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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-09-17 05:54
Subject: [personal|politics] Polling my negatives, and how the media rewires my brain
Security: Public
Tags:media, personal, politics, religion
I've been thinking lately about the way media reporting changes my perceptions and political opinions even without me being consciously aware of it.

Sometimes I change my perceptions and political opinions based on reasoned argument. For example, I used to be very strongly opposed to the home schooling movement. I am still fairly uncomfortable with it for a variety of reasons, but an extended set of dialogs on this blog some years ago helped me see that my ideas about home schooling were incomplete and not well-founded.

Other times, my views change without me taking conscious note of either the process or the outcome of the shift until something brings it to my attention. I had the experience of being in the airport security line in Omaha behind a Catholic priest last summer. I found myself with a visceral dislike and distrust of the man simply based on his attire. (And yes, I am aware that he could have been Episcopalian or some other denomination that uses similar clerical attire.)

This baffled me, as I've always held a benignly positive view of the Catholic church. I mean, nuns, hospitals, parish schools, Catholic universities — regardless of one's denominational politics, they do a lot of good in the world. I realized my reaction was due to my persistent disgust with the church's generations-long gross mishandling of pedophile priests, an institutional corruption in the Catholic church that extends from the base all the way to the top and would likely draw racketeering and conspiracy charges against any secular organization that behaved so. Combine this with the U.S. Catholic bishop's current vile (and misleadingly baseless) anti-woman political activism with respect to healthcare reform, and somewhere along the line I'd come to see the Catholic church as force for evil in society.

I also realized that if I were traveling with [info]the_child and we were seated with this priest, I would ask to be reseated. I don't want her exposed to a representative of such a profoundly anti-child, anti-woman organization as the Catholic church.

Is this an appropriate reaction of mine? Absolutely not. For one thing, the Church's institutional problems are not reflected in its individual members, be they parishioners or priests. For another thing, I appear to have wandered into the mental and emotional space of harboring a religious prejudice, something I have a horror of for both personal and philosophical reasons. It's very important to me to be fair minded in all things.

The important point here isn't that I have work to do in how I view the Catholic church and its people. The important point here is that persistent media messaging had changed my thinking without my even realizing it.

Likewise, yesterday morning Ace Jordyn and I were walking in downtown Portland when we came across Portland's Komen Race for the Cure. Until this past year, I'd always had a strongly positive view of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I've supported friends who participated in the Race for the Cure with pledges. I mean, who can be against breast cancer research? Except this year the Komen Foundation politicized itself with a hard right wing turn to move against any perceived support for abortion through their screening activities with Planned Parenthood. So seeing all that pink just irritated me. Insofar as I was concerned, I was being immersed in right wing shills with a profound anti-woman bias.

Is this fair? Again, absolutely not. For one thing, the Komen foundation, albeit grudgingly, has moved to correct their overreach. For another thing, the Portland chapter almost certainly has nothing to do with the errors of the national organization. And certainly almost none of the thousands of women and men running in pink shirts and hats had the forced pregnancy movement on their minds. They were out there supporting friends and loved ones with breast cancer.

Again, the important point here isn't that I need to carefully consider my views of the Komen Foundation. The point is how much the media reporting of their misdeeds has influenced my thinking without me being especially conscious of it.

When I apply this realization to the wider world of American media, especially the constant drumbeat of liberals-are-traitors messaging coming from the right wing voices that dominate, is it any wonder so many of my fellow citizens profoundly misunderstand the liberal-progressive agenda? I'm pretty self-aware, and consider my opinions on a regular basis, and that doesn't save me from falling into the trap of media messaging, especially media messaging that addresses my confirmation biases. Can I expect more for others?

I should start by expecting more from myself.
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scarlettina: Dragons Ahead
User: scarlettina
Date: 2012-09-17 13:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Dragons Ahead
Excellent essay, Jay--thoughtful and unflinchingly self-aware. Not that I expect to see any less from you, but I'm always impressed with your courage in revealing and discussing things within yourself that are unexpected, unpleasant, or difficult.

I admit to having a similar reaction to seeing pink and any messaging from Komen in the wake of the revelations this year. Separating the organization from the people is important, and it's something I'm working on, too, because my reaction is unfair and ungenerous. You are most assuredly not alone in this.
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User: voidampersand
Date: 2012-09-17 14:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes. And George W. Bush saved a huge number of lives in Africa. It would be a mistake to think that someone is entirely bad, no matter how much evidence there seems to be. They still might surprise you, in a good way. Similarly it would be a mistake to think that someone on our side can do no wrong.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-09-17 16:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been thinking about this in the context of the "post-truth" campaign the GOP is running. Romney-Ryan are flat out, knowingly lying about a number of points, from the "You didn't build that" meme to the criticism of Obama's supposed response to the Libya attack. It's because the media impact of the lies being dutifully reported far outweighs the cost of being called out for them.
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mlerules: Brain
User: mlerules
Date: 2012-09-17 15:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You raise very good points. Really hoping the constant anti-Obama/Dems media-sideshow doesn't mean we get a GOP president this next time around.
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Chris McKitterick: Flying Spaghetti Monster
User: mckitterick
Date: 2012-09-17 18:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Flying Spaghetti Monster
Great observations, Jay. It's important to regularly question one's prejudices.

I remember when my feelings toward the Catholic church went from "meh" to active dilike, before all the pedophile priests came to light: It was when the almost-sainted Pope John Paul was visiting Mexico and Central and South America, preaching the evils of contraception (and in a context of anti-abortion).

I realized then that the Catholic church is a force for harm in the world, and by extension, just about every organized religion. Church leaders are granted sacredness - especially in the Catholic church - so their followers tend to accept what they say more willingly. So they can say horrible, ignorance-reinforcing, hateful, and civilization-harming things, and the rank-and-file is more likely to accept it.

Interestingly, when the American Catholic church began to move away from the Roman Catholic church, my distaste for them faded a bit. Until it became clear just how widespread the pedophilia was, and the church-wide conspiracy to suppress this information getting out.

Look at the ridiculous, hateful protests going on in the Muslim world right now over a two-bit muckraker's crappy film. People are getting killed because a few guys wanted to piss off the church of Islam. Would those people behave this way if another historic figure were thus defiled? I sincerely doubt it. The hatred wouldn't be there, for one thing, without a codified set of religious laws designed to empower the power structures of that religion. Some religious laws make a lot of sense, while others exist only to further prop up the power of the church.

I think it's important to not feel hateful toward religionists, yes, but we really do need to stop being so accepting of humankind's worst and most-harmful (and now obsolete) invention: organized religion.
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User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2012-09-17 18:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
When my Youngest Niece expressed an interest in being a Nun, I told her that I didnt think much of an organization where she couldnt reach the Nr 1 spot because of her gender.
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User: emmainfiniti
Date: 2012-09-18 02:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think your recognition of the drift towards anti-catholic overgeneralization is laudable.

I parted ways with the Komen organization years ago when they started with the "save the Ta-Tas"/ "I <3 boobies" focus. IMHO, breasts do not need an awareness campaign (people know they exist)and placing the value of breasts over the health of women with cancer (even in a cutesy, slogany way) just rubbed me the wrong way.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2012-09-18 13:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Years ago, I was part of the media. My recollection is that most news coverage was fact, fact, fact. I simply do not recall a lot of opinion, especially related to the news. When the stations I worked for did "editorials" they tended to be "The city should fix broken sidewalks" sort of thing.

And then came the mega-corporate radio ownership. We were told that we worked for the shareholders -- not the listeners, not even the advertisers. That opened my eyes. That's about the time that opinion crept into newscasts; everything had a slant. (Though that may not be entirely accurate, that's what I remember.)

What was formerly the top radio news station in Omaha -- perhaps in a multi-state region -- is today owned by the largest media ownership company and carries Fox Radio, not to mention Limbaugh, Beck, etc. How can one possibly view their news as unbiased? (Simple...they also carry the Nebraska football games, so they can do no wrong.)
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