Thinking Magazine #14 09-18-92

More Letters to the Editor

I continue to write letters to newspapers and here's what I've written since the last issue of Thinking Magazine.

Dear Editor,

The letter is not a "Letter to the Editor" in the sense that I want you to publish it. This is a letter between you and me where I want to talk about the effects of politics on our industry, the journalism industry. I feel the need to ask you if we are doing the right thing with respect to allowing ourselves to be labeled "The Liberal Media". So, I would like to take a moment of your time to share some reality with you and see if we can talk about the way things actually are.

I am a writer and I publish a small magazine called Thinking Magazine. I publish it electronically over BBS systems and Compuserve. I do it to relieve my political frustrations and I make my money writing software, so I have the luxury of not having to make a profit with my writing like you do. This gives me more freedom to say whatever I want since I don't have advertisers calling me up complaining about the content of my articles.

For the last several years various conservative groups have labeled us "The Liberal Media" every time they open their mouth and we have given them a forum to spread their message. What they are really saying when they say, "The Liberal Media" is that:

  1. Conservatives are good and Liberals are evil. Liberals are to be resisted and controlled.

  2. We, the media, are controlled by these Liberals. Therefore we are liars who are deliberately oppressing the good Conservatives and keep the message of truth from the ears of the public.

  3. The news media is therefore an object of hate and contempt. We are the enemy.

So let me now ask the question. Have they been successful getting their message out? I sure think so. It seems that a significant percentage of the public believe that the press is "Liberal". Why do I believe this? How much mail do you get every week where you are accused of being liberal? How many faxes and phone calls accuse you of being liberal? How many times a week do you print the words "The Liberal Press" in your newspaper?

So lets do a comparison. How many calls, letters and faxes do you get accusing you of being "The Conservative Media"? How many articles do you run talking about the right wing domination of the press? Do you see what I'm getting at here?

It would seem logical that if we were to assume that the press is in the middle that we should be attracting an equal number of complaints from both sides. Since the accusations are disproportionate we can conclude one of two things:

  1. We really are the liberal press.

  2. Someone is tipping the scale away from reality.

Some of you now may be saying, "OK Marc, we really are liberal and the conservatives are right." But for the rest of you who feel that you are responsible, unbiased reporters who are getting to resent being labeled liberal, I would like to continue.

Those who would label us liberal have been very successful at it. They have been so successful that no one is running on the platform that they are a liberal. Politicians and the news media run from the liberal label and 99 out of 100 people have no idea what a liberal is.

It affects our work as journalists. When we sit down to write an article that is critical of Bush, do we not find our own minds applying the "Liberal Test" to our work? Do we not ask ourselves what we will be accused of if we say what we want to say? And as a result do we not edit our work to suit those whom we fear will accuse us of being biased even when we aren't? And do we not feel a little resentment about that?

Let's look at how things got this way. It come from the "big lie" theory. The big lie theory is that if you tell a lie often enough the public will believe it. The big lie technique does work. "The Liberal Press" is a lie. It has been repeated often enough (by our own publications) and it is being believed.

But the reason that we journalists don't refute the lie is because it would make us appear to look "self serving". If we stood up and said "NO, That's not true!" then "they" would have said that our denial proves how biased we are. Thus we journalists allow ourselves to continue to be used in this manner.

Now let's project into the future and allow me to talk about some of my paranoid projections as to where this hatred of the liberal media might lead and how this could affect us. After all, if we don't look after our own butts, who will?

The way I see it is that public distrust of the media is growing. The more it grows the more censored we become. I fear that eventually the politicians who want to control the media will eventually challenge the First Amendment.

Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman has been quoted as saying, "I am 83 years old. I cannot remain on this court forever." The next president will be picking his replacement. And this replacement will make decisions about the interpretation of the Constitution along with those who are already on the Supreme court.

Now different people have different opinions about the makeup of the Supreme court and their ability to grasp of the concepts of our founding fathers. Some of you may feel quite comfortable with justices like Clarance Thomas who was chosen for his world renown fame for being one of Americas most brilliant judges. But I'm worried that the Supreme court might erode the First Amendment like they have other constitutional rights like the Fifth Amendment. (referring to civil forfeiture laws, maranda rights, and double jeopardy cases).

So to summarize my paranoia. I am concerned that if things continue to change in the direction that I think things are heading, and if Bush is reelected and he continues to do the same fine job he has for the last four years, that we run a risk of losing our sacred "freedom of the press".

"But Marc," you might say, "I understand your paranoia. You have some good points, but I'm not ready to say that I agree with you. Even so, what would we do about it and how does that relate to our ethics and our role in society as journalists?"

Well I'm glad you asked that question. Let's look at the ethical question. We as journalists are supposed to attempt to report the truth. In reality though we are participating in spreading a lie. That lie being that we are controlled by the liberals. But to defend this lie creates the quandary that such a defense would give us the appearance of being unethical.

So what is the right thing to do? Do we do something unethical because it appears to be ethical or do we do something ethical even though it appears to be unethical? It's an interesting dilemma isn't it? And it's easy for me to say that we should be ethical because I'm not making a living as a writer. But if we are going to look at the consequences of our actions we need to take a hard cold sober look at the future and ask ourselves what is happening to us.

Now if we decide that we want to rid ourselves of the "Liberal Media" label, we are going to have to say no when we are being attacked. We need to say, "That's not true! We report things the way they are. You may not like it and you may not agree with it, and we may be wrong, but we are not the Liberal Media and we do not have a liberal slant. We journalists will not continue to be intimidated and abused by you and you're not going to get to label us unless you are able to back it up with facts."

Now I don't want to appear to be partisan but I'm going to say it the way it is. It's George Bush and the Republicans that are trying to label us and restrict our journalistic freedom. Now if Bill Clinton and the Democrats are doing this also then this letter applies to them as well. Now I'm not suggesting that we the media support any candidate, but I feel that we need to hold these candidates to a higher standard.

I think it's good for politicians to take the responsibility for their own mistakes and that we are doing them a favor (out of the goodness of our heart) to help guide them towards the path of responsibility. We journalists don't blame politicians when we make mistakes, why then should we allow them to blame us for their mistakes. I'm tired of hearing Bush say, "Recession? There's no recession! The Liberal News Media would have you believe there's a recession. Why there wouldn't be a recession if we could just get people to spend their unemployment checks."

Our goal as journalists is to be fair. So what is fair. If we are comparing two candidates where one is two thirds negative and the other is one fourth negative, is it fair to give them both the same amount of negative press? I think not. I think fair is to give the one candidate two thirds negative press and the other candidate one fourth negative press. I think that if a candidate wants positive press he should create positive news! To me, this is how I define fair.

Anyhow, I want to thank you for your time in reading this letter and allowing me to "flame". I hope you will think about it. I don't want to see you looking back and saying, "Sure wish I listened to old Marc back in 1992!"

Title: Candidates on POW/MIA issue

Ever since the end of the Vietnam war in 1973 there has been an issue as to whether or not we left anyone behind. That was the year that the Nixon administration declared all the POWs dead. The recent Senate hearings, chaired by Senator John Kerry, have now discovered that there were indeed live soldiers left behind in Vietnam and Laos that we never recovered.

In 1973 as part of the Paris peace negotiations that ended the war, the United States was supposed to pay Vietnam and Laos 3.2 billion in war reparations after which we would get our captured prisoners back. We never paid the money and our men never came home.

No one knows if any of these men are still alive, but we could find out if we wanted to. Vietnam and Laos know's who they are, what happened to them, where they were held, how they died, and where they are buried. All it would take to find out is a commitment to do so. This commitment might include paying them the money we agreed to in 1973 and declassifying the information that our government continues to keep secret about what we know about our men.

George Bush, in his now famous "sit down and shut up" speech to the families of POWs refused to declassify this information and his administration has hampered the efforts of veterans families to get the information they need to determine the fate of their loved ones. Bill Clinton has taken the position that if he were elected he would declassify all information relating to MIA/POWs so that these families can put the Vietnam war to rest.

Unlike Bush, Bill Clinton has nothing to hide. During the Vietnam era George Bush was part of the Nixon administration, the ones that declared our men dead when they knew they were still alive. Bush was ambassador to China, who was the main backer of North Vietnam. As a Nixon insider, what did Bush know about Nixon Vietnam policy? How was he involved in deciding the POWs were all dead? What does Bush have to hide about his roll in leaving our men behind?

In 1973 we turned our backs on the POWs and abandoned our men to the enemy. In 1992 we continue to turn our backs on them because we don't want certain people who were part of the Nixon administration to be embarrassed. They may still be alive over there and they may still be waiting to come home. Even if they aren't alive we need to lay the issue to rest so the families won't have to wait and wonder. Clinton said he will put the POW/MIA issue to rest. Bush said he won't.

Title: Pro-Lifers for Clinton?

"As a Christian, I can not vote for Bill Clinton because he's pro-choice.", is a common response you hear from religious America. Many Christian voters, who may or may not be comfortable with Bush, look at voting for Clinton as some sort of sin. But is this "abortion barrier" accurate from the Christian perspective? Let's look at this issue more closely.

Bill Clinton is not for unrestricted abortions. He is against "big baby" abortions and as governor he signed a bill requiring parental notification for minors requesting abortions. But what is the real question? Will there be more abortions under Bush or Clinton?

Clinton supports making birth control available. Birth control reduces abortions. Clinton also supports sex education in the schools which also reduces abortion. One common misconception about sex education is that sex education is pornography and therefore increases promiscuity. It does teach kids how to have safe sex, but it also teaches kids how NOT to have sex. Many kids learn for the first time in sex education classes the art of saying NO.

This is especially valuable for kids from broken homes who are most vulnerable to being taken advantage of sexually. Many children have neither parental nor church support and become victims of those who who would rob them of their innocence. In these classes they are taught that they are not obligated to meet the sexual expectations of others. Many of these kids learn for the first time that the word NO is the most important word in the English language.

Bill Clinton is also for creating an environment where less women who become pregnant will choose not to have an abortion. Many pro-lifers consider getting women to not want an have an abortion as one of the most effective tools against abortion. Congressman (Senator?) Hyde, one of the strongest pro-life voices in America, supports the Family Leave bill. This bill will allow women to not have to choose between their baby and their job. Bill Clinton agrees with Hydeupporting the family leave bill but Bush opposes it.

So which is the better pro-life position? Allowing women to choose but creating an environment where they would choose life, or trying to force women to have babies at the risk of losing their job? The Bible says, "You'll know them by their fruit ...". Christians might want to take a second long hard look at Bill Clinton as perhaps having the better pro-life position.

Title: Bush wimps out on debate!

Well the first of 3 presidential debates will be a no-show. Bush whines that he doesn't like the format of having a single moderator debate where the candidates can really battle it out. I think the reason Bush is chickening out is because Clinton is a lot smarter and tougher than Bush and Bush knows in an open debate that Clinton will kick Bush's butt big time with the whole world watching.

I think that what they ought to do is give Clinton the whole 90 minutes to himself if Bush is too yellow to show up. America deserves to see these debates. That way he might want to think twice before he decides to wimp out on the other two debates.

I don't know how many of these letters are being printed but some of them are. Anyone out there who wants to write a letter to your local newspaper feel free to plagiarize my letters. You can do the same thing I'm doing. Does it work? I hope so. I think it's a good shot.

Got a Letter From Bill Clinton

Sometimes writing these letters actually gets some response. Got a letter in the mail yesterday from Bill Clinton. It's either a personal letter or they have a form letter on file that addresses exactly the same issues as I did in one of the above letters I sent to the press. All these letters I send are also sent to Clinton campaign headquarters. They also get Thinking Magazine. Here's what Bill writes:

Dear Marc,

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me concerning the POW/MIA issue.

I have always been concerned about the accountability of our service members. As Governor of Arkansas, I appointed a POW/MIA Verification Task Force to determine the status of 26 Arkansans listed as "Missing in Action" in Southeast Asia.

If elected Rresident, I pledge to make the resolution of the POW/MIA issue a REAL priority. I do not know if there are still American POWs being held. But I do know this: when I am your President the files will be thrown open, the roadblocks will be torn down, and the truth will come out.

America must never leave it's warriors on the battlefield. If there are men being held captive still, I will not rest until they are returned. If there are none still alive, at least we will know the truth.

Once again, thank you for writing to express your concern.


Bill Clinton

Actually, if I were to bet on it I doubt that he actually wrote this letter. It is his speaking style though. But it is the right answer whether he wrote it or its a form letter. It is definitely a better answer than "sit down and shut up".

Is the Media Fair

I've seen several shows lately where the media is examining themselves as to how fair they are covering the presidential election. I'd like to look at this from an outsiders point of view. Even though now I'm publishing Thinking Magazine I don't consider myself "one of them".

The difference between Thinking Magazine and other publications is that I don't have money involved in what I write. I say whatever I want. I don't have a boss looking over my shoulder. I'm free! Therefore if I assess the news media it's not like a pack of wolves talking about the morality of eating chickens.

So does that make what I say right? I have my biases as well. It's rather obvious that I want Clinton to win and it does affect what I write. I am a Clinton supporter and therefore I have that as a point of view so you have to judge what I say based on knowing that, because I'm not fair either. When it comes right down to it, I'm just some brain damaged hippy.

The interesting thing you will see when you see the media examine itself to see if they are being fair is that they always come to the same conclusion which is "Yes, were are fair. We aren't perfect and here's some token examples of what might be minor mistakes. But we are doing as good a job as can be done by humans." Have you ever seen the media examine itself and come to any other conclusion? No, and you won't either. The media examining itself makes as much sense as me examining myself to determine if I'm fair. Of course I think I'm fair, even when I'm not.

Now let me look at how fair they are from a different perspective. I think I'll start with CNN who has been particularly anti-Clinton. "But Marc", you might say, "I watch CNN. What makes you say that?"

During the primary when I was watching the results of the various state primaries come in I noticed that the numbers that CNN was reporting on Clinton were usually 10% lower on the average that the other three networks. And this happened on every primary. In the race on June 2nd when California put Clinton over the top the other networks were reporting Clinton winning California by a three to one margin. CNN said the race was too close to call and then spent about an hour with people discussing how Clinton was hurt having LOST California. Now CNN did have a few "ifs" in there so as to give them plausible denyability, but the viewer who only watched CNN and went to bed before midnight would have thought Clinton had lost California.

I've also noticed that CNN seems to be more stuck on Clinton's draft issue and the Jennifer Flowers story than the other networks. CNN in particular, but not exclusively, is putting serious effort into keeping the draft issue alive even though they also report polls saying that the public isn't interested. Why are they doing this?

What is as interesting as what they are covering is what they are not covering. For instance, Bush weaseled out of the first of three presidential debates and the news coverage was minimal. He also had an extramarital affair and there wasn't 1/100 as much coverage as the one Clinton was accused of, and the Bush affair was a more reliable source. Even though they are closing in on Bush's involvement in Iran-Contra you see little or no coverage. It is practically unknown that Bush delayed the closing of Silverado Savings and Loan until the day after the '88 election.

You don't hear that the Bush administration gave Saddam Hussein permission to take an area of northern Kuwait and then was surprised when he took the whole thing. You don't see any coverage about why Bush decided to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the war and how that affects his position in the pools. They don't tell you that Bush was shipping arms to Iraq through Jordan before during and after the war. They don't talk about Bush's foreign policy decisions like continuing to support Iraq after they gassed their own people with mustard gas. Had we not violated international law and honored UN military sanctions imposed after this gassing the gulf war would never had happened. But all you hear for the news media is Clinton's draft issue.

Other issues not discussed is what the national debt means to you. Who do we owe this money to? Where did the 500 billion dollars of S&L losses go to. This money didn't just vanish. Someone has it. They don't tell you that Bush was head of the department that wrote the policies for S&L deregulation under Ronald Reagan do they.

The biggest advertiser on TV right now is some organization called the "Arther S. DeMoss" foundation. They are the ones running the anti-abortion ads you see all the time. These guys are outspending people like AT&T ,McDonalds and the beer companies. But you won't see a mention of who these people are or where they got their money.

Maybe I'm strange, but somehow I think that Bush's role in abandoning the POWs in Laos is more interesting than Clinton avoiding the draft. I think that what happened to the S&L money is a bigger story that Congress kiting a few personal checks. I think that Republicans running ads of what they call abortions on TV which are really stillbirths and props is more interesting than Murphy Brown.

I'd like to venture a guess, and I stress that this is only a guess. Ted Turner, who owns CNN (Cable News Network) is going to loose some income as congress tries to pass some consumer protection laws to keep cable companies from ripping off the public. The congress passed the bill with enough votes to override a veto. The main opposition to the bill is George Bush. I wonder if Ted Turner isn't looking out for his own butt at the expense of honest reporting.

Like I said, this is just a guess, but what I know for sure is that CNN is so slanted against Clinton that something is obviously going on and I have this feeling that when I find out what it is I'm not going to be happy.

As to the rest of the media I notice that there's a "herd mentality". Have you ever looked into a stream and watched minnows swim? One darts in a new direction and they all dart the same way. It looks as if they have a single mind. Well, switching channels on the news is like walking into a Baskin Robbins for ice cream and seeing a sign saying "31 flavors of chocolate ice cream". Sometimes I think there's one guy who writes all the news and the rest of them just print it.

The news industry is competitive. The more viewers they have the more money they can charge McDonalds for ads. They are in business to make money and ratings are everything. This puts pressure on them to cover the same stories their competitors cover. So when one major player focuses attention on an issue it forces the others to follow suit. So if you can control a major publication you have serious leverage in the media as a whole.

Now to be fair, I think the media jumped on Dan Quayle too hard on the issue of how he spells potatoe. I've made a few spelling errors myself but of course I'm not running for vice president.

See the previous paragraph? This is an example of creating a media lie. I'm not being fair by saying that about Quayle. Anyone who reads Thinking Magazine knows that I think Quayle is an idiot. I'm not saying that to be fair to Quayle. That's and example of how the media pretends to be fair or create the illusion of being fair. It's phoney when I do it and it's phoney when they do it.

So who's fault is it? It's our fault for being stupid enough to believe it. I still believe that the biggest item on the national budget is stupidity. If we raised the national IQ by 5% we could balance the budget. If we raised it 10% we could pay off the national debt.


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