Reality Check

Are you as sick as I am of the media spinning what it wants to turn into issues?

I’ll admit it: I listen to NPR. (That’s National Public Radio, for those of you who spend more time in front of a boob tube than looking outside your own windows.) Not only do I listen, but I’m now a member of two NPR stations: KJZZ in Phoenix and Northwest Public Radio in Washington State.

Yes, I know NPR leans to the left. So do I. But I think it’s far more thought-provoking than just about every other media outlet out there. And it spends more airtime talking about what’s important in today’s world — world politics, the economy, etc. — than any other media outlet.

Let’s face it: does it really matter to you whether Britney has custody of her kids? Or who won American Idol? Or what happened on last night’s episode of [fill-in-the-blank mindless television show]? And do you really need to know about the fire that leveled an apartment building or the drug-related killing in the city?

This morning, I was pleased to hear two essays on NPR that echoed my sentiments about certain issues almost exactly. I’d like to share them with you as examples of how listening to something with substance can help peel away the bullshit doled out by many other media outlets.

The Truth About Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Endures Public Scrutiny” is an essay by Diane Roberts. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s wife — a controversy which has been manufactured entirely by the right-wing media (i.e., the Fox network) and other media outlets who apparently have nothing better to talk about.

Ms. Roberts uses sarcasm to poke fun at this controversy, but she states the truth when she points out:

Where Laura Bush is all pastels and soft-focus, Michelle Obama is strong lines and high def. Where Cindy McCain is a frat boy’s dream girl — a blond beer heiress from the golden West — Michelle Obama is a tall, clever Ivy League lawyer from the South Side of Chicago.

So why is the media so dead-set against her? I think they feel threatened. Michelle Obama is apparently too real, modern, and smart for their tastes. So what do they do? They cast doubt on her character by spreading rumors and interpreting words and actions out of context and in a way that supports their claims.

Frankly, I like what I’ve seen of Michelle Obama. She’s a breath of fresh air — not a phony, old-fashioned “help-mate” living in the shadow of her husband. If Hillary Clinton had been more like Michelle Obama when she was First Lady, I think she would have earned a lot more respect — and more votes — in the primary season.

I’ll go a step further. I believe Michelle Obama is an excellent role model for girls and young women. Sadly, I can’t say the same about either Laura Bush, who can barely read a speech in public, or Cindy McCain, who seems like she’s just along for the ride. While I’m sure she does have her faults — we all do, don’t we? — she certainly doesn’t deserve the abuse she’s getting from the media.

It’s unfortunate that someone as well educated and intelligent as Michelle Obama has to play games to make herself seem worthy to doubters. I think she probably has a lot better things to do with her time than appear on a talk show like The View.

Acts of God? Think Again

Daniel Schorr is NPR Weekend Edition’s senior news analyst. He shares his commentary on NPR every Sunday morning, as well as other times.

Today’s commentary touched on something that has been bothering me: the acceptance by the Midwest’s residents that the recent flooding was an “act of God.” I was especially bothered by an interview earlier in the week during Talk of the Nation. In that interview, an Iowa farmer with 640 of her 800 acres of farmland under 15 feet of water insinuated that the flood was God’s will. She then turned her interview into a preaching session, telling listeners how good God was because he’d sacrificed his only son for our salvation.

Give me a break. She could have made much better use her time on a nationally syndicated radio show to explain what the rest of the country could do to help folks in situations like hers.

This, of course, came on the heels of still-President Bush’s comment last Sunday where he said,

I know there’s a lot of people hurting right now and I hope they’re able to find some strength in knowing that there is love from a higher being.

(I blogged about that comment because it bothered me so much.)

Daniel Schorr, in “Why Are There So Many Natural Disasters?” pointed out research and public statements by scientists who have studied the effects of man’s impact on the earth. These men have found that the flooding was caused, in part, by the land having been “radically re-engineered by human beings.” Farmland is getting ever closer to water sources, removing the buffers between creeks and rivers and farm fields. If the Iowa land were left undeveloped, it would be covered with perennial grasses that have deep roots to absorb water.

I can confirm how man’s changes to the landscape can affect flood waters. As I reported in my blog, my neighbor’s removal of naturally growing trees, bushes, and other plants from the floodplain near our homes changed the course of the wash that flows through it, causing extensive damage to his property — and mine. The lesson to be learned from this: don’t mess with the floodplain!

But in the midwest — and elsewhere in our country — cities are built in known flood plains. The residents depend on levees to hold back floodwaters in the event of a flood. They bandy around terms like “400-year flood” to give people the idea these floods only occur ever 400 years. Yet some towns can tell you that they’ve had several of these floods over the past 20 years. When the water can’t soak into the ground and is funneled through a series of levees, there comes a point when the levees simply can’t handle floodwater volumes. The result: levees break, towns and cities built in the floodplains flood.

Is this God’s will? Did God remove natural vegetation buffers around streams and rivers and replace it with plowed farmland? Did God build towns and cities in the floodplain? Did God build the levees that failed?

Daniel Schorr doesn’t think so. And neither do I.

Think

Is it too much to ask for people to think? To consider all the information that’s out there and form conclusions based on the evidence?

Or will you simply believe the hate messages and excuses you hear on network television and read in viral e-mail messages?

6 thoughts on “Reality Check

  1. Another NPR junkie! NPR reports the news that *matters* to me. And they make news interesting. I am soooo with you on not caring one iota about Britney or American Idol! What really fries my grits is that you used to be confident that the news you were getting was both important and relatively unsensationalized. Not anymore. And that’s why I listen to NPR.

  2. I think you’re right in saying that God often gets blamed for things that we human beings do. As I understand it, the “wrath of God” is when God leaves us to “enjoy” the consequences of our actions. I live along the Gulf Coast. It’s unbelievable the building that has gone on around here. No one should have a home in some of the places they’ve built — not at least if they don’t want it to flood. All well, we can always blame a flood on an “act of God” not our own stupidity and greed.

  3. As much as I agree with you there is also a huge segment of the population that feel all the crap they see is substantive news. We get what we vote for.

  4. Maria, I can appreciate your sentiment on mainstream media. It is “news” fed to us through someone else’s views. It makes it hard to get straight facts and stories, especially with the amount of slanted information out there, whether it be on TV or the internet. I guess that’s the challenge, to take in the information and think for ourselves and not let someone else make up our minds for us. I believe in God and in his love for us, his greatest creation, but I don’t believe the midwest flooding was his will. I’m a relatively new christian, of about 3 years, and I certainly don’t know all the answers, but I do know that God loves all of us. I know that bad things happen in this world all the time, but I would never blame God for any of them. My wife and I lost our baby last year in the ninth month of pregnancy, and it was the hardest thing I have ever lived through. I have questions that may never be answered about why we lost our sweet angel, but I do know that I could not have made it through without God’s love. When my world collapsed around me, Jesus was there to keep me going. Knowing that I will someday meet my daughter has allowed me to keep living. I’m not trying to convert you, I’m just saying that Belief in God and the great hope that provides is not a bad thing. I’m a pilot too(I also live in Washington state), and I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures. Fly safe.

What do you think?