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Fallacies and Idiocies: Commentary on the Media’s Coverage of Barack Obama and Rev. Wright

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer


ImageAfter Barack Obama's final repudiation of his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, looking back at the mainstream media's craven and willful failure to perform its most basic duties has put me on my knees.

Before I go on, let me stress that I'm only writing for myself here. I don't speak for everyone at CC2K. Our writing team includes a lot of people with a wide array of political views.

So full disclosure: I'm an ardent Obama supporter, but this column doesn't constitute an endorsement of Obama from CC2K, because Crom help us if we were to wield this site's formidable influence in political circles. Elections would become a thing of the past in the wake of our endorsements as the masses would hoist our political favorites over their heads and install them atop gleaming thrones for all time.

OK, I'm kidding. Any regular reader of CC2K would figure out that we're a liberal-leaning site, but this ain't an endorsement, and we're not a political site. We will soon return you to our regularly scheduled lineup of fanboy slobbering over the latest Indiana Jones trailer and heated debate about The Lord of the Rings, but I encourage you to walk with me on this one.

That said, why are the reporters, editors and executives in the mainstream media such assholes? There's a lot to condemn in this Wright fiasco, but one political blogger put it simply: If the media had watchdogged President Bush – or virtually any conservative figure – as intently as they did Obama and his former pastor, there never would have been a war in Iraq.

And that's not all. Not by a longshot. Other writers have covered the media's abominable coverage of the "controversy" surrounding Wright, but I feel like the pundits missed out on two important points – one an informal fallacy, the other a more standard bit of idiocy – so I'll advance them here:

The "get up and storm out" fallacy

Tacit in the ongoing criticism of Obama and his former pastor has been the "get up and storm out" fallacy. Now, I realize that this isn't a formal logical fallacy, but the expectation that Obama should have broken ranks with Wright sooner smacks of a false dilemma – either Obama fully supports Wright and all his views, or Obama should have gotten up and stormed out the first time his pastor said something he disagreed with.

To wit, Clinton said that she would have left her church if her pastor had made the kind of statements Wright has. She said this in reference to Wright's most infamous YouTube moment, his "god damn America" speech. Before Obama's recent full break with the pastor, Wright also said that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own terrorism.

I could very well grandstand here about the importance of free speech, the value of criticizing your country, the utility of inflammatory rhetoric and the reality of "blowback" from foreign countries, but I won't.

Instead, I'll talk about my momma back in Tennessee. Cue a fiddle playing "Orange Blossom Special."

My momma back in Tennessee, she's a Methodist, and she had a church. She liked her preacher a whole lot. I liked him, too. He married my sister. This preacher, he's a good guy.

But the church asked my momma's preacher to move to another church, so he did. My momma got a new preacher. She liked him fine at first … but not for long. This new preacher, he was kind of a jerk. Said a lot of stuff my momma didn't like.

But my momma, she stayed with her church. She had a lot of friends at the church. A lot of them didn't like the new preacher, either, but they stayed because they liked each other, and they wanted to give this new preacher a chance.

Later though – a lot later, months later – my momma left her church. She lost some friends, too. There are a lot of friends from my momma's old church she doesn't see anymore, all because the new preacher was such a jerk he drove her away.

OK, the fiddle can stop playing now. I'm trying to make a point here about a person's relationship with their preacher, pastor, priest , rabbi, imam or whatever – and here I must concede that I'm talking out of my ass, because I'm not a religious person. I casually call myself an atheist, but that perennially vague label speaks to a lack of religious practice in my life.

So while I've never had a relationship with a religious leader, I submit that it's a far more complicated relationship than the pundits, neocon ghouls, Clinton herself and the idiotic members of the media appreciate. To expect Obama to have stormed out of his church as soon as Wright said something (or things) he disagreed with is unreasonable.

And that brings me to my second point, which dovetails with the "get up and storm out" fallacy:

Anti-intellectualism

I'll keep this short: We should be able to consort with people with whom we don't always agree.

Woven into the DNA of the "get up and storm out" fallacy is the decidedly neoconservative intolerance for opposing viewpoints, and it pisses me off.

When you get up and storm out, you end the discussion. When you tell someone to shut up, or when you turn off their microphone or dismiss someone as a crank, you end the discussion, and I for one belong to the school of thought that says that the best remedy for bad speech is more speech, not enforced silence.

Now, in the event that there are any morons out there who want to build straw men and say that I'm arguing that we should listen to any crank, no matter how insane their rantings are, rest assured that I support Obama's decision to formally and finally break with Wright in light of the pastor's grabasstic speaking tour. Obama's departure from Wright's church won't silence Wright.

Hopefully Obama's good speech (and good speeches) will serve to rectify the damage done by the mainstream media not only to his campaign, but also to our national discourse.

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Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.

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