My recent post, in which I outlined a couple of rationales for Ed Markey’s now infamous “present vote,” woke up an audience that I have not heretofore had much opportunity to address; the “talk radio” crowd. Right wing talker Michael Graham featured (his version) of my thoughts on his midday program last Friday.
Mr. Graham was kind enough to invite me on the program to discuss the matter, but a tight schedule forced me to decline. After listening to a podcast of the show later, I can now say with confidence that I dodged a bullet. It turns out that Mr. Graham is a poor man’s Rush Limbaugh and his show is no place for someone with hopes of credibility. His “analysis” of my post was a stark reminder of the uphill battle educators, real journalists, and serious media analysts face in their efforts to encourage thoughtful citizenship and reasonable, evidence-based public debate.
The point of my post was that even the serious media coverage of Markey’s “present” vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of the Syria Resolution failed to take seriously Markey’s stated reasoning, or any reasoning that involved the possibility that the tactic was anything more than a craven “political” act. Ironically, Graham reinforced my point, telling his radio audience that my post was the “only defense of Markey’s vote that [he] could find.” After hearing him slander me and totally misinterpret (and misquote) my arguments, I fear that the failure of any serious media analysts to consider this angle was itself motivated by fear.
I assume that most serious journalists and media analysts don’t mind being targets for political entertainers like Graham, simply because the folks listening to shows like his aren’t part of their “target demographic.” I, too, have the luxury of laughing at Graham’s treatment of my thinking because neither he nor his listeners are constituents of mine, in any sense of the word. But…here we are, still left with the question of why this rightwing shock jock could only find ONE defender of Markey’s vote; ONE effort to explain potentially legitimate rationales for the Senator’s unusual tactical choice in this matter to a public audience.
Is it really a good idea to relegate this angle on the tactics of politicians to pull quotes, or simply airing the verbatim comments of the politicians in question? Does anyone who understands how politics works in the “Information Age” really think that politicians can explain themselves clearly and comprehensively to the public through the mass media?
I think that academics who take seriously their professional obligation to improve the quality of our public conversations and debates, and who (as academics) do not have to appeal to the personal tastes and biases of their audiences in order to pay the bills (so to speak), should be expected to publicize and even advocate for the perspectives that journalists and serious media pundits are unwilling to explore.
I’m more than happy to do it. I’m tickled pink to have been targeted by Mr. Graham. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that any publicity is good publicity. I’m only sad that the guest he did get for Friday’s show, the inimitable Ann Coulter, didn’t comment on me or my post during her segment with Mr. Graham. I could have put that on my resume.;-)