On Politics

I was thinking about politics last night as the Elections come up and I felt overwhelmed with it all. I figured I couldn't be the only one, so I thought I'd mention it here. I took government class in high school and have tried to keep up with politics as much as possible, but sometimes not as much as I'd like. As I try to follow the news I feel like I need a refresher course or maybe I never learned as much as I should have in high school. I only had one government class for one semester, I think kids should have a lot more education on our government than that because it's frickin' complicated! Sometimes it all confuses the hell out of me! I understand the basic structure of our government and all that, but sometimes all the political BS that goes on just makes it difficult for me to follow politics, which maybe is the point of all that BS. It's more the political maneuvering that gets me confused, it makes it harder for me to see the truth and to understand what is really going on with our government. I was reading some of the issues that will be on the ballot and for some of the issues it's just impossible to understand what I'm voting for or against without some sort of interpretation written (and even that can be biased). It makes me feel dense and ignorant. Beyond that, I know there are the people who blindly follow a certain party and vote for their party only, and I understand why people are inclined to do this. It's a lot of work and effort to research the candidates and decided if you support them, you tend to trust your party to choose the best candidate. Yes, it's partly laziness, but also I wonder if it really is as confusing and overwhelming to the general populace as it is to me. I don't really want to be a party follower per se, though I am obviously closer to one side than the other, but I would like to feel more educated on the issues and candidates which I feel is hard with all the bashing each other campaigns that are out there right now. I don't learn anything about the actual candidate in the campaign commercials, only what the opposing candidate did wrong. While I don't believe at all the Kerry was bashing our troops with his "botched jokes", just the fact that his was once again bashing Bush makes me lose respect for him. Stop bashing and start telling me why you're a better option. There's criticizing a political opponents policies or approaches, but then there's just below the belt bashing by calling someone uneducated and lazy, which is basically what Kerry called Bush. Grow the fuck up. Everyone in politics could use a little growing up. I mean, they're supposed to be solving our nation's problems and all they can do is bash each other. Are we in elementary school here?

I, as many do, of course hate our politics. It's dirty and shady without a doubt and has lost much of what it was meant to be. Many things dismay me, from the blatant use of fear to control people to the lack of separation of church and state. I feel that many people end up washing their hands of politics because of the distaste it leaves in their mouths, but I think this is a mistake. It's clear to me that apathy in the people is what has led to much of the debacle in Washington. When people stop paying attention, that's when the government can start taking advantage of its people. So despite the fact that it is perhaps harder than ever to keep up with politics because of the over-information and the lack of any objectivity in the majority of the information, I will still trudge forward. It's gotten to the point where I skim headlines on politics because there are so many and when I read the content often it's so laced with biased I can't stand it.

I'm wondering what do you do to keep up on politics and stay educated? What non-biased (or as non-biased as possible) sources do you read/watch/listen to in order to stay in the know with politics and what's going on in the world? I'm sick of the strongly biased stations, etc. Where do you go for some Good Reporting? I'm so sick of sifting through all the political bullshit, I just need a No BS Zone for my information. Does one exist anymore?


Mas said...

mai wen, if you don't understand the American political/electoral system, what chance have us non-Americans got! It seems frightfully complicated to me.

Do you watch the Lehrer Newshour on PBS? Listen to NPR? I used to watch the Lehrer Newshour back in the day in 1994-95 when I was living in San Francisco, when it was still the McNeill Lehrer Newshour, and I thought it was pretty good: detailed reporting and analysis.

If you are chasing perspectives beyond the American POV, the (English) Guardian newspaper website is pretty good: mildly left.

And I'm not defending Kerry here, but think of how negative the Bush campaign was towards him in 04: told downright lies about his time in Vietnam, as far as I could tell.

Organised politics breaks my heart on a regular basis. A good thing it's not the only way to work for positive change in the world.

mai wen said...

I have not seen the Lehrer Newshour, I'll have to TIVO it and check it out! I'm also happy to find that NPR is on Sirius - I just got Sirius about a month or so ago and hadn't thought to look for it. Hopefully there are some good shows on for my way home and to work. I've checked out Guardian's Culture Vulture but not their political news as much, I definitely will. Thanks so much for the reccomendation!

I swear, I'm probably more ignorant than you and other non-Americans! At least I feel like it. As pathetic as this sounds, since I've graudated college it's odd not being spoon-fed information all the time. It was so easy to get information on the world without actually going out and getting it yourself in college. Everyone was always talking about politics and shoving the information in your face. Now that I'm actually trying to find it on my own, it's so overwhelming and it's diificult for me to sort through it all. As sad as I Know this is, for a while right after I graduated, I got most of my news from the Daily Show! I felt that it was one of the more honest news at the time, even though it was "fake" news. The Daily Show was ironically one of the only media that was openly questioning the President before anybody else was.

I totally agree with you, I think Bush was one of the most despicable when it comes to opponent bashing. I'm just sick of it in general and I do lose respect for a candidate when they do so. If you're so good then prove it by talking about how you'll help the country, not by convincing us the other guy's worse then you! It's like they're playing they, I'm the better option card when they should be playing I'm the best option card.

Organized politics is tough and I'm torn because going into the non-profit sector I know that the best way to make a Huge difference is to set up in Washington and lobby and push the goverment for support, laws, etc. that support your cause. I think it's very important to do this but I'm not sure if that's what I want to do when I go into non-profit. I know I don't have to if I don't want to, but I also want to stand up for survivors of child abuse and changing the laws to protect them is one the most effective ways of standing up for them, though, of course, not the Only way. Hopefully in graduate school I'll figure out how I can make the biggest impact and let's hope it's not too close to politics!!!

Thanks so much for your comments and reccomendations, I'll let you know how Lehrer, NPR and Guardian work out for me!! I'm excited since I haven't checked any of them out yet.

Anonymous said...

I know that Jon Stewart makes fun of his own show, the "The Daily Show" is where I go

mai wen said...

I know, I love The Daily Show!

Anonymous said...

I have to say that Lehrer is a prime example of how the mighty have fallen. The biggest problem facing political reporting in the United States today is the phenomenon of "working the refs" practiced by right wing media critics and politicians. Ostensibly capable journalists have been so thoroughly browbeaten by the "liberal media" label that they now bend over backwards to attack the left and coddle the right. Lehrer is now among the worst. Independent media studies show a preponderance of left-attacking stories in recent years, and a preponderance of guests from the right.

Combine the "working the refs" phenomenon with the 24-hour newsfotainment cycle created by cable news channels, which push "news" stories with ratings power over genuine journalism, and there is no longer actual journalism taking place in television. Right wing spin gets fed into the machine and churned out as news, usually beaten to death before it dies. Ted Turner, I love ya, buddy, but your CNN killed television journalism.

So-called balance in journalism has become a cover for a failure to investigate. Rampant corruption throughout the current Congress and administration is "balanced" by, "well, Democrats probably do it too" asides in every story.

Where do I go for news? Honestly, the Daily Show, supposedly "fake", is probably more accurate than anything else on television. Beyond that, we're kinda screwed now. Alleged journalists are now more concerned with ratings or with access than with actual investigation or, by extension, their own professional integrity. Concern trolls among supposed media watchdogs focus on irrelevancies whenever journalists get called on their bullshit.

Frankly, I think the best report about American politics can be found almost anywhere, except America itself. Go Guardian.

mai wen said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has lost faith in our media and journalism. Thank you Bill for putting it so eloquently and explaining many aspects of the situation that I was partly grasping but not fully. I absolutely agree with everything you said. I guess I'll have to stick with the Daily Show and foreign news for now until our media becomes more balanced. Somehow I feel like our media has become afraid since 9/11 to be accused of being "un-American" for questioning our government. Nothing's more un-American then being bullied and attacked for expressing your opinion and questioning the government.

Lisa R-S said...

I share Bill's sentiment about journalism today. Especially television journalism which I simply refuse to watch. I will once in awhile catch the Daily show. To get the low down on issues and candidates especially on the local level, I go to the local paper which usually has a supplement listing all the candidates and explains the long winded issues fairly well. The paper can be biased as well but since you are a smart lady and an avid reader, I think you will be able to filter out the noise. I will be so glad when the negative ads stop. But to effect change, you have to vote. So don't be discouraged, go out and let your voice be heard.

mai wen said...

Ha, I'll have to check out my local papers, in my journalism class my teacher was very critical of local papers so I always assumed they were crap and tossed them. Guess I should have checked it out myself! Thanks for the suggestion!

For sure I'll be voting, you know this. :)~


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