Keith Olbermann nailed it with this commentary. Definitely one of the best he has ever done.
As I mentioned in my earlier comments, this is not just an issue of race. Race, in my view, should not necessarily be the focus of discussion. We don't need another race dabate. To be honest, they just don't do much. We have had that debate half a dozen times (or more) since Obama announced his run for the Presidency. What the nation should really be focused on is the obscene level of power held by Republican right wing media. This is something that I have blogged/written about probably dozens of times and it is the focus of my sidebar commentary, written a couple of years ago. I tried to warn people about just how big of a threat right wing media is.
The right wing media is simply the communications department for the Republican political machine. They have a very specific political agenda. Telling the truth and presenting actual news is not part of their program. It is a behemoth that is so powerful that when they tell Democrats - especially the Obama Administration - to jump, the Obama Administration asks how high? In my warning about Conservative media, I explain what their aims are... and that the playbook is an open secret.
The national mainstream media seems to ignore this information imbalance. No one wants to look into why Republican right wing media is allowed to control so much of the national debate. No one wants to look deeper into how Faux news (Radio Rwanda) is allowed to set the tone... by creating a certain narrative, and why mainstream media accepts their narrative as a legitimate starting point for their own reporting. Basically they take the Fox News narrative and they run with it...often without verifying information. Keep in mind, Fox News is, for all practical purposes, a propaganda operation. Fox News is so far removed from legitimate journalism that it's like night and day. In other words, legitimate news organizations have little reason to trust Fox News the way that they have been. Fox hasn't done the kind of reporting that deserves such a high level of trust. So the way that other networks parrot Fox (and other right wing outlets) is just incomprehensible to me. Furthermore, it's equally troubling how other networks fall over themselves to provide a platform for Republican right wing propaganda pundits, many of whom have little to no credibility. To make matters worse, these pundits are often unchallenged when they appear on the more legitimate networks. So what we have today is a situation where mainstream media is complicit in the misinforming and dumbing down of Americans. They have been co-opted by Republicans and used for propaganda purposes. This leaves a social/political environment where it is very difficult for a robust countervailing view to grow and challenge Conservative opinion.
I have been sounding the alarm on this for a few years now. The dangers of Conservative media are real. We just had another domestic terrorist attack thwarted this week, this time in California... although it didn't make it as a top story on most networks (perhaps because this has become so common). But the suspect was another Terrorist & Tea Party nut angry about left-leaning politics. Read more here, here and here. He opened fire on police on a California freeway after realizing he was caught. Luckily this terrorist was stopped after a long shootout before he could carry out any mass killings. But can you guess what fueled him? (Check the links above).
What we are in the midst of right now is an ideological war for the hearts and minds of Americans. It's a fight for the soul of the Country. Within that war is an information/PR battle. While President Obama shut down his campaign and his communications/PR war room... the Republicans never did. Republicans never ended their campaign after 2008, they simply changed its focus. Instead of running on a platform (as if they ever had one) or asking for votes, they shifted the focus to discrediting Obama, delegitimizing his Presidency, framing him as un-American, as an outsider, as dangerous, weak on security, etc. Republican/right wing media is in an all out war against President Obama, on two fronts. One is an information/image war... the other focuses on Policy (political obstruction, so that he is seen as a failure).
The kind of misinformation campaigns being waged right now... are, in many respects, similar to the kind of nonsense the CIA was doing 30 years ago in Countries around the world to confuse/mislead local populations, by putting out media stories favorable to the U.S., etc. The corporate PR companies today use some of those same strategies. The only difference now is that the tactics are being used against American citizens.
Progressives are at a disadvantage, because they have no media infrastructure that can match what is coming out of Conservative media. The right is just too powerful when it comes to media dominance. It's just not a fair fight. And this is occurring at a time when we have a President who has become synonymous with the term 'PR disaster'. If the White House had a strong war room, had strong PR people, a President who was more engaged and in tune with what is happening on Main Street, someone controlling his image...who has his back, a team of brilliant advisors providing the best guidance & information, then the Democrats and this President would be in a better position to combat the right wing media. But none of these things exist in this White House in my opinion. There is no PR/media war room. If there is one.. they are incompetent...and those running it should be fired immediately. There are no strong PR people. If he has them, they should be fired tomorrow. If the President is engaged...and in tune with the Country, then I don't see it. I have been a serious observer of politics for 20 years...this is one of the worst Administrations in recent memory when it comes to basic situational awareness. How in the Hell do you go to Maine for vacation while the folks in the Gulf are still suffering and are struggling to keep their hotels and restaurants open, struggling to make their rent, struggling to save their livelihoods -and AFTER you encouraged Americans to go and spend money? Yeah.... we all need a vacation every now and then, but sometimes the Captain of the ship has to lead... especially on a ship that is taking on water. If you can't vacation in the Gulf, at least put off your vacation until things settle down....just out of respect for those who are suffering. If you must have a vacation... send the First Lady and the kids.... while you stay in Washington. This is about leadership folks. A walking PR disaster indeed.
If he has someone in charge of image... they should be fired forthwith. If President Obama has brilliant advisors... they have been giving the him terrible advice, at least on the image/PR front. We have had 747's flying over Manhattan for photo ops scaring the daylights out of New Yorkers (beyond comprehension in a post 9/11 World), the White House not responding to attacks from the right (even ridiculous lies), Van Jones & others being forced out, the President commenting on issues that he should not have commented on..at least without knowing all the facts, the lack of a clear plan...and the huge absence of at least the image of the President attempting to create jobs & alleviate the problem of unemployment....instead he is out playing Golf, the bungling of the PR response to the Gulf oil spill, the bungling of Gitmo, using horrible strategy in the Healthcare debate, allowing the right to dictate his foreign policy, reaching out to Republicans...even working to water down legislation for them just to be fooled in the end with the knowledge that they were never going to sign on to his policies, and generally looking weak as a man and as a President. Now enter Shirley Sherrod. This is perhaps the most breathtaking of all of the PR debacles thus far. This is one for the history books. It will take me quite a while to wrap my brain around this. But it basically encapsulates, in one event, all of these PR weaknesses...and all the examples of incompetence.
This whole situation is a perfect example of why Progressives need to establish their own PR/media infrastructure. If they don't, they will continue to struggle with Conservative media for years. The right will continue to poison the airwaves and threaten livelihoods, and they will continue to win elections when they shouldn't.
But Progressives have been slow to respond. This week, for the first time, I heard at least two major Progressive commentators acknowledge what I stated years ago... that we are in the midst of an ideological war for the hearts and minds of Americans. There has finally been an acknowledgment that there is an ongoing, well orchestrated PR war against President Obama and Progressive politics. Maybe this incident was the wake-up call that Progressives needed. It took years just to get to a point where this could be acknowledged. Unfortunately I didn't hear many calls for the establishment of a robust Progressive media infrastructure to rival the Republican machine (not by telling lies...but simply by telling the truth...doing real journalism). And yes, I support bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.
The most effective antidote for the madness that we are seeing today in the U.S., is a well informed electorate. There are other things that I believe must be done as well as part of reaching that goal.... such as requiring a certain amount of civics education, global education, geography, World history, political science, constitutional studies, etc... in all schools, public and private. It should be Federal Law. But the end goal should be a well informed electorate. This is what new media could help to accomplish.
The sooner Americans wake up to what KO, I & others are saying on this... the better.