This Times survey paints an extremely disturbing picture of Americans' views on race and its implications for our ever being able to elect a black president, no matter how inspiring, and even in a period like today when the ruling party has been discredited in every imaginable way. One point into which it does not delve, however is the media's responsibility for the widespread ignorance and disinformation that characterizes so many people's views. I wrote about this a bit in What Liberal Media? and while the sources are a bit dated, the point still holds:
Despite the enormous efforts that news organizations have undertaken to achieve diverse newsrooms and management teams, whites remain the norm in the media, both behind the scenes and in the public view. For all the complaints about political correctness and an alleged multicultural reign of terror, as it is sometimes described, as recently as 2001, a study of the nightly news found that among U.S. sources for whom race was determinable, whites made up 92 percent of the total, blacks 7 percent, Latinos and Arab-Americans 0.6 percent each, and Asian-Americans 0.2 percent. (According to the 2000 census, the U.S. population is 69 percent non-Hispanic white, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 4 percent Asian.) A single source who appeared on NBC (July 26, 2001) was the only Native American identified as appearing on the nightly news in 2001-- for 0.008 percent of total sources. This was no isolated case. Between January 1996 and September 1999, Time ran thirty cover stories, on topics ranging from homework to parental care, in which millions of Americans were symbolized by a single image: a white person. A study of Newsweek during the period between September 1998 and September 1999 found ten such covers, with every one featuring a white person. To be black and make the cover of one of the main newsweeklies, being "ordinary" was never enough; it required a Michael Jordan, an Oprah Winfrey... or an O.J. Simpson.
Another example of the social bias that can spill into allegedly objective news stories can be found in the disparity of coverage in crime victims, particularly when a single individual becomes the focus of intense media attention. Crime statistics do not begin to match media portrayals, with their vast over-representation of black criminals and white victims, and a corresponding underrepresentation of white criminals and black victims. When a white, upper-middle class woman is raped and attacked while jogging in Central Park, it became a worldwide media story and the hysteria it inspired may have inspired what were late proven to be the false convictions of a group of innocent young black men. But when a black woman met the same fate in the same park, at approximately the same time, nothing; next to no coverage and certainly no media-induced hysteria. From the birth of cable news, a missing white girl who appears to have met an untimely death owing to possible foul play has always been a staple of the news, from Nicole Brown to Jon-Benet Ramsey, to Chandra Levy to Elizabeth Smart, the beautiful blonde girl who graces both the cover of Newsweek and the pop-up screen of my AOL account as I write these words. One girl who is not on the cover of Newsweek or popping up on AOL, however, is a seven-year-old African-American named Alexis Patterson who disappeared on her way to school one month before Smart's alleged abduction. In the latter case, the New York Times and Washington Post filed reports from her hometown of Salt Lake City. So too did the Boston Globe, Miami Herald and countless other news outlets. Cable viewers were treated to updates on MSNBC and alleged experts scrutinized the case on CNN's Larry King Live and Hardball with Chris Matthews. But a Nexis search of the Patterson's name done before people started comparing the two cases, turned up only AP and local reports. After people began to notice this discrepancy, The New York Times sent a reporter to the Patterson home where, in their living room, the girl's parents saw MSNBC carry two reports on the Smart case, as the ticker beneath them carried the message, 'Elizabeth Smart has been missing for three weeks."
Even with the best of intentions, the largely white dominated mass media does not seem to be able to help but depict blacks in a fashion that inspires racist conclusions on the part of the audience. As Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki demonstrate at length in their study, The Black Image in the White Mind, a sampling of the network news drawn from 1997 shows blacks in basically three ways: "entertainer, sports figure or object of discrimination." A more detailed study of just ABC News found that the network "mainly discusses Blacks as such when they suffer or commit crime, or otherwise fall victim and require attention from government." As a result, "the news constructs African Americans as a distinct source of disruption." The authors note that since Caucasians are rarely featured in this way -- relative to the number of times they are shown, "the news can easily imply a baseline or ideal social condition in which far fewer serious problems would plague the society if only everyone in the United States were native-born whites."[Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki, The Black Imagine in the White Mind: Media and Race in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 64-66]
This point is actually supported by Bernard Goldberg in his rant against liberal "bias," though it remains a mystery as to whether he is aware of this. Goldberg quotes a producer for "48 Hours," who admits, "All we do around here is murder, murder, murder, sex. And only about white people." White characters," he explains "appeal to more viewers than black characters. More viewers mean higher ratings. We pick white characters whenever we can." He recounts the tale of a "48 Hours" producer who preemptively edited Hispanics out of stories because, he explained, his bosses "don't think our audience cares about Hispanics." A third producer, this one for NBC, explains, "Let's not kid ourselves.... There is no profit in people of color." Ex-ABC News chief, Av Westin, compiled a handbook for journalists covering racial issues. It has been filled by the anonymous comments of some of the most influential reporters and producers in the business. Each told a similar story: "My bosses have essentially made it clear. We do not feature black people."
These tendencies must be added to those of local news, which -- with an "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality-- vastly overemphasize crime stories at the expense of all others. Within this context, they also exaggerate the degree to which criminals are alleged to be black and victims, white. And at the same time, they ignore virtually every conceivable contextual element of life that might induce crime, such as lack of economic or educational opportunity, wide availability of drugs, lack of local role models, etc, it hardly requires a doctorate in sociology to understand that the news media actually contributes to ignorance-based racism rather than ameliorates it. Whatever the intent of those responsible may be -- whether it is unconscious racism or merely a drive for better ratings and more money -- the overall results appear incontrovertible and they do not support an argument for liberal bias.
Another way to measure the overall message the media communicates on racial issues is to examine the attitudes of the people who watch it. As most white Americans receive their information about black America from television, we can judge the question of whether the media is falsely catering to an overly liberal and generous portrayal of minorities based on the degree to which those attitudes correspond to reality -- and in the manner in which they diverge Whatever its specific source, in examining white attitudes toward Black America, we find considerable ignorance and confusion. According to an extensive poll by the Kaiser Foundation, between 40 percent to 60 percent of all whites feel reassured that the average black American appears to be faring about as well and perhaps even better than the average white in employment, income, education and access to health care. Unfortunately, this reassurance is false. While progress has been made in these areas in recent years, Black America lags far behind white America by every measurable statistic. Sixty-one percent of whites questioned believe that average black person has equal or better access to health care than the average white. The truth is that, in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey found that blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to be without health insurance. About half of whites believe blacks and whites enjoy roughly equivalent education levels of education. Actually, the percentage of college graduates among blacks is about 17 percent; for whites it is 28 percent. "The results suggest there is the overwhelming sense among most whites that this is 2001 -- we could not possibly be saddled with segregation and discrimination and therefore things can't possibly be as bad as black Americans say they are," Swarthmore College political scientist Keith Reeves, who consulted on the survey, explained to a reporter.
The poll results imply ignorance on the part of most whites, rather than racism. The net results would seem to argue for an aggressive attempt by the news media to enlighten whites as to the true circumstances of Black America, as the knowledge would seem to empower a change in attitudes. Whites with accurate views of black circumstances prove more sympathetic to federal intervention to ensure racial equality in education as well as fair-treatment by the courts and law enforcement authorities. [Richard Morin, "Misperceptions Cloud Whites' View of Blacks," Washington Post, July 11, 2001, A1]
In making the argument that when the Southern racists like Strom Thurmond et al were Democrats, the Republicans were better than Democrats, but after Southern racists like Thurmond and Jesse Helms became Republicans, Republicans are -- well, I'm not sure I get it, here. Conservative Bruce Bartlett writes in The Wall Street Journal: "Lyndon Johnson consistently opposed civil-rights legislation while he was in Congress." Bartlett's phrasing is not exactly wrong, but it is purposely misleading. He must know -- and if he doesn't, perhaps he should pick up volume three of Robert Caro's incredible LBJ bio, which, if I'm not mistaken, devotes at least 200 pages to it -- that LBJ relentlessly and singlehandedly rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through a recalcitrant Congress. So while he did oppose some civil rights legislation, he was solely responsible for one of the key steps in reversing the trend. It's a complicated picture, and apparently complexity is not something much appreciated by Mr. Bartlett or the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
Speaking of schizophrenia ... a tip of the cap to Bobby Murcer.
From Eric Boehlert: The Beltway press corps has become so borderline dysfunctional that even the simplest tasks, such as selecting which stories to cover -- such as using common sense -- now escape most of the major players at the mainstream news organizations. That's why Jesse Jackson and the "nuts" story was mentioned more than 900 times on television last week. But John McCain's comment about Social Security in this country being "a disgrace" was mentioned just 24 times. Read more here.
JOHN MELLENCAMP ANNOUNCES FIRST FARM AID MUSIC FESTIVAL IN NEW ENGLAND
Willie Nelson, Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews to headline Sept. 20 all-star concert event
BOSTON -- Alongside farmers and food buyers at the Copley Square Farmers Market, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick welcomed Farm Aid co-founder John Mellencamp to New England as he announced Farm Aid 2008 Presented by Whole Foods Market and Horizon Organic. The concert will take place on Sept. 20 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., marking the first time the organization will bring its annual benefit concert to the region.
"New England was built on the strength of independent family farmers," said Mellencamp. "We can honor that independent spirit by joining Farm Aid to grow the movement that is changing the way all of America eats."
Farm Aid 2008 Presented by Whole Foods Market and Horizon Organic will feature headliners Willie Nelson, Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews, plus other top artists to be announced. The annual benefit concert will celebrate music and good food, featuring hands-on activities in the HOMEGROWN Village that will showcase the direct connection between who is growing our food and what we eat every day.
"We are proud to bring our annual Farm Aid concert to a region that has such strong agricultural roots and to the many people who love to eat the good food grown in New England," said Farm Aid president Willie Nelson. "I'm looking forward to bringing my friends together on the Farm Aid stage to celebrate and support family farmers."
The concert event will again feature family-farm identified, local and organic foods at concessions, setting an example of the many ways that family farm food can be integrated into the general marketplace.
"Bringing Farm Aid's unique concert event to New England creates an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the innovation and determination of the area's farmers," said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid. "We're looking forward to a day filled with outstanding music and delicious food grown by these farmers from across the region."
As part of its work to increase the affordability and availability of fresh, healthy foods, Farm Aid also announced its support for the collaborative initiative between the Food Project and the city of Boston to help more families shop at farmers markets by building infrastructure that allows market vendors to accept food stamps.
Since its beginning, Farm Aid has traveled the country, staging annual concerts and supporting local organizations working to strengthen family farms. Farm Aid builds the Good Food Movement by connecting people with family farmers who are increasing the supply of local, humanely raised, sustainable and organic food.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas
Regarding Rove's friends -- a big part of the problem is the power lunch syndrome. I worked for a brilliant newspaperman who asked the newsroom once about whether voters would approve a tax hike. We were incredulous that he would ask and told him no. He shook his head and said it would pass, because he had had lunch with a bunch of the county commissioners affected by the hike, and they were sure it would pass. Of course, it was defeated.
I have seen it time and again. Outstanding and not-so-outstanding reporters and columnists want so desperately to be considered part of the in-crowd -- to stand tall in Georgetown, as Allen Drury once put it -- that they forget how to be reporters and become conduits. It used to be that Robert Novak was the only columnist who blatantly protected his sources by praising them later. Now it has become truly ridiculous.
Name: Matthew Saroff
Hometown: 40 Years in the Desert
Another word on that New Yorker cover -- from David Horsey, editorial cartoonist of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, or perhaps by Jonah Goldberg speaking approvingly of the cover, I'm not sure which yet.
I wouldn't worry so much about God inflicting some sort of horrible injury upon David Wright during or because of the game. If I were a Mets fan and the kind of person to worry about that type of thing, I'd be much more concerned about God visiting injury upon Billy Wagner because of this.
I usually agree with you, Eric, but we "idiots" here in Philadelphia were voting to get Pat Burrell in the All-Star Game. David Wright was your job.
Although a Phillies fan, I will merely say "point noted" in response to your statement regarding Philadelphians, their intelligence and their impact on the final 2008 all star selection. However, in response to your sense of impending doom regarding David Wright's pending all star appearance, I give you the case of one Ray Fosse.
Up until the all star game of 1970, Mr. Fosse was, by all accounts, an up-and-coming talent at catcher who was likely to play in many such games in the future. In that game, he was famously bowled over by Pete Rose (who was, depending on your perspective, merely playing hard or acting like a hypercompetitive, egomaniacal bully). Fosse suffered a separated shoulder on the play and, at least so the story goes, was "never the same again." Having spent all my life watching and rooting for the national league, I am only familiar with Mr. Fosse's statistics and only saw him play rarely and completely un-memorably, but his career numbers seem to back up the idea that he was a rising star before that game and little more than a platoon player and backup afterwards. Of course, a disk injury suffered in 1974 while breaking up a fight between Reggie Jackson and Billy North in the A's clubhouse certainly didn't help.
For what it's worth, even as a lifelong Phillies fan and Mets hater, I hope that, come September, David Wright (and Jose Reyes for that matter) is right in the middle of this and many future pennant races... ideally on the losing side.
Bring on the bumper stickers and decals. I need something to believe in ...