With the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy apparently over, there some lingering issues. Why is it more important to be first than to be right in this country? In the race to be first, several major news outlets got some very important facts, details and thoughts wrong. Over on one channel there was a lot of talk of Al Qaeda. Now, Al Qaeda may have been behind this bombing, but I doubt it. Look at the destruction that Al Qaeda has rained down on the world. this bombing didn’t look like anything that they have done over the last 20 years. There was the widely reported “fact” that the bomber was “brown-skinned.” Where did this nugget of nonsense come from? There were several outlets that reported that one of the bombers was captured hours or days before he was actually taken into custody. Why can’t these major networks simple take the their time and be right? Report facts. I can go to the water cooler for rumors and mindless guessing.
Where is the right-wing outrage over the background check legislation being held up in the Senate? Remember that during the healthcare debate conservatives were screaming at the top of their lungs that Obama was thumbing his nose at the will of the people. They pointed to public opinion polls from late 2008 and 2009. Now, the data on gun control is pretty clear, especially if you look at the data over time. The American people want more and better gun laws. I don’t care if the specific law wouldn’t have prevented Sandy Hook. What I would like to see is the removal of guns from the hands of criminals and Americans who are mentally ill.
The media are killing us. Using the mentality “if it bleeds, it leads” Americans see nothing but death and violence on the news. “Somebody shot someone. News at 11.” The constant bombardment of our brains with death and destruction has led us to believe that the world is a very scary place. We need to be armed. One gun is good, but what happens if you are in the dining room and the burglar is coming through the bedroom window? This means that we need to either carry a gun with us at all times or place a gun in every room in the house. Then we will be safe.
Remember District Attorney Mike McLelland who was shot to death? Weeks before his death he knew he was a marked man. He stated that he was going to carry a gun with him at all times. He stated that he was a soldier. Nevertheless, McLelland ended up dead.
How the war was sold is the topic of Bill Moyers’ first Journal. It is also the subject of Frank Rich’s book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold (a wonderful book that hasn’t gotten its due, in my opinion). We would have never gone to war if the president, the vice president and WHIG didn’t start a coordinated effort to confuse and fake out the public.
In this episode of the Bill Moyers Journal, the journalist looks at the press. He clearly points to some of the great reporting during that time that has been overlooked. He also points to some of the pressures that major networks were under. The pressure came from the right. It came from sponsors. It came from the public. The unwritten rule was not to really confront the president. Everyone was expected to be ultra-patriotic. The pressure that came from Fox News must have been unreal. Fox News more than any other network waved the red, white and blue and then wrapped themselves in the flag. They were ultra-patriotic and everyone else was not even close. (The Neocons during this time made Fox their home.) If you were “unpatriotic,” Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and the patriotic police would call you out and highlight you and your network. The Neocons and the rest of the right wing war machine would be calling you out soon after that. They would be followed by the radio noise machine. Soon you were out. Ask Phil Donahue, who was basically kicked out of a job for not being “patriotic enough.”
The relatively small Knight-Rider outfit consistently got it right, while the Washington Post and the NY Times got it wrong. Moyers does a very good job at pointing this out.
This is a GREAT initial episode. I will be posting it in five parts. Here are the first two.
Update: I originally posted this back in 2007. My blog has been updated many times since then. I have no idea where the original video that accompanies this post is. Fortunately, I found the original program and I have embedded it below.
So, here’s my question. Could this happen again? Could we, the American people, be pushed into another war of convenience?
When Reagan was president, it was a different era. There was no Internet. Cable TV was still in its infancy. The three major networks dominated the airwaves. You got your news through what was spoon fed to us every weekday evening or we could read the paper. If you lived in a small market then you got your hometown paper which may not have covered major national issues with any depth. I was living in Atlanta. Atlanta was changing from a sleepy Southern town into a major metropolis. I was going to school supported by multiple student loans. The loans were easily obtainable and had very low interest rates. In order to balance the budget, Ronald Reagan decided that these low interest rates were “too low” and he increased them. He also changed the terms of paying back these loans, which pushed thousands of students out of school. At the same time, the great communicator told America that he supported education. This is the moment when it dawned on me that Ronald Reagan was pulling the wool over our eyes. So, as Republicans celebrate the centennial birthday of Ronald Reagan, listen carefully to how they’re trying to spin his image. (Salon has a great series on Reagan.)
1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.
2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.” Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.
3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Unemploymentjumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut, and it took years for the rate to get back down to its previous level. Meanwhile, income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that Reagan presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, Reagan disproportionately taxed the poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980′s did little help them. “Since 1980, median household income has risen only 30 percent, adjusted for inflation, while average incomes at the top have tripled or quadrupled,” the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted.
4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously.Reagan promised “to move boldly, decisively, and quickly to control therunaway growth of federal spending,” but federal spending “ballooned” under Reagan. He bailed out Social Security in 1983 after attempting to privatize it, and set up a progressive taxation system to keep it funded into the future. He promised to cut government agencies like the Department of Energy and Education but ended up adding one of the largest — the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which today has a budget of nearly $90 billion and close to 300,000 employees. He also hiked defense spending by over $100 billion a year to a level not seen since the height of the Vietnam war.