Saturday, September 27, 2014

The right-wing uproar over President Obama's "latte salute": why I vote Democratic

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.

I want to reach out to Dave's Republican friends with some food for thought from an East Coast liberal. If this makes one or two of you think about your voting choices in the upcoming election, so much the better. 

There are lots of things to dislike the President for. Let me name three off the top of my head. One: He didn't include a public option in his Affordable Care Act. This might have saved hundreds of millions of middle class Americans money when they have to see a doctor. Think how much you save when you mail a letter to California if you use the U.S. Postal Service instead of FedEx or UPS and you'll get the idea. 

Two: Every time he orders the execution of an American with a drone, he ignores our constitutional guarantee of  due process. Those Americans did not get a trial. They were judged, sentenced and executed by the president. This seems like a gross abuse of his powers. 

Three: He campaigned as an opponent to the War in Iraq and on trying to dismantle and reduce American's nuclear arsenal, weapons that threaten the very existence of humankind on Earth. Yet the New York Times ran a front page story this week about Obama's decision to spend billions of tax dollars in a plan to upgrade our deteriorating nuclear defense system. 

Ask yourselves, my GOP compatriots: why doesn't Fox news focus on these governmental decisions/issues that Obama has made but instead focuses on the President's "latte salute"? It's a question worth asking. 

Here's my answer: our left-wing, radical president took action in these decisions that supported huge corporations...exactly the kind of action Ronald Reagan would have taken. Why? For the life of me, I cannot understand why. But from my point of view, he sure ain't no liberal! He's as conservative as Reagan! 

Here's your party's ONLY agenda. The GOP wants to accomplish one thing: it wants to help the super-wealthy. It is owned and operated by the super-wealthy. Every time you vote for a Republican candidate, you are voting against the middle class and your own economic interests. Every time you get another Republican elected to Congress, the one-percenters break out the single malt scotch and toast your naivete. They are laughing at you behind your backs because, yet again, you drank the GOP Cool-aid. 

Here is the reality of the America we all live in, Republican and Democrat; Christian, Jew and Muslim; black, brown and white. One percent of the country's citizens own 90 percent of our collective wealth. Those same one-percenters control the flow of money; they control the banks; they control the media; they own your home if you still pay a mortgage; they own the future of your children if your kids have college loans. The ONLY agenda they have is this: they want to hang onto their wealth.The only thing they understand is money. They could care less about the good of the nation. 

Any vote for a Republican is a vote for the status quo. Think what you want, that's the privilege of being an American, but please DON'T think you are creating a "better world" or a "stronger union" when you vote for a Republican. YOU may believe in family values. So do we Democrats. WE are voting for change. The change we most desire is to live in an equitable society where the distribution of wealth is not so one-sided and doesn't favor of the wealthiest people on Earth. 

Please don't tell me they "earned" it with their sweat and toil, working with their hands. They earned it by convincing people like you to elect representatives who do their bidding, who create laws and open tax loopholes that allow them to horde wealth. They are lawyers, bankers, hedge fund managers and, most of all, corporate CEOs, defense contractors and war profiteers. They are not plumbers, electricians, carpenters or reporters. 

Please don't require me to salute the flag of a nation whose government protects the assets of the wealthiest people on Earth. Please don't call me a "traitor" for pointing out this sad reality: the super wealthy and their elected representatives are working hard to keep the rest of us down. Do yourselves a favor. Start reading a decent newspaper and get your heads out of the Fox News propaganda machine. To all of you who read this far with an open mind, I humbly thank you. God bless the First Amendment!

Let's try to see TV news for what it really is: a race for ratings, a chase for advertising dollars. Let's also stop pretending we are "informed" when we watch the news on any network broadcast. You won't find the truth on network TV. You have to search hard for the truth. Try reading the New York Times every day or watch John Stewart or Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. Read the Nation or the Atlantic magazines. Watch PBS between 6 and 7 p.m.  And demand that news bureaus start to take their special place in democracy seriously. We need the media to hold power accountable for the wheels of democracy to spin smoothly. It's way, way past time for the media to start taking their jobs seriously. 

See the footage here:

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if my first comment made it, so I will repeat. Feel free to redact if this is redundant:

    I would add al Jazeera, the BBC and the CBC as reliable sources who report on actual occurrences with real meaning. And any region fortunate enough to have an organized citizen journalist group such as the Uptake here in Minnesota can view hours and hours of uploaded video available so we can tell who said what, and when. This is a marvelous antidote to the straight up lying and story spiking that goes on every hour of every day in mainstream media.