Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Not Everyone Deserves Fifteen Minutes of Fame

If you’ve read this blog faithfully, you know that I endorse the sort of activism that Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird represents, and that sort is:

•    Beginning even if the odds of winning are not in your favor
•    Using your talents to the best of your abilities even if your cause seems lost
•    Teaching your children to oppose injustice while upholding their own dignity and acting responsibly
•    Trying, above all else and at all times, to empathize, to walk in the shoes of another in order to understand him, his plight, and his point of view

With great humility and in awe of their courage, I support those who choose to make a difference in this world, the real world Atticus Finches.

I also advocate speaking up and out for right and good. I closed last week’s post by asking readers to “speak up and stand for justice.” Earlier posts have chastised politicians who failed to speak up when a member of the audience threatened the life of the president or repeated a lie about him. I’ve also taken the media to task for caring more about ratings and profits than about truth and fact. This week, the media are my target once more.

As fictional President Andrew Shepherd said in The American President (1995), “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.” Why then has the media wasted a moment of our time asking whether Beyoncé Knowles sang the National Anthem live or synchronized her lips to match a pre-recorded version?

The President of the United States shared the same stage and delivered his inaugural address. Its content and his rhetoric may shape public policy and all our lives for decades to come. The vision set forth may reinvigorate all those who voted for him and renew the opposition’s determination to defeat his agenda.

We have serious problems to solve, and the President named several of those problems, suggesting that he hopes to lead the nation toward solutions in his second term. He is clearly one of the serious people we need to solve our serious problems. Yet mainstream media and even FOX news elected to spend as much time, if not more time, on Beyoncé-gate. The newsreaders and/or puppet masters writing the words they will read either wish to distract us or have no sense of what is and what is not significant. They will stir up a tempest in a teapot for the sake of ratings, but they do not represent serious people, the sort of serious people we need no matter what expression they paste upon their faces.

Similarly, the media have brought forth upon the national stage some worrisome folk. Without media, the so-called Birthers would have been relegated to passing out flyers in parking lots, but the media gave them life. Those Birther Birchers have even doubled-down, now asking for the President’s educational records and his passport. And why not? They have seduced media whores, one Donald Trump, to use their cause to promote himself so why not continue to grab headlines and microphones?

While I would never deny a man or woman his right to express himself, I will demand that the media practice discernment, that media sift and weigh, that they glean the truth by hiring research assistants, investigative reporters, and issue analysts to challenge any and all comers who traffic in half-truth and propaganda. I demand that the media examine the credibility of those whom they promote and feature, and they should begin with Rush Limbaugh whose stock rises from his investments in innuendo and ad hominem. His arguments can be dissected and refuted with fact, yet few newsreaders know enough or have sufficient autonomy to make such an argument. They also treat innuendo, opinion, and name-calling so often found through Twitter as equal to fact, even going so far as to read it on air and thus, enter into the public record. Shame on them.

I can only echo Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Seth Myers who are so adept at saying “Really?” with the right tone and expression: “Really, Media?” You give Beyoncé-gate, Rush, Tweets, Wayne LaPierre, Alex Jones, and David Keene their fifteen minutes of fame; you grant no time or a slight fifteen minutes to serious people with serious information about serious problems. They deserve more so we, the viewers and listeners and online readers, the Tweeters and Facebook posters, must ask for more. We must expect more. If we do not, the media will continue to bring the latest media whore before us, then move on in fifteen minutes to shape another lightweight controversy and stir another disagreement without ever allowing for that full and well-informed conversation that everyone, even the newsreaders, believes we need.