The Grand Soap

A while back I took a class about the media. One of the things we learned about was the episodic nature of reporting: a crime happens, they interview the victims or those close to the victims, talk to some official, and have a close up of the face (or sketch) of the perpetrator. There isn’t any in depth analysis of the causes of the crime, or any effects beyond the immediate. The audience is presented with a bad person who did a bad thing to some innnocent people. It makes a great tragic story. That’s entertainment. The problem is, in general, the media does nothing to address the problem of what is causing crime in a certain area, or what the aftermath of the crimes actually is, for both victims and criminals. In this sense, the media is not fulfilling its duty as the fourth estate to frame the crime as a deeper political issue. The obvious political response to this is just “tough on crime”. (Tough on crime isn’t bad in and of itself, but it leaves much to be desired, but thats a different story.)

Now why did I bore you with all this? Well, over the past couple years, we’ve seen the media’s shitworthy job of framing overtly political issues as any sort of systemic political problem with the current administration. Whether they are too scared, too careful, too biased, or too dumb to do this, I don’t know, but the fact remains they aren’t doing it. Let me tell you what I mean. Consider the weekly news cycle as a soap opera. There are the main cast: the administration, powerful members of congress, other politicians, some organizations, etc. They have a basic backstory, which progresses. But, some weeks, there’s some sort of guest star. It may be Michael “Brownie” Brown, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jack Abramoff, Harriet Miers, Judith Miller, or Cindy Sheehan. They have big roles, shake things up for someone or another, and get phased out or killed off. The problem is, since they are guest stars, the media doesn’t write a plot arc to link them at all. It doesn’t seek to connnect the events of the television season. Each scandal, protest, or whatever is treated as a separate storyline, desptite the fact that they exist within the same universe.

This is exactly the kind of thing the Media, as the fourth estate, is supposed to help the public with. Sure, there is the occasional daring editorial about how this administration is screwing America in one way or another, and sometimes a big story form around wiretapping or a memo or a response to a hurricane. But the media as a whole, in written word and in broadcast, has not put together a coherent picture of the political landscape. They leave it as a simple right vs left battle, which makes a good story whichever side you’re on. Certainly, recent developments have caused some important people to jump party lines on some issues (republican congressmen), or admit problems in what they’ve done (the president), but that is because of the magnitude of the developments, not any magnificent reporting. Until someone is able to paint a clearer picture of the landscape in Washington and around the country, there won’t be any big changes in the way things are run. I blame the media because it’s their job, and they have the easiest time doing it, but a daring congressman or senator could surely start the ball rolling.

Anyways, that was a little more ranty than I’d intended to be, but I don’t feel like revising it (: you get my point.

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