Going negative has always been a prominent part of American elections but it’s usually the other candidate who is running the attack. So what do you do if the negative attacks happen even before the race begins? Worse yet, what if the attacker is a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate that can coordinate its message through television, radio and Internet outlets? This type of systematic bashing might sound wildly conspiratorial to a passive citizen but wouldn’t that lack of doubt increase its effectiveness? If people have no reason to believe they are being lied to, wouldn’t they listen without skepticism? Wouldn’t they smartly stand aside as a cluster bomb of lies spills from the airwaves raining down only on the intended target? Of course they would and perhaps they do.
A friend recently remarked that she could never vote for Barack Obama. In the past she had always appeared to be an open minded individual so I was surprised by her statement. When I asked why not? She said, “I don’t think America is ready for a Muslim President.” This marketing bomb had hit its target. The reason my friend was so misinformed about Senator Obama, who is a born again Christian, was that she heard otherwise several times on Fox news. Since the beginning of 2007, Fox has taken it upon themselves to make weekly personal attacks on Barack’s character, religion, family, personal history and legislative record. At the last count they produced over 37 negative stories, almost one per week, since before he announced his candidacy. As a United States Senator, Obama might seem like fair game until you actually read the articles. He’s accused of being a cocaine addict, a muslim, a socialist, a terrorist sympathizer, a black radical and of being related to Osama Bin Laden himself.
You almost want to laugh at the absurdity of these stories, except for the fact that some television viewers and radio listeners can’t tell fact from fiction. After all, they saw or heard it on the news. Day after day these people see weather warnings, car accidents and murders on the news. All of which are happening right outside in the streets so when the same personality they rely on to give them important information turns around and tells them a gossipy tale about a young black Senator from Illinois named Obama, which rhymes with Osama, they tend to believe it. It’s not only Barack’s public image that has suffered from these attacks. Fox has also targeted much of the Democratic Party as well as a few Republicans and anyone who publicly states that they are against the Iraq war. No one is off limits. No subject is too personal or too sacred for this media war machine to strike them down.
Luckily the forces of truth have been recording these lies in the form of websites like Newshounds, the documentary movie Outfoxed directed by Robert Greenwald and in a growing collection of books like What Liberal Media? by Eric Alterman. Their limited efforts to set the record straight have made a difference with those already educated about politics, but it’s the general public who needs this information.
In the case of Barack Obama, if they keep adding shadows to this long shot candidate, pretty soon the public will only be able to see a blurry shade of black. They’ll have memorized enough propaganda to prevent him from ever running for president again. In times like this, the misinformed public becomes their own worst enemy as they are tricked into voting for people who share none of their values. If it is possible to delay our final judgments during this extended election season then perhaps we owe it to our country to doubt a little more and believe a little less.