Sunday, November 25, 2012
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
In response to our post-election piece, Douglas commented about public perception of sitting presidents. He pointed to instances where “the media” did not treat past presidents as kindly as Obama following storm-related disasters.
While he did not actually attack the media or indicate which media outlet he preferred, we recalled that some have complained about bias in news reporting.
A few days ago, we watched Network on TCM. When released in 1976, some questioned the role of corporations in the reporting of news. A week before, TCM aired Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, with an Andy Griffith so far removed from Mayberry, it will make you gasp. The 1957 masterpiece foresaw the growing influence of TV.
In response to Douglas we noted:
1) "The media" at the times referenced (1992, 2005, and 2012) was different due to the state of technology and the number of outlets;
2) Although "the media" has always consisted of citizens, the role of lay citizens is more pronounced than in the past when we essentially had "professional" journalists;
3) We used to think of "news" as distinct from "entertainment." That line (if ever it existed, Charlie Brown) is blurrier than ever. We have more entertainment types weighing in today, be they Eva Longoria, Chuck Norris, Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, or Eevva Longorrrria;
4) There are intangibles which people feel about others, especially when bombarded with images (in this case Presidents), but can't quite, or choose not to, articulate. Bill Cosby could give money for school kids, and most would say it was a gracious gift. Oprah Winfrey could do the same, and many would swear it was a tax deduction motivated gesture;
5) Everything is about timing and context. The social, political, economic, and technological situations 6-12 months prior to each reference date should be factored into how people perceived the respective presidents;
6) We strongly suspect the vast majority of Americans visit the "media outlets" which smell the best to them, and remind them of their more idyllic youth. Douglas often reminds us that everyone has a bias. Although some work hard to reduce it, others let it all hang out. At this point in our information evolution, people legitimately do not know who or what to objectively believe, and so they believe what they want to believe;
7) We have become a nation which dissects the hourly conduct of our presidents, including trips to the bidet. Imagine watching a basketball game where the coach is rated each time a flush is made, instead of waiting until the end of the game, or the end of the season. Plus, every interest group has 27 different factors by which they evaluate the president.
Had Romney won, within 18 months folks would have been calling for his head for his failure to provide quick enough assistance to Hurricane Sandy states and revive our sluggish economy. What’s frightening is that the same folks will criticize Obama 18 months from now.
We're on an exponential path of increasingly unreasonable expectations (substantially due to communications technology). No elected president will ever be able to truly satisfy 50% of the citizens again, UNTIL (a) the global economy comes roaring back and the benefits trickle down to the common citizen (something over which the president has little control), or (b) there is a war of major consequence. That president will ride that wave of prosperity, or wave of patriotism, for which a cause and effect relationship cannot be honestly established.
Since the beginning, engineers, scientists, inventors, and new thinkers have spurred new technology. It is technology that drives prosperity. The use of that technology drives industry, and trade and industry create jobs and drive tax revenues. When all is humming, an economy is strong enough to keep enough people employed, and fewer folks bitching about basics. The have-not voices are drowned out, or there are enough crumbs for the haves to toss to convert their screams to mumbles.
8) That's what this last election should have been about: how to ignite an explosion of creativity, inventiveness, and innovation. The reality is that government action, or inaction, may encourage but does not drive that.
So here’s the deal, college students. Too many Baby Boomers (Institute Fellows included) abdicated our responsibilities and became fat and complacent as the size of the prosperous middle class grew. We developed an unrealistic expectation that things would always get better and America would continue to be No.1, without a sufficient number of us putting in the effort required to stay No. 1. (What the muck made us think the children of each succeeding generation would live better lives than their parents? Hope?)
With each passing year, we expect more of our elected officials (who are not in a position to deliver) and for government to do “something,” more or less. It’s neither the fault of government, nor our elected leaders.
It is the logical result of human societal evolution once we started removing the food generation burden from individuals, and figured out that a few could generate excess food permitting most the “luxury” to pursue other pursuits of choice. Once we created “jobs,” people became dependent on them, and on receiving currency from some source. Additionally, we failed to recognize the challenges presented by leisure time.
Only individual citizens can pull us out of this mess. We cannot rely on government or corporations (including those owning major media outlets) seeking less regulation and favorable tax treatment. They are the last folks to whom we should be listening, no matter what the nature of the message.
Neither my, nor your, news station is red hot; both of our stations are doodly squat.
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