Monday, October 5, 2009

Meaning Behind the Message

Recently a Twitter Follower whom I really love , because of that person’s great mind and contributions of information, led me to an academic piece titled “Manipulating the Public Agenda, Why Acorn was in the News and What the News Got Wrong. By Peter Dreier, Ph.D.E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics; Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program,Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041 and Christopher R. Martin,Ph.D. Professor of Journalism, Department of Communication Studies, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50613 Contact: (319) 273‐7155 or (319) 504‐2632 E‐mail:

The report was titled for immediate release in September of this year. After reading the piece it made perfect sense why I was seeing sudden attacks in the far left and progressive news sources that Acorn was really a wonderful organization and that they had been wrongly attacked by the far right through Fox News, conservative blogs and in some cases Republicans specifically. I would see snippets of the statistics and material quoted in other articles as if it were the gospel.

The authors state “Our goal in this study is not to get bogged down in
Charging various news media with left‐wing or right‐wing bias, but to
Instead demonstrate that there are indeed intensive political efforts to influence
The national news agenda and to frame news stories by special interest groups, or
Opinion entrepreneurs. Moreover, when journalism organizations take a disinterested stance of “objectivity,” passing along the day’s political talking points, and failing to verify allegations before they report (or, just passing along the political talking points because they have 24 hours of programming or news holes in their op‐ed pages to fill), they do a great disservice to citizens, the electorate, and their own profession.”

Now while I agree with the authors that journalists for national news sources don’t research their materials well in this day and age of 24 hour news cycles and that peoples opinions are shaped by the news sources they have a tendency to access. I do not,however, for a moment agree that the authors had no intension of not getting bogged down in left-winged or right-wing bias. If that were true, they would have examined more than one news story topic such as the image generated by the far left media of Bush, Palin, Haliburton, Roe, in a bipartisan effort to show there is equal influence such as stimulus package monies going to GE chief owner of NBC.

These two scholars are quite frankly as guilty as any “Opinion Entrepreneurs,” they speak of and covered a conservative news stories only. I think they are angrier as progressive liberals that not only are the more conservative news covering these stories, but the more mainstream media is as well and they are getting it right, finally. For decades the liberal left have been the most skilled in staying on message and getting that proverbial sound bite. During the Clinton campaign and presidency this was raised to an art form. Now conservatives through the use of the internet are taking a page from the liberal playbook and like the Japanese to American Innovation and know-how taking it up a notch and in some cases better at meeting goal.

Attacking unashamed conservative bloggers or editorial shows that don’t pretend to be anything but editorialists should not be held up as examples of a media agenda. Folks know these shows have an agenda and take these shows for what they are and generally these shows play to the choir. The mainstream left leaning media have a tendency to debunk and defame anything thast comes from these sources. The focus of his arguments if they are valid should have been on stories that were produced by the general media. The general mainstream media have a far greater influence on a greater body of people. The small test group of less than seven hundred stories on one subject over a period of a few months is far too small to prove any valid point and his random local papers were not based on high circulation. This survey would be considered more scholarly if it had been conducted by a 2nd party with no political leanings and from a much larger selection of story topics and sources. Statistical surveys are best left to the number crunchers. I found his mode insufficient. Again I say what bothers them is that the message is getting out inspite of the mainstream media's influence.

I know from previous experience in deep research that academic studies are just as likely to contain manipulated, contrived and outright wrong “facts” to prove or disprove a point or opinion and that yes even “Distinguished” professors are capable of using their stature in academia to achieve a personal agenda. They are just as capable of being used by others as well to lend credibility to their causes. Academia depends on several means of funding that does include Alumni contributions and influence, Federal and State Grants and Funds, Publishing Companies as well as Student Tuitions. Author Peter Dreier is a frequent contributor on many liberal websites and blogs. He is an ardent Obama support. His article is not so much as a statement on media’s influence on public opinion but a defense of Obama and another opportunity to bash Republicans and conservatives. It is not a scholarly piece but rather an editorial one.

For example, our authors state that news reports on Acorn were planted as an October surprise by the Bush Administration and the Republican Party to defeat the Democrats and they manipulated the media and the public into thinking that Acorn was evil and responsible for major voter fraud by spreading false information. They also added that great effort was made to connect Obama with Acorn’s activities. The “Press” in their haste was all too willing to jump on board and report on the story and in their estimation with no effort to research the accusations properly. Further they charged the firing of many state attorneys was directly linked to the attorney’s failure to find a valid reason to investigate Acorn for voter fraud. The pressure to do this was political in nature and came from the Republican Party and Bush Administration. In general they stated that Obama, Acorn and the American People were victimized by evil Corporations, the Bush Administration, the Republican Party, Conservative Blogs financed by evil Corporations that want to keep the poor man down, Conservative talk show hosts like Rush etc. The conservative documentary “Media Malpractice” makes similar accusations within the far left media earlier in the year with regard to the Mass Media and manipulation of public opinion. I wonder how it is possible to claim that Obama was harmed in anyway by the media when he as he likes to remind folks “won the election.”

The authors state that Acorn is an obscure insignificant organization and at the very same time state that it is the largest organization of its kind in America. If Acorn is the largest and part of it’s funding is with taxpayer dollars and the organization was used by the Obama Campaign for voter registration and the voter fraud issues had been raised why wouldn’t the news consider it an important enough story to cover?

The authors state that it was always reported that Acorn was receiving money in the Stimulus. I found more than several that stated otherwise. Ex.

Even former Acorn participants have raised questions and thus news interest.

Notice the date when this was started. Ironic that their own people found problems in the organization.

Conservative TV editorialists like Glenn Beck featured videos from grassroots sources (not corporate sponsored blogs as often referred to by the authors) that showed Obama telling Acorn members in a speech that they would have a hand in shaping policy if he is elected.

Non Partisan Acorn activists.

And in deed they did have input into the creation of the stimulus package bill and billions of dollars are now allocated and easily available for organizations such as Acorn.

Hypocritically the authors criticized negative language by conservatives towards Acorn in news items. At the same time the authors used negative language describing conservative actions in terms such as “taint,” “rehash of misinformation,” and my personal favorite “conservative echo chamber.”

Ironically they lump The Wall Street Journal as a conservative newspaper. Karl Rove would have a problem with that categorization. He’s a contributor now. His thinking I’m sure if you hold your friends close and your enemies closer.

When reading anything I like to know who is writing the piece. What is their intention? It seems that right now liberals are out in force trying to distance Obama from what is becoming clearer and clearer his Chicago political ways, minimize Acorn’s unraveling criminal activities and at the same time rejuvenate the Bush Administration Blame/Hate Machine to distract from the continued destruction of the American Economy, Defense, World Super Power Status, Education, and Tax Structure. Ardent Obama supporters much like Bill Clinton supporters of the past will never see their hero as anything but was advertized. But like most of those products from the infomercials they end up being far less than promised and disappointing. I personally would like folks on both sides of the aisle to be honest and admit there is no difference between either party and they both have become an abuser of the American people’s trust.

My instruction to my readers is question, investigate and apply critical thinking to what you read. Jesus told his followers don’t follow me or anything blindly. Test everything

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