Media Coverage of the 2012 Term Paper

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One can be certain that many millions of dollars will flow through the hands of right wing fundraisers like Karl Rove into attack ads against Obama's reform legislation, called "Obamacare" by many who oppose it and even by some who have embraced it.

On the subject of public health, in the National Public Radio blog on campaign spending (Kramer, 2010), the reporter interviewed Peter Stone with the Center for Public Integrity. Stone noted the three best-known independent groups that are raising millions for attack ads against Democrats in general, Obama in particular, and against those supporting healthcare reform.

Stone noted that Crossroads GPS (Karl Rove's fundraising organization), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity were running "…these so-called issue ads which tell the viewer that so-and-so is not very good on healthcare issues and (ask viewers) to please call or write Washington with your concerns" (Kramer, p. 1). The very thing that Wiist was alluding to has already been taking place, and many more millions are expected to be spend on ads from murky sources that attack progressives who support healthcare, who support the Clean Air Act and who believe the Environmental Protection Agency has the right to set pollution standards vis-a-vis climate change and the greenhouse gases produced through the burning of fossil fuels.

On the subject of the Citizens United decision, when a Google search is initiated using the key words, "Citizens United and the 2012 election," 47,000 results are reported on the Google home page. Among the links offered one finds: "Thanks Supreme Court! We now have the best elections money can buy"; "Justice Stevens on Citizens United"; "Stevens Questions Court's Commitment to Campaign Ruling"; "Retired justice says campaign finance ruling made cash king"; "Scott Walker Wisconsin Recall Also a Battle Against Citizens United"; "Big Money Corporate Spending in Elections May Lose in Supreme…"; "After Citizens United is a constitutional amendment needed?"; "Ruth Marcus: Awash in undisclosed cash"; "The Middle East and Citizens United"; "2012: the campaign of cash"; "Big stakes, bigger price tag for Congressional races in California"; "Texas money is key to GOP success in November"; "Another letdown for Citizens United critics?"; "Montana bucks the court"; and "Feds order Florida to halt voter purge," among many others.

Among the most recent and interesting sidebar stories vis-a-vis the unprecedented tsunami of mystery cash that is currently being pumped into campaigns by corporations and wealthy individuals is the power that billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch intend to wield in this election cycle. An article in the Huffington Post reports that the brothers -- who have often supported conservative causes and have provided millions of dollars to those groups attacking same sex marriage and other progressive issues -- plan to spend "…as much as $400 million to defeat President Barack Obama and help Republicans win control of Congress" (Stone, 2012).

The Koch brothers have told sources -- who then shared this information with reporter Peter Stone -- that they will bankroll the National Rifle Association, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Right to Life Committee, Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, the American Future Fund, among others (Stone, p. 2). Stone reports that a "few dozen rich conservatives and consultants from Wall Street, Las Vegas, California and other locales" met with the Koch brothers in Palm Beach this past spring, and there election strategies were discussed in terms of where the money should be spent. One notable politician in attendance, according to Stone's report, was the attorney general of the State of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, who is a "major player in court challenges to the constitutionality of President Obama's health care reforms" (Stone, p. 3).

Why would billionaire donors give millions to the National Rifle Association? What does the NRA have to do with presidential elections? The NRA which supports Republicans and opposes Democrats in every election, is planning a "multimillion dollar 'Trigger the Vote' registration drive, expected to be its largest ever," according to the NRA's top lobbyist Chris Cox (Stone, p. 3). Cox said that "…millions of gun owners are not registered to vote," and while the Obama Administration has said little about gun safety issues -- and has not put forward any legislative packages -- Obama is seen as a progressive and the NRA will be gunning for Obama with all the clout it can muster.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky is part of a media campaign sponsored by another gun advocacy group, the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) (Wing, 2012). This campaign is a mass-email project, which asserts that Obama has somehow blocked a million legitimate rifles from coming into the U.S. Like the NRA, the NAGR uses the ruse that government is planning on confiscating guns from U.S. citizens; this assertion is ongoing with gun groups albeit there has never been any attempt by any U.S. president in modern times, or by any session of the U.S. Congress to take guns from law-abiding citizens or to repeal the 2nd Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile Rand Paul's participation is part of the "Million Rifle Ban" -- a rallying point for gun rights advocates, using the media to stir up antipathy towards Obama -- which is a protest against the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms' (ATF) decision to not give permission for the import of "…hundreds of thousands of Korean War-ear rifles" (Wing, p. 2). The reason the federal government blocked these rifles from being brought into the U.S., according to David Badash, over concerns that they can be "…easily modified into machine guns" (Badash, 2012).

Using digital media (mass emails) to stir up hate and tension among gun owners -- in a campaign based on "ludicrous reports from right wing media like World Net Daily and FOX News -- is absurd on several levels, Badash writes. First, there were about 600,000 Korean war era rifles, not a million. And secondly, the ATF has the responsibility to protect Americans from the influx of weapons that may not be in the best interest of society. The most outrageous aspect of Rand Paul's media campaign is that the photo used in the mass email shows a rifle pointed at Obama's head, and urges recipients to "Stop Obama's Gun Ban" (Badash).

Gender and Race in a Presidential Election

Eileen Zurbriggen writes in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policies (Zurbriggen, 2010, p. 224) that in the 2008 presidential election the mainstream media failed to cover many of the offensive aspects of that campaign -- namely the sexism related to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and the racism used against Obama. Voters are very much influenced by the way that politicians "…are represented in media outlets," simply because they often have "…restricted information," Zurbriggen explained (224).

For example, a thorough analysis of newspaper coverage of the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in 200 showed that "…Although women received a higher level of coverage overall, the candidate's gender, presence of children, and marital status were much more likely to be mentioned in an article covering a female candidate compared to a male candidate" (Zurbriggen, 224).

THREE: Analysis / Definition of "Media" / What are Legitimate Sources?

One of the most pertinent questions when reviewing "media" as the November presidential election draws closer is this: what constitutes a legitimate media outlet? A blogger with his or her own personal political agenda dreaming up scandals and smears that have no basis in fact but get wide play on the national airwaves anyway? An internet site that attacks progressive ideas with very little if any corroboration from objective or informed sources? A right wing radio host like Rush Limbaugh, whose bluster and daily smears against Obama, women, and progressive ideas reaches the ears of millions five days a week?

The definition of "media" in the 21st century is all over the ballpark. Once upon a time "media" meant journalism, radio, newspaper, television, movies, magazines and later the Internet. Today media means whatever one hears, sees, or reads wherever it might show up as "information." Limbaugh and Sean Hannity among other radio and TV entertainers are not held to any standard in terms of what journalism or news coverage used to be like in America.

The most glaring example, especially visible and loud during this current presidential election, if FOX news. A close examination of FOX news' reporting and features shows a consistent, persistent, and obvious bias against progressives in general and against President Obama in particular. Do people who watch FOX news believe what they see and hear? Granted, all the major "news" shows on cable channels have some bias; certainly MSNBC has a progressive bias and CNN, while trying to stay objective and in the middle, leans somewhat to the left when juxtaposed with FOX's sharp focus on the far right.

But it is a legitimate scholarly question, when critiquing the media and this presidential election, to evaluate just what the media is advocating…[continue]

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