Monday, January 10, 2011

On the Tuscon Shootings: Corporate Media Putting on Blinders

The decline in journalism in this nation can be seen in the mainstream media coverage of the tragedy that took place in Tuscon, Arizona, this past Saturday.

The shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others, including the killing of a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, and four more of the victims, has prompted a national discussion about the vitriol of modern-day politics and the increasing vocabulary of violence that characterizes it.

Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Texas native, stepped into the middle of that discussion when he pointed an accusing finger at the "Mecca for prejudice and bigotry" that Arizona has become, a situation created in large part by politicians and their proselytizing pundits on television and in the blogosphere.

The words were hardly out of Dupnik's mouth, however, before media personalities like NBC Today Show's Matt Lauer and veteran political commentator Tom Brokaw jumped to defuse them. In their assessments on Monday morning (Jan. 10, 2010), Lauer bemoaned extremes on both the Left and the Right while Brokaw recalled the violence of the leftist radicals of the 1960s.

Neither seemed to want to see what's obvious to much of the rest of the nation. It's the violent rhetoric of the Right today that's at the heart of this problem. Where is there a liberal blogger spewing the vitriol of hate and violence to a large audience, as Lauer implies? Does Brokaw have to go back 40 or 50 years to find a liberal seed to what happened in Tuscon? That's like the right-wing so-called "scholars" out there nowadays who've been trying to put a leftist, socialist tag on Hitler and Mussolini, and in the process take the sting out of right-wing extremism.

Media ombudsman Howard Kurtz is another corporate media type who wants to let right-wingers off the hook, choosing instead in recent commentary to blame journalists and their war-like political terminology (example: use of terms like "bombshell" and "air war").

Let's cut to the chase. Dupnik knows. Lauer, Brokaw and Kurtz are too comfortably removed in their New York or Washington corporate offices to see what the sheriff sees on the ground level of America.

Giffords' opponent in her hard-fought 2010 bid for a third term in Congress was Tea Party Republican Jesse Kelly, who once campaigned from a shooting range and brandished slogans like "Get on Target for Victory in November". As is well known now, Sarah Palin included Giffords on her "target map" of Democrats needing to be removed from office in the 2010 elections. These Democrats were placed in gun-like crosshairs on Palin's map. Giffords' offense was her support of health care reform and, of course, the "D" after her name.

Remember the gun-wielding, screaming, and bullying that characterized the health care debate, as well as the screaming, bullying blusterings of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck?

When journalists are unable to see what's before their eyes, they stop being journalists.

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