In this weeks edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob Cesca, Chez Pazienza and Ben Cohen weigh in on the media's silence towards racism directed at Michelle Obama, whether the economy will help Mitt Romney get elected and President Obama's questionable ties to the financial industry.
Hillary Rosen makes a true statement about the cluelessness of a millionare woman that guaranteed 24 hour news coverage villificating the truth teller. Racist assaults on Michelle Obama began when there were just rumors that Senator Obama would declare his presidential candidacy back in 2007 and continue to this day. From taken out of context remarks, racist cartoons and e-mails, there has been a continous attack of racist caricatures, slurs, digs, vicious and defamatory statements directed against Mrs. Obama by right wing talk show hosts, blogs, websites, teabaggers and politicians. The usual cannard of uppity, or angry black woman, chewbacca to name a few. Then we have WI congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who called Mrs. Obama a hypocrite for leading the Let’s Move campaign because she supposedly has a “large posterior.” And speaker of the KS state house Mike O’Neal, who forwarded a vicious cartoon likening Mrs. Obama to the Grinch and calling her “Mrs. YoMama.”The deafening silence from the excuses across the media, from both republican and Democratic politicians and from public liberals/progressives that attacks against a strong, educated, beautiiful black women is insignificant. Even if that woman is the First Lady of the United States. Why is that?
Chez: Because the media are pussies. Simple as that. I've gone through this several times on my site from a very personal perspective -- and God knows I'm not revealing state secrets since just about everyone center-left recognizes this -- but the press is so aware of the "liberal media bias" Sword of Damocles that the very talented talking points-machines on the right have hung over its head for the past few decades that it's reluctant to ever truly beat up on conservative racism, xenophobia, inflammatory rhetoric and general idiocy. The mainstream media are always concerned about appearing biased toward the left because of the accusations against them that they no self-censor; trust me, I've seen this happen many, many times during my career, with otherwise rational adults at news meetings suddenly cowering like little children at the prospect that their product might be perceived as confirming a completely made-up preconception that's been circulated by people who benefit from demonizing them. Even if the coverage itself doesn't change and goes ahead as planned, the fact that many in the media feel that they need to run their work through some kind of litmus test to ensure that it's not biased toward the left -- the fact that that's a consideration that's in the back of their minds at all -- speaks volumes. Also, the right is amazingly good at creating controversy out of thin air -- its mouthpieces stay on point and tend to speak as one, and that's why within seconds they're all screaming the same thing about how, say, Hilary Rosen insulted every stay-at-home mom in the contiguous 48. And as I've said before, news departments are addicted to conflict and controversy -- if you excel at manufacturing that kind of thing, you'll get all the coverage you could ever dream of.
Bob: It all goes back to what plays well in the press, along with the total lack of intellectual honesty and fairness of the far-right. The press, of course, will latch onto any small liberal example of [insert crazy remark here] in order to satisfy their mandate to present false equivalences. So while there are countless examples of racism and misogyny coming from the right, the system is set up to punish liberals equally after just one off-handed remark from, in this case, Hilary Rosen. It's endlessly frustrating and we all need to be vigilant about shaming the press for allowing one remark to equal an entire nationwide effort to demonize and oppress women of all races. As for the far-right, they've lost track of what it means to carry on a fair debate and have resorted to what I call "intellectual violence" (actually, the blogger Digby coined that term). They don't care whether or not an idea or statement holds up to intellectual scrutiny, they just say it anyway (in this case, Hilary Rosen means the Democrats are equally as guilty of waging a war on women) because they know the press will allow it (see the first part of this answer) and fellow conservatives won't bother to proofread or verify the nonsense. When the goal is merely to lash out in every direction, there's not reason or rationality to it. Anyone in the way will be hit by indiscriminate screeching.
Ben: Analyzing the seeming irrationality of the corporate press is a pretty much full time job Sammy - there has been much written on the subject and I'm not sure what I can add to it really. However, my basic observation is that while the media is generally filled with educated, center-left people, the corporate structure of the system does not encourage serious journalism or confronting power. Everyone is too concerned with making money and climbing the career ladder. The Republicans have cleverly manipulated this glitch in the system and have orchestrated a gigantic propaganda campaign to convince the public that the media represents some sort of evil liberal conspiracy to take peoples guns and enforce gay marriage on children. It has worked and networks like CNN spend an inordinate amount of time trying to give both sides an equal shake - which would be fine if the Democrats and Republicans were both sane. They are not, and thus absurdly racist and offensive statements toward Michelle Obama are brushed aside, and innocuous statements about millionaire mothers are pored over with a tooth comb.
How much of an effect do you think the economy will have in the election? It's pretty bad now, but Obama is still ahead in the polls against Romney (I believe). If it gets worse, do you think that Obama can still win? How?
Bob: I think the president has a stronger chance of winning if the economy continues to improve, but we're through-the-looking-glass and any shred of insanity or stupidity could derail his chances, irrespective of the economy. After all, the Dow has doubled since the president took office, the economy went from shrinking by 8% to growing by 2%, unemployment has dropped from 10% to 8.2%, and job creation has gone from 800,000 jobs lost per month to 200,000 jobs created per month -- a turnaround of 1,000,000. Does it matter? Only slightly. The prevalence of lies and cynicism from the Romney campaign has yet to be fully tested on the national stage. However, there's a way President Obama can win -- and win by a landslide. All he has to do is to stay on message, keep the message simple and forceful, and remain free of distractions. Along with the potential for continued economic improvement, this is a recipe for a serious victory in November.
Ben: I wrote about this topic earlier in the week - I think the economy makes or breaks Obama this election. The public will blame whoever is in office for the state of the economy, even if it is blatantly out of their hands. The Republicans have done everything in their power to derail the economy, from almost preventing Obama from raising the debt ceiling to sabotaging every measure imaginable to stimulate the economy. There is also the issue of the Euro Zone - if a country defaults and pulls out, it could literally destroy the global economy over night. It won't be the President's fault if the economy falls apart, and we'll get someone in power who will actively make it worse. Worrying times.
Chez: The economy is the most important issue in the upcoming election. If it continues to improve, even slightly, President Obama will benefit -- if it begins to tank or if the Republicans are successful in duping voters into believing that it's sliding backward into oblivion, Mitt Romney will benefit. Admittedly, the fact that Mitt Romney is such a luke-warm candidate for the Republicans -- really, the guy is just awful in so many ways as the person the GOP is nominating at this particular time in our nation's history -- might be the thing that's most beneficial to Obama and the public's lack of enthusiasm for him could easily make the president's reelection close to a sure thing. But never underestimate the right's ability to shamelessly bullshit its way into the White House again. Romney's already proven that he'll say whatever it takes, particularly when it comes to the economy, to get himself elected -- with the blessing of the party -- and if he can get enough people to not bother to fact check him, we're all screwed.
I don't get how any of you guys can seriously put any faith in Obama. How many times does he have to sell the country out to the banks and corporations for us to give up on him? Of course Romney is worse, but Obama is still a sell out and a stooge. Did you read about the JOBS act? What an unbelievable joke that was - a bill that literally encourages fraud. Yet Obama hailed it as some kind of victory. I'm done with him.
Ben: I'm in two minds about Obama Presidency Martin. On the one hand, I think he has sold out to financial interests in a way he didn't have to and has continued policies that are illegal, and harmful to the country and the outside world (the Afghan war, Libya, wire tapping, rendition, the list goes on). On the other hand, Obama is heading up a system that has been completely rigged for decades, and I think given the constraints he faces, he's doing a pretty damn good job. I have no doubt that Obama would share many of your views if he were out of office - but he's in the game and he has to focus on the big picture, and that means making an awful lot of compromises to get anything done. I don't like the JOBS act at all, but I do like many of his other achievements that I don't think should be discounted when assessing him as a whole (for a list, check this funny site out).
Chez: Oh, Martin -- you're so cute when you're angry. I could send you a link -- or a bunch of links actually -- that detail the dozens and dozens of unequivocal victories the Obama administration has given progressives, but you wouldn't give a crap anyway so I'm not wasting my time. Have a good weekend.
Bob: Are you suggesting that a politician -- and this goes for every politician from Bernie Sanders to Ron Paul -- accepts corporate and financial contributions and then tends to support policies that improve economic indicators and therefore helps his or her re-election chances? That's just crazy talk. Seriously, when has the president ever pledged he wouldn't accept corporate contributions, and therefore how can he be considered a sell-out? You're not going to get me to defend the JOBS Act because there's a lot I don't like about it. However, unlike you, I'm not willing to write off an historic presidency simply because there are a few policies with which I disagree. Put another way, I disagreed with several horrendous things FDR did, such as the firebombing of civilians in Tokyo and Dresden or the indefinite detention of Japanese-American citizens. But most liberals don't allow those things impact the generally positive historical view of his presidency. Really, I can't force you to see the big picture here because you've clearly already decided to walk away despite a rather long list of successes. I'm not willing to walk away and chance the ascendency of a Republican president who will repeal healthcare reform, lock down conservative control over the Supreme Court for another generation, invade Iran, cut taxes on the rich while eliminating programs for working and poor Americans, etc, etc, etc. This president, if nothing else, used mostly liberal economic principles to rescue the economy from lapsing into another Great Depression. Think about that one for a minute and consider the significance. And even if you disagree with everything he's done, you have to admit that there have been few modern presidents as smart, talented and, in many ways, "presidential" as this one.
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