Friday, April 04, 2008

What Regular People Are Hearing

(cross-posted at The Smirking Chimp)

Yesterday, I went for my long-overdue hair appointment with the Prince of Peroxide, my friend Eddy James (who is a miracle-worker, I must say - he did not ask me for a plug but I'm giving it anyway!) He asked me how my book was coming and I told him it was in the process of being edited, and then he and I got talking about politics, as we usually do at that point. He's Canadian and his wife is American, but he's a pretty progressive guy for a 'normie' (i.e. someone who isn't up to his tits in the interwebs about politics.)

In public, I don't launch into my tirades unless someone asks me enough times that I can't help myself. We started by talking about the possible SAG/AFTRA strike, and the acrimony between the two unions - disheartening because I belong to both and they've been seeking rapproachment for a while, but it's falling apart at this time. The subject went to unions in general, then the economy. Next came the state of the media, and I started talking about news programming and the fact that since news is now expected to draw ratings like a sitcom or game show, we get more flash and spin and less substance, and how we're losing out as citizens because the people entrusted by the protection of the Constitution to keep us informed have abandoned their responsibility to the public interest. We pretty much concurred that you can't trust the media to tell us the truth.

When we got around to the primary races, the girl who was assisting Eddy, and who up to this point had not made a peep, piped up and said, "Well, Obama wants to take the Pledge of Allegiance out of public schools!"

My jaw dropped.

I had just finished talking about Bush's Rovian dirty campaigning tricks that had been used against both Ann Richards in the race for the Texas governorship and John McCain in 2000 - the 'push-polling' where operatives would call up people and ask them if they would vote for so-and-so if they knew that they had a gay agenda (Richards) or had an illegitimate black child (McCain).

I asked her where she had heard that. She said that someone forwarded her an e-mail.

After explaining where it had come from - that someone took a picture of Obama standing with other candidates without his hand over his heart during the National Anthem, which is not the Pledge of Allegiance ("I was taught by my grandfather that you put your hand over your heart during the pledge, but during the Star Spangled Banner, you sing!" Obama said) - I was struck by the fact that this is how the majority of people in the United States get their information about politics, and about politicians. Since I don't spend a lot of time talking to regular people about the things that I rant about as a blogger and writer, it was a bit of a shock to hear something that to me is a well-known fabrication unworthy of the least bit of consideration regarded as gospel truth by someone else. This girl who works in the salon looks like somewhat of an 'arty' type, as do many people in the hair business. She certainly did not come off as overly conservative. She didn't seem especially interested in politics at all.

But she 'knew' about Obama wanting to take the Pledge of Allegiance out of schools.

This is what we're up against, folks.

This is why I'm going to take opportunties as they come up - not to harangue or harass people with my political worldview, but to try and do my part to put correct information out there whenever I can. It's not the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives I'm trying to reach. Their minds are already made up, and a pesky and unwelcome fact is not going to intrude upon their worldview unless it already fits into their frame of reference. It's the people who have progressive values but not the information to back it up; people who don't understand that what they're hearing isn't necessarily always true, that I want to connect with. And I do believe that most Americans have progressive values. That's why I write this blog; that's why I wrote my book. If I can compete, even in my own limited way, with the misinformation - both deliberate and unintentional - I feel that I have a duty to do that.

When I talk to people like this young girl, what I tell them is check for yourself. Don't take my word for it any more than you would take the word of a forwarded e-mail. But I do tell them that it's important to understand that what you hear from the media and from 'other sources' may be inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain-out lies, and since the media no longer feel any obligation to the public interest, but only to the interests of their shareholders and advertisers, it is now necessary to check and double-check your sources. Otherwise you will be making decisions and casting your vote from an uninformed standpoint - and that has already proved to be deadly.

The idea that we can take everything we hear on faith has come and gone. We must be responsible for our own knowledge as information consumers. If this girl had taken even a minute to Google some different sources, she might not have taken that ridiculous and mendacious e-mail as the basis for her opinion of a candidate - an opinion that could very well influence her vote. And that's what the people who propagate these falsehoods are counting on.

I don't expect anyone to take what I have to say on faith. Please, look up anything you hear me say. And consider the source.

An informed society is a free society. An uninformed society?

Not so much.


PhysioProf said...

Don't even get me started about the shit my parents tell me, and they don't even get e-mail. It's all just right-wing demented fucking wackaloon propaganda they absorb from the teevee. I ignore it until I get a couple fucking drinks in me, and then we have some "interesting" discussions. Fortunately, we all love each other very much, so it never gets acrimonious, but there is just no convincing them. I really start to go haywire when they tell me that even some "liberal"--who turns out to be one of these token fucking pretend liberal douchewheels they trot out on Fox News or whatever--believes that Obama is a muslim America-hater who is going to be sworn in on a Koran and make all women wear burqas.

Alicia Morgan said...

The relative in my family who is like that is my brother, who I love dearly and I know is a decent person. He lives back in Florida, and I don't even bother to get in those discussions with him because I know he can't hear me.

That is a hoot about those faux-'liberals' - give me a break! Liberal my ass!

Unknown said...

It is so easy to think that you're informed but to not really know what is going on. Proof that ignorance is ok in our society.

Alicia Morgan said...

Not only is it okay, it's de rigueur - knowledge is suspect these days. Ignorance is celebrated - look how proud Bush is of not knowing shit.

GreenSmile said...

Great post, Alicia. It is exactly the bottom feeding consumers of the info-dregs that we NEED to reach. I go to the busy intersections with placards when MoveOn gets us riled up...just because maybe some of the thousands driving by NEVER thought there was anything to know or care about the war.

This link to a nyt article kinda implies that blogging has both its writing-for-a-cause [as you and I do mostly] or writing-for-clicks which is literally killing some bloggers and making a very few of them rich.
So what you say about MSM :
"and I started talking about news programming and the fact that since news is now expected to draw ratings like a sitcom or game show, we get more flash and spin and less substance...
seems to apply to some stratum of the blogosphere.

so how do we reach people? You make some serious and creative efforts I know but how are we doing?

Alicia Morgan said...

Wow, greensmile - that is quite an eye-opener of an article! As for me, I don't blog for profit - I blog to say what I feel is important to talk about, and to connect with other progressives, and to be one cog in the wheel of change.

I'm not competitive, and I don't care about stats or clicks or how many readers I have. I don't do advertising, except for unpaid plugs of organizations or causes I feel are worth notice.

The readers that do come here mean a lot to me, and I feel with a smaller blog that I can get to know them and have conversations that mean something.

I honestly don't know how we're doing or whether we're making a difference. Nobody really knows, I guess. What I do know is keeping silent or standing on the sidelines is not acceptable any more.

Whether I get the desired 'result' is completely beside the point. The point is that it's necessary to stand up for what I believe is right, and offer a counter to what I believe is wrong. Whether I get what I want doesn't matter. It only matters that I do it.

I do feel that the dialogue is getting out there, and I think that bloggers have an important part to play - not so important as some of them may think :), but important nonetheless. For me, blogging has translated into action - writing a book, getting involved on a local level with groups that I feel are doing important grassroots work, such as Progressive Dems of America and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I don't know if I would have gotten involved in that way except through what I've learned by blogging.

So - I hope it's making a difference, but if it's not, it's still worth doing.

GreenSmile said...

I guess I am on a similar path:
1. my blogging has been a way to find my own political voice and exercise my mind with fact finding and examination of what the right course might be...granted it was actually the total fxxkup of this country since the 2000 election that pushed me to realize we were seriously off the rails and maybe even formerly apolitical me needed to pitch in.
2. yes, it has a "preaching to the choir" aspect [a problem you have explicitly tackled] but it also entails discovering who is in the choir...and that helps because we tend to feel isolated and alienated in overworked and impersonal 21st century america. Connecting with other progressives when you might not ever open your political mouth at work or family gatherings [both problems in my situation] is positive and reinforcing and sure-fire compared to the more dubious goal of "persuading" anybody.
3. I go over to places like now and then just to remind myself that there really are bogeymen and bogeywomen and to note they live in a separate and parallel universe. Its hard to imagine reaching those poor, willfully ignorant and obviously scared folks with my blogging but there must be some who are on the fence...and it is exactly those who will actually determine the outcome this November. Are they reading? Am I writing in a way that is too off-putting for the fence-sitters?
4. I can't listen to talk radio...I am not a trash can, a one-way receptacle, for ANY BODY's opinions but rather need a voice and want a conversation [maybe that is difference between right and left in the political spectrum and has something to do with the poor economics of left leaning vs right leaning talk radio.] Bottom line: I need a "reply" button, I need my own soap box because I trust my own judgment too. Gotta blog.

nunya said...

When I get the fReeptard emails I usually send them back with a snopes
link that debunks it.

Distributorcap said...


my liberal, dyed in the wool, raised in a progressive jewish home mother says to me "i cant vote for Obama because he is a Muslim --- i cringe -- and frankly, i yelled at her. i dragged her to the computer and showed her article after article about him being christian -- she buys it

then reverend wright hits. and now she says wright hates the jews. so i have to drag her back and show her what a complete asshole and scumbag mccain is ---

at least she didnt think obama's 37 in bowling was a deal breaker

what we go through because of the internets and our parents

Alicia Morgan said...

Tha's what's so astounding, d-cap - we're hearing it from liberals! It's the fucking 'telephone' game.

BAC said...

Alicia, excellent post! Don't get me started on the media ... they make me crazy! I began my career in media, and point to the Reagan years as the beginning of the end of "broadcasting in the public interest." And once they go digital it's definitely all over.

On a different topic, I hope the event went well on Saturday. I"m so sorry I couldn't be there, but as it turns out I needed to be in DC that day. I lost a good friend on Monday to cancer, and her memorial was Saturday.

I hope you are planning to come back to DC in November. I can't wait to see you again!


Unknown said...

You are sadly right. My brother forwarded some bs emails along the same line and it was hard to get him to click the link to the explanation that I was trying to offer that exposed the lies.

It also comes down to the fact that people will readily accept a negative as fact and our media does more harm when they falsely put something out there in a 30 second soundbite on the evening news.

My Orthopedic Dr has four gigantic tv's in his waiting room..all tuned of course to Faux Noise. That is the ONLY time I watch that crap, because I am basically forced to.

When I hear and see them promoting their neocon agenda with lies and half truths..I start muttering to myself and clicking my tongue. Occsionally people will ask me what is up and I try to explain where Faux is lying..and their response:

It must be true or they couldn't say it on the air. They would get sued or in trouble for lying.

Try dealing with that one..without coming unglued. Then I start sounded like a conspiracy theory wingnut when I try to explain about the neocon agenda and Murdoch and I see their eyes glaze the hell over.

Alicia Morgan said...

BAC - It was great to play at the AU party for Harry - he is an amazing activist and still sharper and more engaged and passionate than people a fraction of his age. It was also nice to see Barry again. My friends in the band who didn't know about AU were very impressed, and I may have gotten a new member or two! :) I hope to see you in November - if I'm invited back, I'll be there with bells on!

Dusty - I know what you mean. The frustrating part about trying to combat the propaganda is the 'eyes glazing over' factor. It makes me crazy.

Alicia Morgan said...

nunya: I'm always astonished that people - and I mean smart people - will send me the most ridiculous crap without bothering to go to Snopes and check it out before email-bombing their entire address book. Especially when it's something like 'Bill Gates is giving away money' or some such pantsload that's been done a thousand times! What makes them so gullible? Sometimes the more thoughtful of them will e-mail back an apology after someone points them to Snopes, but why do they fall for it in the first place? The 'missing child', the gas boycotts, all the things that have been around forever, and still they get sucked into it. "This one is for real!"

I just don't get it.

Yoga Korunta said...

A friend fell victim to the Bush propaganda regarding Obama's not participating in the Pledge. This friend should be exposed to differing ideas by reading Last Left. Thank you, Alicia!