Framing the Dialogue

Why Blog?

So we were sitting and watching Family Guy a few weeks before the 2008 presidential election. At this point I don’t remember why, but Stewie (the talking baby) was dressed as Adlof Hitler. The animation zooms into his lapel and sure enough he is wearing a McCain-Palin campaign button. Of course the fascist leader of the Nazi Party would be for the Republican ticket.

First of all, I don’t like when writers feel the need to sneak political statements into their shows. Actually, I hate it. That goes for athletes, singers, and pretty much anyone else who is a “celebrity.” What makes them think that they know more than us or that we really care what they think?

So I mute the TV and explain to my family that the Nazi Party was actually a socialist party which is pretty much the opposite of what a traditional Republican would be. Simply stated, conservatives are capitalists. So after their eyes rolled back in their heads, we finished watching the show.

You’ll probably be able to guess which way my political leanings are, but irregardless (and yes I know it’s not a word), one of the things that bother me most is how debates/discussions are framed. Many start with facts that just are not true and I want to scream sometimes. Actually, I scream all the time, but it is always in my head. I am often surprised at the lack of knowledge of many people (this includes media folks). They don’t know about issues that they discuss frequently. My family bears the brunt of my ramblings and suggested that I share my views with others. And a website is born…

My extensive (not so much) research tells me that I am the gazillionth person to start a blog. This one is different from any other blog and was recently voted the World’s Best Blog (by voters polled at my kitchen table the other night). That kind of reminds me of a recent trip to Vegas where every other hotel/casino had been voted the Best Buffet and you can find the World’s Best Coffee at numerous establishments in every U.S. city.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I have been bombarded sound bytes and video clips that often misstate the true sides of most debates. In my career, I have had occasion to witness events that were later reported in the news and I had to wonder if the reporter actually saw what I saw. I have been interviewed a few times and treated fairly, but also had an interview halted when I wouldn’t give them the sensational sound byte they wanted.

This was at a forum about severe flooding with many speakers and experts…I was neither a speaker, nor an expert, but the news crew was getting impatient with all of the speeches so they asked me to go on camera. I worked for a government agency at that time and they wanted some official statement. Fortunately, my spider sense was tingling and I was cautious about the questions and my responses.

The first few questions were pretty innocuous, but then came the question they wanted for that night’s news cast…”Shouldn’t people be worried about diseases being carried by floodwaters?” They actually mentioned the plague! That threw me for a loop as the forum was put together to begin a dialogue to improve the environment and implement projects to reverse the trend of creating excessive stormwater runoff. I actually chuckled at the question and said that I had never heard of those concerns before.

I started to talk about the physical dangers only to be treated to the camera being shut off and tripod folded. The reporter did thank me and I did actually make the newscast. You could see me at the main table as they panned the crowd. No quotes from me though…too bad as I was much thinner then.

NOTE: Subsequent to my first draft of this article, the country was all a twitter about the impending recession and how our economy was about to crash. The governmental officials (I really cannot bring myself to call them leaders) were all over the news offering “stimulus” packages to jump-start our economy. Really. Our local TV station’s coverage offered a headline about a potential rebate with a headline telling us that we are getting “FREE MONEY” from the government. Free Money! It’s not as if they just print the stuff…well actually they do, but this is our money that they are graciously giving back to us. We really should be more grateful.

I don’t think the media necessarily does this to mislead us, they either think we are too stupid to understand complex issues or the talking heads they have reading the news and the writers are too stupid to understand basic issues. I am not sure that the news media attract the brightest bulbs. I have a healthy skepticism of the media as we all should. I started to pay more attention to reporters, what they covered, what they didn’t cover and the terms that they used in their newscasts.

Ok…enough about the media. I wasn’t on the debate team, but believe that if you get your opponent to use your terminology, you have the advantage. My goal in Framing The Dialogue is to get to the heart of the debates because I think most Americans are, ideologically, pretty much the same on basic issues and not as different as media would have you believe. This, of course, excludes Los Angles, New York City, Hollywood, the District of Columbia and maybe Chicago (there is still hope). Hopefully you will find this blog fun and informative, but really doesn’t matter to me because I am now a BLOGGER.

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