Saturday, September 27, 2014
By now most of you may have heard the president "disrespected" the military and the American flag when he disembarked from the presidential helicopter earlier this week and tried to salute two Marines standing at attention at the bottom of the chopper's exit ramp with a cup of coffee in his hand.
The rightwing propaganda machine went into overdrive outrage mode, castigating the president for this slip-up. The film clip of this incident is about 20 seconds long and nothing in American politics short of Zapruder's footage of the assassination of President Kennedy has been discussed and dissected as much as this innocent moment.
I happened to be speaking about television news ethics in my "Introduction to Mass Media" class this week. Coverage of the president's "latte salute" incident served as a perfect example of all that is wrong with national TV news coverage. It ignores the most important aspects of public policy and it inflates, out of all rational proportion, the most trivial things that transpire.
In short, this incident has been used as an attempt to serve a far right-wing agenda (Fox News) or to chase high ratings and advertizing dollars (ABC, NBC, CBS). In either case, the national networks do not serve democracy. The root of our national conundrum is that America's TV media are owned by large corporations that are more interested in generating mega-profits than in protecting the public interest.
President Obama's latte salute was the subject of a blistering battle of words and ideology on the Facebook page of a former fraternity brother who lives in Louisiana. The fact that he resides in one of the reddest of red states (a state steeped in a legacy of racism) made the interchange between his Facebook friends particularly interesting and angry. One of the comments on the thread suggested Obama's salute was unpatriotic and showed disrespect of both the military and our nation's flag.
After a day of bile and abuse, my fraternity brother decided his thread was "toxic" and promised to take it down. I wanted to get in one last response to his GOP friends before it was abandoned. My post was an appeal to GOP voters in Louisiana to consider voting Democratic in the November elections.