Viewpoint from Britain: the impotent media in the US elections 0

As I write this on the ultimate day of campaigning, the mainstream media has already decided the outcome of the US elections. Obama is everywhere – he is deemed a harbinger of hope and change to not just many Americans, but to a large proportion of the global populace as well. One young Palestinian in the Gaza strip was cold calling American households last week, persuading them to vote for this deity.
It is an old story, especially in the United States, that the media fails to correctly predict the election performance of conservative politicians. It is fair to say that the majority of the American media is fairly liberal; the noticeable exception is Fox News. These left wing media outlets spout ideas and opinions that are often adopted as ideals by society, An important and misleading consequence of the political position of the mainstream news services is the fallacious polls that the same media and the public love to exhibit and evaluate respectively. There is one theory proposed by the political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, called the ‘Spiral of Silence’, which is the idea that one is less likely to publicly support an idea that is carried by the minority for fear of isolation and requital from society. As a result, a particular motion is likely to receive less and less public support, thus exposing said idea to fewer and fewer people.
In England, one phenomenon of unexpected success is called the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. This term was coined in the 1990s by British opinion polling companies in response to the 1992 General Election. Despite the Conservative Party trailing 1% behind Labour, the former won the election with a lead of about 7.6%.
This discrepancy can be explained by a number of theories. The first is the fact I just previously mentioned – that the greater representation of the political left by the media gives rise to false hope and perhaps even can provide a dangerous sense of complacency to left wing politicians. The second theory is what I believe to be the narcissistic individual’s public need for society’s deference, an egotistical façade that hides the individual’s private whim – thus exists a covert growth of idiosyncratic sentiments. If a government at the end of its second or third term is unpopular with the mainstream left, then while publicly the virtuous middle class may denounce the ‘failing government’, those same ‘principled’ men and women will rush to vote for them when the polls open – perhaps because of a private admiration or quiet understanding of the abhorrent government’s policies, or perhaps just because of a lack of alternative acceptable politicians standing.
The third possibility for the inconsistency between predictions and realities is a word that has governed the concept of equality in the last hundred years: race. It seems apparent to me that race is a defining factor in the human consciousness, and however much equality is sought, there is a part of each single soul that craves identity. For example, in a completely different context, most Muslims will support a Palestinian state whereas more Jews will support the Jewish Israeli state. The concept of identity is prevalent in the quest for independent opinion, and for this reason Obama has bastions of support among some communities but not others. A recent YouGov poll found that Obama has an 82% lead among black voters, whereas Obama is trailing by 5% among white voters. In some states Obama appears to have almost 97% of the black vote.
Obama has a huge amount of support from the black vote, but this is not enough to win the election alone. Obama’s election team knows this and that is why they have campaigned so heavily amongst the white middle class America. These efforts appear to have worked and the polls are in Obama’s favour. Many newspaper columnists are speaking of Obama’s victory as if there need be no contest at all.
This could be a huge mistake. There is a phenomenon in elections, similar to the ‘Shy Tory Factor’, called the ‘Bradley Factor’. This is named after Tom Bradley, the candidate for the governor of California election. Despite enjoying a position far ahead in the polls, Bradley lost to his Republican rival. It was attributed to white voters privately voting differently from their public declaration to pollsters. This theory is similar to my previously mentioned suggestions for the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. There are many other examples of black politicians experiencing the effect of the Bradley factor: Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson, David Dinkins and Wilson Goode. In fact David Duke, the Nazi sympathizer and KKK member, experienced an inverted Bradley factor when he received a much larger proportion of the votes than polls had shown. The same happens in Britain: the BNP regularly does much better than expected, and no one is ever more surprised than the liberal media.
Juxtaposed against the Bradley factor is a suggested reverse Bradley factor and a concept known as the ‘Fishtown effect’. Douglas Wilder, the first black state governor has suggested that many Republicans will secretly vote for Obama while publicly declaring otherwise. The ‘Fishtown Effect’ however is the suggestion that usually bigoted white voters will vote for a black candidate because of economic concerns; in the present financial climate this theory could have a significant influence on the election.
But is the Bradley factor truly an example of cold, calculated racism? I would suggest that it is not the wish of one race to dismiss another, but rather a quest for identity and fraternalism. The uncertainties and confusion results from the furious denunciations from the media, who vilify individual figures, cultures and ideas. And regardless of the results of Tuesday’s election, sections of the World’s media, from Bangkok to San Francisco, will condemn the discriminatory minds of the American public. From the hoi polloi to the richest mansion dwellers, the inhabitants will be branded racists. If Obama loses the election, the voters will be accused of anachronistic racism; if Obama wins, some will be accused of lacking integrity and letting fear of inequality dictate their vote. Stanford University has worked hard to be ahead of the game. Christian Science Monitor: “Stanford University suggests that racial prejudice is eroding as much as 6 percentage points from Senator Obama’s support. One commentator has even suggested that white racism would be the only explanation for an Obama loss this November.”
And the true villain is actually the media – their shameless selective reporting, their composition of supercilious ideals and their lack of objectivity have irrevocably destroyed the continuation of a nonpartisan candid and free press. Although keen to malign other Democrats and the Republicans, the media has been hesitant to report news and rumours about Obama: from the incongruous gap between the discovery and the media report of the villainy of Reverend Wright’s speeches, to the bizarre association with Bill Ayers, and now the LA Times is overrun with requests that they persistently ignore, to release videotape they possess of Obama with a suspected PLO terrorist named Rashid Khalidi. Why would a very large newspaper not release a sensational news story so pivotal as this?
So do I believe the associations with Obama uncovered by the right and McCain’s camp are as serious as some would paint them? – Not really. I do believe though, that the burnt soul of the unscrupulously bias media is poisoning the democracy of the Western countries. I believe the same media is to blame for the misinformation and intolerance in politics that breeds bountifully during times of wanton ideals. However, I do know there is always independent thought, which leaves the opinionated editors and columnists shouting at deaf ears. And certainly the hurly burly media world can no longer explain a truth or encourage an honest purpose; it is an impotent force, multiplying in presence but with a fading influence; useless in a world of disobedient readers.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 3, 2008

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