Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What the Press Won't Show You That Reverend Wright Said

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone when I'm watching TV and I see the media version of what's happening in the world and I see a completely contradictory version of it somewhere else. Or, metaphorically, like Charlton Heston must have felt at the end of the movie Soylent Green when he finally realizes that soylent green is made from people. It's not that I trust the media so unquestioningly that I can't wrap my brain around the fact that their version of what is real is so far from what actually is real, but that I just can't believe that it would be possible to have any remaining shred of credibility or status among the people of this country if you got something so absolutely, incredible wrong so many times. Even if you give people very little credit for paying attention to or caring about what's going on. Or even if you think they are not very smart. It still doesn't make sense.

Just how is it possible that you keep your status as the supposed watchdogs of government, and reliable sources of information from around the world? How can you not be laughed at when you call yourselves, The Most Trusted Name in News, or The Place for Politics, or the best political team on television, or whatever else the various marketing departments dream up for their news organizations? When I watch the in context versions of the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and contrast them to the endless loops we've been seeing on the networks and cable TV news shows for weeks, they leave me with two views of supposed reality that just do not jibe.

Last night I heard commentators on CNN and MSNBC still speaking as if they had no idea that the loop they play of Wrights comments on 9/11 are in fact a quotation and not his own words. That to me seems like a relevant fact. Even the people I trust to tell me much more of the truth than the the networks generally do, people like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, are repeating the same mainstream media narrative. And if we extend the conversation to what's happening in the blogosphere, I have not heard Arianna Huffington (though I'm behind reading her posts) put this into perspective. Arguably one of, if not the biggest story of recent weeks, and only one show in the mainstream media has taken the time to actually listen to one of Wrights full sermons and put what was said in perspective. It was CNN's Rich Sanchez and he did a very poor job of it. He continually tried to move the focus back to the prevailing mainstream media narrative of Wright and Trinity United as wild-eyed angry black militants that should scare the crap out of the average American.

This story could have potentially derailed the chances of the only viable African-American candidate for president, ever. Yet no one who calls themselves a journalist took any time to look beyond the surface of 10 and 20 second sound bites. It took Trinity United itself to start their own Youtube channel and blog to start to get the truth out to people. And one of the great ironies of the whole story is that it may bring the church more serious attention than it would have ever gotten even if Obama does become president. I am not a religious person at all and that is not the relevant part of the story to me, but it is interesting.

One personal, but relevant irony for me is that I found the story in context by going to Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia, the icon for unreliable information in the mainstream media was where I found that the media was still not correctly attributing the statements made by Wright on 9/11. That they had still not said that Wright was "[Paraphrasing] Edward Peck, former U.S. Chief of Mission in Iraq, former deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism under the Reagan Administration and former U.S. Ambassador to a number of countries." Wikipedia was my source for accurate information that the mainstream press had gotten wrong over and over again.

And to me that is the real story here. That through this very medium, through new new media, the people, both those misrepresented directly and those to whom the truth was misrepresented, have redress. From the editors of Wikipedia who have no motivation except to provide reliable information to people for free. Yes it is vulnerable to corruption, but it is self correcting and those who call it unreliable are no more reliable. And from the people at Trinity United who are just like you and me. Who saw their pastor misrepresented in the media and decided to become their own media and put their own story out so that people could make up their minds based on more than 20 seconds of sound out of entire career.

The career of a man who was a US Marine and served in the US Navy as a hospital Corpsman and who has a commendation from same for treating President Lyndon Johnson when he was hospitalized. The career of a man who traveled to Libya as part of an contingent which included Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan to free United States Navy pilot Lt. Robert Goodman, whose fighter jet had been shot down over Lebanon. And to bring that soldier held prisoner by a terrorist back home to America. I got that from Wikipedia too.

Maybe it is not that the people don't care, or pay attention when our news and view of the world is reduced to the 20 second sound bite, or that they aren't smart enough to understand it when it's not, but that they felt little power to do anything about it. Through new media they are starting to take back that power and the mainstream media should be paying attention. We the people are not only the government, we are the media too.

Please take the time to comment on this post, whether you agree or disagree. And please take time to pass it on to people who may not have seen Reverend Wright's comments in context. And finally, take time to write the mainstream media, whoever you get your news from and let them know that you are paying attention.

See update here.

-Fight the powers.

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