Ignorance at the tea party, Fox News & the dumbing down of urban radio

by Davey D, Davey D's Hip Hop Corner

So everyone has been talking about Saturday’s Tea Party March on Washington and how it represents a sea change of sorts. Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t. Whether it was 1.2 million people or tens of thousands who showed up, it all has to be put in context.  First, we already know close to 46 million people voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin so close to half the country that voted has a different political outlook on things. We should not be suprised or intimidated by how vocal that opposition is. We have our own troops in large numbers.

Second, many of the rallies that McCain and Palin held were pretty similar to the Tea Party demonstration in the sense they played upon people’s fear of change and were staging grounds for then candidate Obama’s character to be viciously assassinated.  We heard Palin invoke everyone and everything from Obama being a Muslim, to him not being a real citizen of this country, to him being a guy who ran around with ‘terrorists’ like Bill Ayers and ‘racists’ like Jeremiah Wright. You name it,  it was said. Everything but the kitchen sink was tossed at Obama during these McCain/Palin rallies. Many of the outlandish and now disproven assertions uttered from the stage were underscored by corporate media outlets like Fox News.

Just to show you how deep this gets, people may want to refer to the interview we did last week with Fox News pundit Dr Marc Lamont Hill.

You can hear it here: Breakdown FM Interview w/ Fox News Pundit Dr Marc Lamont Hill .

In that interview Hill spoke frankly about the angst and concern raised by his colleague at Fox News, personality Sean Hannity, who was openly complaining that he had spent two years doing everything he could to derail Barack Obama only to have him win the presidency. Folks need to sit back and ponder on that for a minute. I’ll repeat – for two years Sean Hannity had a nationwide platform and carte blanche to go after Barack Obama.  He makes no bones about his mission to destroy and malign him and according to Hill, Hannity was upset and complaining to Karl Rove that all his shenanigans didn’t work.

I bring this up because we need to keep in mind, when looking at the Tea Parties, they are often depicted as a new emerging movement that just sprung up overnight in opposition to President Obama’s Healthcare plans and stimulus packages. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Tea Parties are merely a continuum of what took place during the 2008 Presidential campaign and what Fox News, by their own admission, had been working on for the past two years.

Third point, with a major 24 hour news network on a mission to derail President Obama now directing people to Tea Parties, should we not be surprised that thousands of people showed up? It would be shocking if they didn’t. After all, this is a radio station/ TV network event. The promotion and overall vibe leading up to the Tea Parties are similar to what we do and experience in commercial radio when we are promoting events like Summer Jam concerts. Our job is to hype it up like there’s no tomorrow.  There’s a technique and formula that has been researched, tried and tested that is used to make this happen. It ranges from having all those involved reciting the same 2 or 3 talking points (today we refer to this as Echoing) all the way down to making sure one is intimately involved and present in the lives of the audience being targeted. Lots of money, resources and time is spent figuring how to craft a message and who is likely to respond favorably when receiving it. Anybody who does media understands this and what I’m talking about is text book. However, the average listener or viewer is led to believe what they are presented is genuine. They’re being duped by a manufactured movement that adroitly plays upon their emotions. It is media marketing of the highest order.

In the case of these Fox News driven Tea Parties, they have been deliberately feeding people misinformation, exaggerations and playing upon stereotypes. That’s apparent in this video below. The ignorance of folks is astounding. Some of it I blame on people who refuse to change and are literally clinging to their guns and religion. That I get, change of this magnitude is hard for some to take.  But a lot of this falls back on the executives and personalities armed with information and psychological profiles on how emotionally amp up their audience. These media execs know that  many of the folks they are talking to have grown up to trust and believe a guy who they see on television wearing a suit and tie with a commanding booming voice and the words news anchor under his name. They trust that what they are hearing is truthful and that the person on their screen is one of them.

These so called news anchors start off duping their listeners when they use words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ when talking about the ‘average American’, ‘blue collar worker’  or ‘middle class‘. I often have to laugh because there is nothing average, blue collarish or middle class about a TV personality that is making well over a million dollars a year. Oftentimes it’s the deliverer of news and information who is looking at the fact that he or she will have to pay higher taxes or may no longer have all the options to hide and shield their money as in years past. It is those TV personalities who are expected to ante up a bit and pay their full share who are on TV shouting and screaming and suggesting that this country is not fair. News alert folks – Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter etc are not ‘average Americans’ they are rich people who make millions and part of the ‘elite’ they pretend to rail against. It is their personal interests they are trying to protect while using the ignorance of poor and working class people to do their dirty work. This is nothing new. It’s a tried and true method that harks back to the early days of this country when White aristocrat landowners pitted poor white indentured servants against the Black African slaves they work alongside of in the fields.

The 2009 Tea Parties are merely an updated version of what took place once upon a time with corporate media being the tool that has violated our trust and replaced trust with techniques and talking points designed to manipulate folks. Today is such that if a personality tells his trusting listeners shit on a stick is healthy for you there is a  substantial number of people who will believe it and seek out shit sticks. Here’s the video of people attending the Saturday, September 12th Tea Party.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUPMjC9mq5Y

Where’s the opposition to the Tea Parties?

This is the 64 thousand dollar question. Because we are so dependent upon media for news and information many of us have concluded that because we don’t see large numbers of people standing up to the ignorance shown in the video that people are in agreement or simply aren’t organizing. Anyone who is even modestly involved in politics knows this is not the case.  We have organizations like Color of Change who have been very effective  and are doing what they can, but they are missing a key ally – corporate media that is competitive with the one that sent people out to the tea parties. This is especially true of media that speaks to the 18-30 crowd in the urban landscape. If radio jocks and tv personalities that reach these urban audiences spent less time talking about beefs between rappers or trying to be the next TMZ, we could have just as many people out on the White House lawn as the opposition.

We saw this happen two years ago when tens of thousands came out for the March for the Jena 6 when radio personality Michael Baisden used the airwaves to get behind the cause. We saw this happen right after Katrina when urban radio turned its focus on relief efforts. We certainly saw this leading up to and during the Million Man March when urban media  played a key role in helping  get people out.  We saw millions of people take to the streets when Spanish language radio alerted its listeners and got everyone focused on  Immigration Rights resulting in the turning of the political tide.

The advantge that  Fox News has in doing these Tea Party rallies is that owner Rupert Murdoch is 100% behind the effort so all his air personalities are on point as they push the same agenda. With Spanish Language and urban radio such was not the case.  Shortly after the large Immigration rallies, corporate owners to those outlets issued memos and instructed their on air talent to stop announcing and hyping up these rallies. We haven’t seen them since.  It wasn’t like the issue died or people no longer cared, the mediums that drove people to the streets had been dismantled and the on air personalities had their hands tied.

The same  hand tieing happened with urban radio. Leading up to the election we had on air personalities on many of the music oriented outlets from around the country stop their daily offerings of gossip and meaningless banter and turn their focus to getting folks registered to vote and out to the polls for last year’s historic election. Many of those stations started calling themselves the Obama Station or Obama Jams and would play excerpts from his inspiring speeches in their jingles and station drops.  It was a beautiful thing to see our airwaves be used to politicize and energize people, but sadly once Obama got sworn in, like the Immigration Rights fervor, much of the political conversation died on the vine.

What became sadly apparent is that many of these urban outlets had lined themselves up behind Obama because he was a hot item and could lead to increased ratings. Once Obama got in office, radio personalities stopped their political chit chat and got back to the gossip mongering under the guise of ‘hot topic of the day’.  It didn’t matter that record numbers of  listeners registered and voted and were arguably politicized.  There was no meaningful follow up to keep those fires stoked. There was no Sunday morning urban political talk shows added to the line ups. There was no special political correspondents added to the mix. The intelligent discourse and people behind it were all but banished from the airwaves with disastrous end results. On many urban outlets you never had the on air jocks talk intelligently and in earnest about the stimulus package, healthcare bill and even the racist elements that have showed up to act a fool at the townhalls. It’s been a  return to the dumb down strategy of yesterday leaving many of us frustrated and voiceless in national dialogues.

So when incidents like Skip Gates getting arrested or more recently Van Jones resigning, aside from the talk shows who covered them, we had in many urban circles more people unaware of such incidents and more excited about Jay-Z releasing his Death to Autotune song than the issues at hand.

The biggest irony of all this is seeing how today’s corporate media has distorted and totally abused what was once shrewd strategy employed by veterans of the Civil Rights struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about how local urban stations, then known as Black radio, were key pillars in the Civil Rights struggle. He argued that the music and commentary of socially aware and concerned radio jocks was an essential ingredient in getting people fired up, out on the streets and spurred into action armed with intelligent talking points and an understanding of the issues. Had it not been for urban media doing its part there would not have been large turnouts at many of those rallies. The ratings came from being a gathering place, a proverbial campfire of sorts for the community. One looks at the dedication that outlets like Fox News has in turning out their base even if they are being misled and duped into supporting things that will go against their economic interests and wonder how come we have not stepped it up and done right by our side by being the echo chamber for important issues impacting us… Below is a video of that highlights the Dr. King speech and the dumb down approach taken by urban radio in today’s crucial times.

Something to ponder

-Davey D-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHdnMfGtAxM

article originally published at Davey D's Hip Hop Corner.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey