Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What a "Liberal Media" might look like

I'm surprised that otherwise intelligent people continue to believe the myth that the media is "liberal." I think it's worth discussing what a liberal media would look like if we had one, so we can better understand that we don't have one.

Let's imagine a fictional cable network called LNN - the Liberal News Network. What might the morning news on such a channel be?

The show might lead with pictures of starving children all over the world, so that while you sat down to breakfast, you'd be reminded of just how lucky you were to have been born in the U.S., and how others are still very much in need. Viewers would be encouraged to send in at least some of their morning latte money to feed a baby for a week. Each morning, the number of children who had been moved out of poverty would also be shown. If there were truly a liberal media, that number would be growing, daily, by leaps and bounds.

You would see pictures of the war - really horrible, tragic pictures, showing not just death, but the maiming, the suffering, the devastation to innocents we currently think of solely as "collateral damage." Each day, the grievances of both sides would be fully aired. We'd hear not only from our own soldiers but from soldiers we were fighting, so we could start to understand why they are fighting back. If we are truly the good guys, there'd be no reason for anyone to oppose us.

A truly liberal media would allow us to hear the other side so we could better understand how our actions are affecting others, and what we could do to improve relations with the ultimate goal of ending all wars. Truly, fostering better communication skills, deploring greed, and promoting fairness would be keystones of this network.

The commentators would be drawn from not merely all nationalities, but all walks of life. Instead of recycling the same news and intelligence and government figures, commentators would be sought among farm workers and blue-collar workers as well as low-level white-collar workers. The view from the socio-economic top would be balanced by the view from the bottom.

On LNN, union issues would be a regular discussion. Are workers getting a fair shake? Are unions really helping their membership or are they getting too close to management? When do unions go too far?

The ecological "state of the planet" would also be a regular discussion. Audiences would learn the science behind pollution, so that they'd make the link between the chemical elements in the products they buy and the environmental damage caused at every point in the production chain. Corporations that were finding a way to offset their environmental damage would be recognized as heroes, while those whose policies amounted to a hit-and-run on the environment would be publicly castigated at ever turn.

Truly educational information about child rearing would be offered. Are those soft drinks making your children obese? No amount of advertiser action would stop LNN from exposing such a connection. Can yelling at your child be a form of abuse? A liberal media would talk about things many people would rather not think about. A liberal media would not make us feel good all the time, but would poke at us and challenge us to be better parents, better neighbors, better people.

A liberal news channel would have a regular report about working conditions around the world. Would you still buy that piece of clothing if you knew it was sown under essentially slave-labor conditions, sometimes by children working 12 hours a day? Would you admire China's economy if you realized its coal-powered growth made it one of the most polluted places in the world? Would you travel to Thailand if you understood how much of the tourist economy depends on sex-slave trafficking dollars? Or might you spend that money instead on a country that plowed the money received from tourism into a public fund from which all citizens who shared that country could benefit? Would you enjoy flowers sent to you on Valentine's Day if you found those flowers had been picked by forced labor on farms where women routinely faced sexual harassment?

If we had a liberal media, we'd be hearing about other economic models around the world. When does capitalism work best? Would the answer be like what we hear from CNBC anchors who say capitalism should be unregulated - or "self-regulating" - allowing monopolies to take over, which then can raise prices and strangle our options? A rising tide won't lift all boats if it's only happening in a private pool.

LNN would talk about the difference between labor-based income and non-labor-based income (passive income), and discuss how the upper class has kept the latter from the masses to preserve the power of the rich, and how we need to change that. There are other models, even within our own country, such as the Alaska Permanent Fund, a fund that allows all citizens of Alaska to receive royalties on the oil recovered from their state. All products come ultimately from some finite earth resource. Imagine if we all had a share of income generated from the products taken from the ground in our respective countries.

LNN would never shade the truth to further an agenda. The facts would be selective, necessarily, but extraordinary effort would be used to ensure all sides of an issue were fairly presented. Note that, however, that does not mean all sides would be proportionally presented by certain measures. Although 20 percent of the people control 93 percent of the wealth, it does not follow that they should be allowed to control 93 percent of the media. The other 80 percent deserve a much larger say than they have.

Our fictional liberal network would be absolutely fearless in taking on corruption within our own government. A liberal media would relentlessly ferret out secrets, exposing them unless doing so would genuinely damage more people than would be helped. Even "taboo" topics with strong factual support, such as the Kennedy assassination and the October Surprise case, would receive a fair hearing, on our mythical LNN.

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