Like every year in the U.S., Christmas is a time when
families travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be with one another on the
most widely celebrated Christian holiday of the year.
While parents and children; brothers and sisters; cousins,
aunts and uncles catch up on the news of the past year, job changes, births and
deaths -- one of the staples of most American holiday conversations is sports:
Who won the big game, which coach should be fired and favored teams to win the
Super Bowl or NBA championship.
With the coming year in U.S. politics possibly one of the
most important in decades -- press coverage of the early Democratic and
Republican presidential primary contests has been predictably disappointing --
treating the competition as if it were a mere sporting event.
As Paul Krugman aptly noted in his New York Times column of
Sept. 27, 2007: "One of my pet peeves about political reporting is the
fact that some of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another
business -- namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates
are actually saying -- and whether it�s true or false, sensible or silly --
they tell us how it went over, and how they think it affects the horse
With pundits guessing who will take the early states of
Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the analogy of the political horse race
seems appropriate. Much of the corporate media, whether in print or in
expensive, slick TV extravaganzas endlessly present poll numbers and examine
the shallowest aspects of the candidates statements, personal histories and
even facial expressions. Hillary�s wardrobe; Obama�s admission of using drugs
as a young man; Edward�s pricey haircuts; Giuliani�s limousine rides for his
gal pal during an extramarital affair and Mitt Romney�s false statements about
how his father had �marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.�
While President Bush and his co-conspirators in the White
House daily shred new paragraphs of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and
the Geneva Conventions, many Americans gathered around the holiday table this
year found themselves uneasy about the authoritarian path the Bush crowd has
steered the nation down in recent years. A feeling that the United States has
taken the wrong road, departing dramatically from our nation�s self-image as a
leader in democratic values and human rights.
But, sadly, all too many Americans, caught up in the
day-to-day grind, often working two or three jobs just to pay the monthly rent
or their sub prime mortgage, skyrocketing health insurance costs and rising
college tuition payments � aren�t armed with essential information about the
crisis their nation faces in advance of the November 2008 presidential
President Bush�s illegal and deadly war in Iraq, warrantless
spying on American citizens, phony reporters on the White House payroll, the
censoring of government documents on climate change science and the secret detention
and torture of U.S.-held terrorist suspects followed by attempts to cover up
much of the wrongdoing through claims of executive privilege, stonewalling of
evidence and the destruction of video tapes. All this has an eerie echo of the
Watergate era. But unlike Richard Nixon�s botched second rate-burglary and the
subsequent cover-up that catapulted the nation toward impeachment proceedings
widely investigated and covered in the press, the reality of today�s much more
serious political crisis is by and large going unreported by the nation�s
largest media corporations.
So as the calendar moved quickly to a new year, most
Americans found themselves more fixated on the latest consumer gadgets and
sports scores than on the political crisis gathering in Washington.
Sadly, even when the topic of politics does come up around
the dinner table, more often than not these discussions mimic our media's
obsession with the latest polls, who�s up, who�s down. Horse-race reporting on
the �08 election seem almost deliberately designed to prevent the stirring of
passions among average citizens. When faced with vapid reporting on Rudy,
Hillary, Obama or Mitt, who really would switch the channel from Monday night
football to see the next candidates debate?
If the U.S. media system were ever to miraculously awake
from its coma-like, myopic, corporate bottom line agenda, and replace their
endless reports on Britney Spears and her younger sister�s pregnancy with
detailed stories on the present threat to American democracy, maybe citizens
would rise up to take their country back from one of the most corrupt and
dangerous presidential administrations our nation has ever known.
What if Americans knew the basic facts regarding the lies
and scandals chalked up by President Bush and his cronies as well as they knew
the record of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning? If average
citizens were as well acquainted with the positions of all presidential
candidates on national healthcare policy and free trade as they are with NBA star
Kobe Bryant�s stats on points scored per game, America would be a far different
place and the crisis of our democracy wouldn�t be nearly so deep and so
If Americans fully understood the crimes that are daily
being committed in their name by the gang of thugs in the White House, then
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be forced to put impeachment back on the table
and the presidential election of 2008 would actually compel candidates to
decide whether they are for the U.S. Constitution or against it.
Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine, which can
be heard on more than 40 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. Hear the
program at http://www.btlonline.org.