De la Isla: US Presidential Campaign Inaccuracies Will Haunt Us
Jose de la Isla - Hispanic Link News Service
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November 1, 2012
MEXICO CITY — In this presidential campaign, the very narrow scope of issues has led to questions and answers that read like propaganda. Partisan responses contain cliches that land so hard they almost cause welts.
Insightful information and analysis are missing. That's mostly why the dysfunctional lives of movie stars come as a welcome distraction from things that really affect our lives.
Even three very good debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney too often had a sense of unreality. The questions failed to connect, much less provide answers.
It took a British newsmagazine, The Economist, to talk plainly about Romney's hypocrisy in having supported abortion, gun control and a requirement to have everyone buy health insurance, with subsidies. Then he disavowed it all in order to get the Republican Party nomination and the backing of that party's radical right.
The domestic press should be all over such posturing - relentlessly, feverishly, so that the hypocrisies don't turn into permissible lies.
Have we forgotten it was unsubstantiated "facts" that plunged us into war in Iraq and also made us broke?
Politicians will flip-flop. But sloughing off inaccuracies is like trying to make contradictions into truth. (Candy Crowley deserves credit for calling out Romney, in the second debate, when he tried to mischaracterize what Obama said in the White House Rose Garden the day after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in Libya.)
A report on the 4thEstate.net website offers more evidence about how the journalistic mission to encourage public understanding can degrade into nonsense. Its research shows the number of Latino journalists covering the election is abysmally low, even on themes affecting Hispanic communities, even though "race and ethnicity have been incredibly important to the 2012 election," as the report puts it.
The 4thEstate estimates that 93 percent of front-page election stories were by white reporters. Asian Americans wrote 4 percent and blacks 2.1 percent. Non-white Latino reporters wrote just 0.9 percent.
When it came to immigration - a major focus of the debates, along with the economy, social issues and foreign policy - one would think editors would have identified a trove of reporters with bi-national, bicultural insights, i.e. Latinos, to provide some essential context for readers. Instead, 94.8 percent of those stories were written by whites whose journalistic paths and life experiences came from other directions.
Who delivers the news to the people can distort history - on purpose or through innocent ignorance. New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez and Free Press senior adviser Joe Torres drove home the point in their recent book about race and the media, "News for All the People."
Bobby Bridger's book, "Where the Tall Grass Grows," is another example of how public explanation and understanding get compromised. The protagonists used poor reasoning and shallow images of Native Americans in shaping public policy.
On Tuesday, we will go to the polls lacking a better political accounting - for instance, about the federal government's "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation.
Republicans haven't answered how a party can make it a national policy to suppress voter participation. Who is serious about simultaneously addressing global warming and national economic development? Can a nation avoid climate-change consequences when an unprecedented number of counties are on drought watch during growing seasons? What must we do about it?
Who is going to reverse the 40 years of wealth falling up, the way journalist Hedrick Smith describes in his book, "Who Stole the American Dream?"
Who's going to ask the right questions and write the headlines when the rest of us want to read all about it?
Jose de la Isla, author of the forthcoming "Rise of Latino Political Power," writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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