get your rep.
It’s fast food politics for a fast food nation. But as we all know, fast food isn’t good for us and if we continue eating it 24/7 we’re going to die a lot sooner than we’d like.
Yesterday, July 9, 2008, the Senate (the House has passed it as well) passed H.R. 6304, the telecom immunity bill.
Under Title II, Section 802, the bill states that:
“[...] a civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending[...]” [and there is a list of qualifications you can read if you click the hyperlink above]
It should be noted that the protection is only for civil actions from which citizens may seek damages; there is no protection from criminal charges being brought against parties. As far as the accountability of telecoms goes, and any other party for that matter (as defined under Title II, Section 802), there is still some degree of accountability to which these parties may be held, but it is specifically criminal.
What this means for the American people is that private citizens may not sue for damages (compensation for losses of any sort) as a result of surveillance. The offending parties may only be sued by the United States government, thereby providing no just compensation for transgressions against private citizens, and can only result in the punishment of the offending parties.
This is a very, very sad day for America as well as the United States Constitution and anyone who believes in it. Here is the text of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
And Obama voted for it…What is happening?…I’m starting to get that feeling about Obama that I got about McCain when he flipped from a harsh critic of the Bush Admin to a supporter of them. Not that the big O is joining the ranks of the Bush Administration by any means, but his vote in favor of this bill is, in my mind, a serious transgression against the people of the United States. And that’s from an Obama supporter.
There’s another thing that’s bothering me. The bill is ridiculously sloppy. For example, Title II, Section 802, Paragraph 5 (which is one of the circumstances under which the Attorney General may dismiss a relevant case):
“(5) the person did not provide the alleged assistance.”
Excuse me? What? The Attorney General’s job is to argue cases, not to decide them.
I’m really ashamed to be an American right now.
I’d like to just leave you with this, the Presidential Oath of Office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The President regularly referrs to his oath and states that it is his job to protect the American people. I don’t know if he wasn’t paying attention when he took it or if he just forgot what it says, but he swore an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution, NOT the American people.
If we Americans don’t wake up and do something, we deserve what’s coming to us.
Phase 2 of the Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence was released this past Thursday. In a press conference about it’s release, Senator Jay Rockefeller stated that, “In making the case for war administration officials distorted the facts or were not supported by the facts, and said that they knew or should of known were not true.
The Huffington Post is sadly one of the few news sources that really covered it. Below is an excerpt, kind of the meat of it:
“the breadth of the Committee’s citations of examples in which the Bush administration’s comments were not supported by intelligence could reignite public dissatisfaction over the war. According to a release from Rockefeller’s office that was provided to The Huffington Post, these examples include:
– Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
– Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
– Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
– Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.”
This is Jon Stewart’s interview with Doug Feith, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for President Bush.
On somewhat of a serious note, I think this interview THE perfect example of the role of the media. Stewart clearly has his opinions, acknowledges them, and makes the goal of the discussion to “bridge the gap,” as he says.
Most importantly, he holds Feith accountable for what he says which, in my opinion, should be the chief role of the interviewer/host and doesn’t let him get away with deception or honest misunderstandings. It’s too bad we have to look to a show on Comedy Central for this kind of quality interviewing.
I was just browsing through the White House’s press releases and found this rather absurd little statement from President Bush:
“This Mother’s Day weekend was awfully special for Laura and me. Our little girl, Jenna, married a really good guy, Henry Hager. The wedding was spectacular. It’s just — it’s all we could have hoped for. The weather cooperated nicely; just as the vows were exchanged the sun set over our lake and it was just a special day and a wonderful day and we’re mighty blessed.
Anyway, thank you all.”
This is no real point of criticism, but it just strikes me as a bit odd that the President would write something in the voice he might use in a MySpace message to address the American public. This statement is especially absurd in juxtaposition with such official content as the signing statement for H.R. 4986 as they were posted in the same space and in the same manner, presumably implying the same weight…
“Mother’s Day is a special time for mothers all across America.”
What would we do without Bush’s impressively perceptive explanations of difficult concepts?
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