Here’s one day in the life of this observer of mass media:
Yesterday afternoon: Read the latest issue of Nation magazine to find a wonderful article in which Christian Parenti proposes that the Obama Administration kickstart the move to cleaner energy sources by orienting government purchases towards the clean and green. Parenti lists electrical vehicles, efficient buildings, paper, cleaning supplies and a slew of other products that the Obama Administration could buy green and thereby give a much needed boost to their industries. Parenti points out that government purchases are what funded early microprocessor development by being the first major customer.
Parenti has a great idea. The sad thing is, Barry Commoner proposed the same thing in the 1970’s; Commoner demonstrated that if the military bought photovoltaic (solar) batteries for the field it would make solar competitive as a source for generating electricity.
Why didn’t we do anything then, and why isn’t Parenti’s idea being discussed in the mainstream media today? The answer I believe lies in an incident from the early 50’s. Energy advisors presented President Harry Truman (my choice as worst president of all time for ordering the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) with two white papers: the first proposed the government support development of solar energy, which would have created a decentralized electrical grid and an industry dominated at least at first by lots of small companies. The second paper proposed government support of the development of nuclear energy, which by definition would lead to a highly centralized grid and relatively few companies, most of which were already in existence and big donors to political campaigns. Needless to say, Scary Harry picked nuclear. And that federal preference for “big” energy remains to this day.
Back to the life of a blogger on mass media—at various intervals yesterday evening and this morning, I checked out what various media outlets were saying about the Sherrod flap. That’s the African-American woman who earnestly told an audience that she had overcome her former racist attitudes only to be fired when right-wing rich boy blogger, Andrew Breitbart, used only a piece of her comment to make her look like a racist. While I won’t question the newsworthiness of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack apologizing for jumping the gun before the facts were in, I am very curious as to why the mainstream news media has not lambasted Breitbart for using the classic Nazi propaganda technique of editing a statement to make it sound as if the speaker is saying something entirely different. In the National Public radio version this morning, for example, Breitbart fades entirely out of the picture.
It is despicable to use the editing technique Breitbart did to make a case or provide an example. Just a few months ago, The New Yorker did a tediously long encomium on Breitbart and his growing influence. I would hope that after the Sherrod incident, the mainstream media will now ignore Breitbart. He has lost what little intellectual credibility he ever had.
The early morning sun was coming up and I was sipping my second cup of tea when I ran across this opening to an article titled “This Tea Tastes Like My Yard” by Michael Tortorello in the Home section of the New York Times. Pay careful attention to the last sentence, which I have bolded:
The first Tea Party got one thing right: drinking tea is un-American. Camellia sinensis, the common tea shrub, will survive in most warm, humid climates. But tea plantations never took root in American soil.
The evils of Asian tea and British customs duties may not top the Tea Party platform these days. But the Glenn Becks of the 1770s were compelled to invent their version of freedom fries — a drink they called liberty tea.
Who were “the Glen Becks of the 1770’s?” Let’s see now, whom do we remember from the Boston tea Party and whose image do we therefore conjure on reading the phrase?—Why it’s John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Rush, some of the group of wealthy and connected white males who declared independence and wrote our constitution. We have long called them “our founding fathers.”
In other words, in an article about making tea from garden herbs, Tortorello finds time to propose that Glen Beck is akin to the great thinkers who shaped our governmental system.
Laughable, except that an accumulation of these sly references in the mass media gives credibility to Beck’s ignorant, mendacious and manipulative statements.
I consider these three observations as representative pieces in the daily mosaic of information bombarding us. That the news media have so far let Breitbart off the hook for his cheap propaganda trick and a Times food writer is using another cheap propaganda trick to promote Glen Beck are discouraging developments. But it would be truly disastrous if Parenti’s article and ideas do not get a hearing beyond Nation’s readership.