FCM Hamburger Mary’s Fundraiser

As many of you know, FCM is fundraising for a local journalism project, tentatively titled The Kansas City Investigators.  This is a nonprofit journalism project, which will be staffed mainly by volunteers, along with a paid editor-in-chief and three paid interns.  The goal is to promote ethical and transparent government.

To this end, FCM is holding a bingo fundraiser at Hamburger Marys’ Midtown KCMO location (3700 Broadway Blvd #110) on 8/21 from 4-6 PM.  Prizes will include handmade jewelry, KKFI and FCM t-shirts, and gift cards to local businesses.  Come for a hilarious night of drag queens, bingo competition, drinks, burgers, exciting prizes, and extraordinary fun!  RSVP on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/493290592005801

NOTE: This event will be very risqué.  A drag-queen runs the bingo game, and they will use foul language and make suggestive jokes.  Additionally, the names of the bingo games are very suggestive.  If that doesn’t sound fun to you, we suggest that you support FCM by donating on our website, here: https://ourfcm.org/donate.

Questions? Contact Richard Thompson at (913)209-4114 or richthompson209@gmail.com.

Propaganda and Buzz Words

“. . . And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean”

“When the Ship Come In” – Bob Dylan

One of the discussions that the Friends of Community Media have been having is the nature of the words used by people over the media who have an agenda to influence public opinion. Often these words are Orwellian propaganda which mean the opposite of what they really mean.

Richard Thompson came up with a list of some of these terms which were discussed in a recent FCM Zoom meeting on 7/11/20 and Spencer Graves and Greg Swartz had some addditions/suggestion. Below are some of the words:

Conservative Terms and What They Really Mean

Government as an evil outside entity – [The Nanny State] I cannot come up with a single word to describe this but right wingers will generally portray government as some sort of outside evil force. Of course, democracy can be contrary to the interests of the wealthy since the majority are not wealthy. So it is in the interests of the wealthy to convey the message that all government is evil. In truth, if the majority actually voted in their own interests, government should be their friend. Government should be looked at as the way people work together for the benefit of all society. The neoliberal free market advocates, of course, believe that the only function of government should be to protect their property interests, so they look at anything other than that as evil. We need to fight this concept with appropriate news reporting. (Greg Swartz)

Family Values – “Family values” sounds good and is difficult to argue against. When one argues against family values, it sounds like they are arguing against the family. Does anyone want to argue that families are bad? Of course not. That’s why socially conservative groups love to use it. Googling the terms “fox news” and “family values” returns over 285,000 results. What it really is code for, though, in many situations, is discrimination against families that are nontraditional, especially families that are headed by LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people. It also can be a code word for disparaging LGBTQ people. (Richard Thompson).

Religious Freedom and Religious Liberty – Religious freedom and religious liberty harken back to our nation’s history, when people came here to avoid religious persecution, which makes it sound good. What it often really means, though, is that people have the freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people and women. The state of Tennessee used “religious freedom” as a way to sell a law to state legislators and the public that allowed counselors to refuse to work with LGBTQ clients (Margolin www.msnbc.org). The law passed with public support, even though every major psychological organization in the state opposed it (Margolin www.msnbc.org). “Religious freedom” and “Religious liberty” can also be used as a tool to deny women access to necessary health services, including contraceptives (Blumberg www.huffpost.com). In this sense, it casts religious people as being discriminated against and having their freedoms oppressed by being forced to provide LGBTQ people with psychological care and to provide health insurance for women that want contraceptive services. It casts LGBTQ persons, women, and progressives as the oppressor. (Richard Thompson).

Less/Smaller Government – Conservatives love to use the term “less government,” which many people say they want, even those that may benefit from more government, as Greg noted above. It is my opinion that this is because of our nation’s history. Our Founding Fathers wanted less government taxation from the British, and Southern Whites wanted less government to interfere with their slavery and Jim Crow laws. In recent years, “less government” is really a very clever code word for cutting social programs, like Medicare, Social Security, and SNAP (Food Stamps). Many people say they support “less government” and “less government spending” (“Public Opinion…” www.theharrispoll.com), while paradoxically supporting funding for the social programs I have mentioned (“New Harris Poll…” www.prnewswire.com). (Richard Thompson)

Free Markets -The term “free market” sounds good because it is associated with one of America’s most important ideas: freedom (Lakoff Whose Freedom? p. 1). However, what it really means is that big businesses have freedom from government regulation. On the surface, this may sound like a good thing, but without government regulation into the market, big business has the freedom to pollute our air and water and violate the rights of their workers. A pure free market would also give big business the freedom to discriminate against people based on race/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and all other protected classes. (Richard Thompson)

Tax Relief – Conservatives use the term “tax relief” because it implies that taxes are a burden and “afflict” working families (Lakoff Don’t Think of an Elephant p. 3). Anyone who cuts taxes is a hero for relieving the burden on working families and anyone who raises taxes is a villain. The problem with this is that without taxes, we do not have money to invest in popular social programs like Medicare, Social Security, education, and SNAP. Also, the tax relief that conservatives tout often goes to benefit big business and wealthy individuals instead of the working class (Silva www.policygenius.com). (Richard Thompson)

Right-to-Work – Conservatives love to use the phrase “right to work” because it makes it sound like unions and liberals are preventing people from working. Everyone supports jobs and having access to them. What right-to-work laws do, in effect, is destroy the bargaining power of unions and, in turn, allow big businesses to abuse their workers. (Richard Thompson)

Death Tax – The so called death tax is not really a tax on someone dying but a tax on the transfer of wealth in someone’s will and only applies to very wealthy individuals (Bell and Orem www.nerdwallet.com). The problem with calling it a death tax is that people think “Oh no! When Grandma and Grandpa die, we’re going to get taxed!” Unless they have an estate worth $11.58 million or more, the federal government isn’t going to do that (Bell and Orem www.nerdwallet.com). (Richard Thompson)

Terms Liberals Should Use More

Medicare for All – Most Americans support Medicare (“New Harris Poll…” www.prnewswire.com). And, because Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others have associated this popular program with universal health care, by calling it “Medicare for All,” most Americans now support that too (Villarreal www.newsweek.com). The popularity of Medicare should be continued to invoked over using the phrases “single-payer” or “socialized medicine” because so many Americans think that these terms mean they’ll have to give up their freedom to choose their own doctor, etc. (Richard Thompson)

Medicare for All that Want It – If you’re a little less bold, and would prefer a public option to single payer health care, this is the phrase to use. Again, it associates the popular program Medicare with expanded government health coverage. This phrase also implies more choices, and it could even be argued, more competition. Competition and choices are a good thing in our society. (Richard Thompson)

Health Care for All/Universal Health Care – Don’t like Medicare? Use the terms, health care for all and universal health care. The phrases “for all” and “universal” imply that everyone has a right to care, which will help win support on this issue. (Richard Thompson).

Invest/Investments – Instead of talking about raising taxes, something that so many Americans are strongly against, focus on the social programs you want to “invest” in. Investments, in our society, are a good thing because you typically get a return on them. In his first term as President, Barack Obama said he wanted to “invest” in programs like education (McCabe www.nea.org). In the case of education, Obama was selling this investment as one that would have the return of reducing poverty. He called education “the best anti-poverty program” (McCabe www.nea.org.). (Richard Thompson)

Protections – Whether it’s a discussion about the environment, workers’ rights, or minority rights, protection is the word to use. Do not use the term government regulation, as the right has made this a dirty term and associated it with what they describe as big government. A Gallup poll confirms that a plurality of Americans think there is too much government regulation into industry (“Government” news.gallup.com). Instead, talk about protecting our environment for future generations, protecting minorities from discrimination, and protecting workers’ right to unionize, etc. (Richard Thompson)

Fairness – If you’re looking for a word that helps minorities and women, fairness is the word to use. It is unfair that LGBTQ people can be fired in many states, just for being LGBTQ (Moreau www.nbcnews.com). It is also unfair that women still make less money than men for doing the same work (“Pay Equity and Discrimination.” www.iwpr.org). If you empathize with these groups, you want them to be treated fairly. (Richard Thompson)

Discrimination – Fight back against those that say firing someone for being LGBTQ should be legal by using the term discrimination. A counselor refusing to work with LGBTQ clients, or someone losing their job for being LGBTQ is not an issue of “religious freedom.” It’s one of discrimiantion. If people look at those things as an issue of discrimination, they are more likely to support the liberal side. (Richard Thompson)

Liberty/Freedom – DO NOT let the right have a monopoly on America’s most important terms: liberty and freedom. Fight back by talking about the freedom to choose for women, the freedom from discrimination for women and minorities, freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and freedom to question the government during times of war. (Richard Thompson)

Family Planning/Reproductive Rights/Right to Choose – Most people who favor abortion rights already use the term right to choose, a rare example of the left using language to their advantage. Choices are a good thing, in our society, so this term does help win broader support for abortion rights. Family planning and reproductive rights are other important terms because they are broader than just “abortion rights,” and include popular items, like contraceptives. A Gallup poll confirms that most Americans have supported the use of contraceptives for quite some time (“Public Attitudes About Birth Control” ropercenter.cornell.edu). (Richard Thompson)

Freedom to Marry – If you’re talking about same-sex marriage, this is the language to use. Freedom to marry implies that everyone should be able to marry whomever they want, regardless of gender and employs America’s most important idea: freedom (Lakoff Whose Freedom p. 1). It casts conservatives as oppressing the freedoms of same-sex couples and same-sex couples as the ones being discrimianted against and treated unfairly. (Richard Thompson)

An attempt at humor:
De-facto platform of the Republican Party:

  1. There are only two things that government can do right: (1) Provide for the common defense, and (2) Identify and reward job creators.

Both are wrong:

1.1. Does the US have one substantive enemy on the international stage other than ones we have earned by supporting state terror in opposition to liberty and justice for all? [See Wikiversity, “Winning the War on Terror” for documentation that the military is the least effective means of reducing terrorism, and more Americans die in an average year drowning in bathtubs, hot tubs and spas than have succumbed to terrorism, except for the single year 2001. Thus, we are shredding the US Bill of Rights to protect us from a threat that is less of a problem than bathtubs.]

1.2. The increase in income equality since 1970 suggests that the many things the government has done over those years to identify and reward “job creators” has not benefited the poor and middle class. (A plot of the evolution of income inequality shows that the average annual income in the US, Gross Domestic Product per capita adjusted for inflation, doubled in the 40 years between 1973 and 2013 but the median family income increased only 23%.)

  1. Regarding government regulation, Republicans in Congress seem to say that:
    2.1. The only penalty for killing your customers should be the loss of repeat business.
    2.2. The only penalty for killing your employees should be increased difficulty in hiring and training.
    2.3. The only penalty for killing your neighbors should be the loss of repeat business and increased difficulty in hiring and training. (Spencer Graves)

Works Cited

Bell, Kay and Tina Orem. “Estate Tax: Definition, Tax Rates, and Who Pays in 2020.” Nerd Wallet. www.nerdwallet.com. 2020.

Blumberg, Antonia. “How Contraception Became a ‘Religious Liberty’ Issue.” The Huffington Post. www.huffpost.com. 2017.

“Government.” Gallup. news.gallup.com. 2019
Lakoff, George. Whose Freedom?. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2006.
Lakoff, George. Don’t Think of an Elephant. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, VT. (2004).
Margolin, Emma. “Tennessee Enacts ‘Religious Freedom’ Measure.” MSNBC. www.msnbc.org. 2016.

McCabe, Cynthia. “Obama Calls for $4 Billion in New Education Spending.” National Education Association (2019). http://www.nea.org/home/37894.htm

Moreau, Julie. “Can You be Fired for Being Gay? Answer Depends Largely on Where You Live.” NBC News. 2019. www.nbcnews.com.

“New Harris Poll Underlines Political Difficulty of Cutting Social Services.” Cision PR Newswire. www.prnewswire.com. 2011.

“Pay Equity and Discrimination.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research. www.iwpr.org. 2020.

“Public Attitudes About Birth Control.” The Roper Center. ropercenter.cornell.edu. 2015.

“Public Opinion on 15 Controversial and Divisive Issues.” The Harris Poll. www.theharrispoll.com. 2011.

Silva, Derek. “Who Benefited Most from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?” Policy Genius. www.policygenius.com. 2020.

Villarreal, Daniel. “69 Percent of Americans Want Medicare for All…” Newsweek. www.newsweek.com. 2020.



The Entertainment Media’s Role in Acceptance of LGBTQ People

The entertainment media’s representation of LGBTQ people has changed greatly over the years, which may be a reason why young adults are so much more supportive of LGBTQ rights than past generations.

When the baby-boomer generation was growing up, there were little to no positive representations of LGBTQ people in the entertainment media.  My father, who grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s said that there were almost no LGBTQ characters in the entertainment media that he could recall. And, support for same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup poll, is much lower among his age group to this day than among Generation X people, Millennial Generation people, and the newest generation of young people (McCarthy news.gallup.com).  That is likely because people who grew up in my father’s era only knew about what they heard about LGBTQ people from places outside the media-churches, etc.-which would have been largely negative representations.  So, one can see that the lack of positive representation of LGBTQ people in the media in the 1960s and early 1970s is probably a cause of less support for LGBTQ persons among baby-boomers.

Things started changing in the entertainment media’s representation of homosexuality in the late 1970s.  The landmark show, Soap, portrayed an openly gay character, named Jodie, on TV.  While Jodie did conform to lots of gay stereotypes-interest in fashion, effeminate nature, etc,-and was often simply a source of humor for the audience’s amusement-he still had depth.  There is one episode where Jodie comes out to his brother and insists that if his brother doesn’t still love him as an openly gay man, he never did.  Even with the stereotypes, Soap presented an openly gay character with depth that would challenge the minds of many viewers on their stereotypes about the shallowness of gay people and provide a relatively positive image of an openly gay person.  Still, one can see, since the character was a rare representation of an LGBTQ person at the time, Generation Xers that grew up with this image will be more supportive of LGBTQ persons than baby boomers (McCarthy news.gallup.com), but less supportive than Millennials and the newest generation of young people (McCarthy news.gallup.com).

In the 1990s and 2000s, when Millennials were growing up, the number of LGBTQ persons in the media increased and their representations were more positive.  Shows like Will and Grace, Queer Eye, and Ellen portrayed LGBTQ persons as amiable, successful, contributing in positive ways to society, and having depth in their relationships.  Indeed, a recent Pepperdine study identified this increase in positive representations of LGBTQ persons in the media is correlated with increased “support” for LGBTQ persons (Gonta, et al p. 22).  One might imagine that the depth of their relationships is especially key here as it fights the misconception that LGBTQ relationships are just about sex and LGBTQ persons don’t really love each other.  Additionally, exposure LGBTQ persons in the media has helped normalize images of LGBTQ persons holding hands, kissing, and hugging in public, amongst young adults.  One can see where with these “positive representations” of LGBTQ persons in the media, millennials would be more supportive of LGBTQ persons than previous generations (Gonta, et al p. 22).

However, for all of their positive attributes, many LGBTQ characters in the 1990s and 2000s still conformed to stereotypes.  Although popular and groundbreaking, Ellen, Queer Eye, and Will and Grace all portrayed stereotypes of LGBTQ persons on their shows.  Jack on Will and Grace was shallow and sexually promiscuous, and the men on Queer Eye were largely still very effeminate and conformed to stereotypes such as the gay male interest in fashion.  This conformation to stereotypes leads to misconceptions about the LGBTQ community at large: it makes people think that LGBTQ persons are more sexually promiscuous, shallow, and do not conform to gender norms.  One can see that the misconceptions these stereotypical representations create could easily be a reason why Millennials are not as supportive of LGBTQ persons as the newest generation (Gonta, et al p. 22).

Recent representations of LGBTQ persons in the entertainment media have been much more positive than their ancestors.  A documentary about transgender people, called Born to Be, was recently showed by the Human Rights Campaign.  The documentary compassionately showed the struggles of transgender people, identified the obstacles they face, and portrayed them not as radical fringe people, but as normal Americans.  This positive representation of the trans community helps clear up misconceptions about trans people and makes seeing them in public more normal.  The newest generation’s early exposure to positive representations in the media of LGBTQ persons could be why the youngest Americans are the most supportive of LGBTQ persons (Gonta et al, p. 22).

Representations of LGBTQ persons in entertainment media have evolved in a positive direction over the years, and this is probably a major reason why young people are so much more supportive of LGBTQ persons than past generations.

Works Cited

Gonta, et al. “Changing Media and Changing Minds: Media Exposure and Viewer Attitudes                     Toward Homosexuality.” Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research. Vol. 5, P. 21     -34.

McCarthy, Justin. “US Support for Gay Marriage Stable, at 63%.” Gallup. News.gallup.com 2019.

Battle in Media of Liberty and Freedom

In the past, liberals had control over the terms “liberty” and “freedom.”  Now, there is a war going on between liberals and conservatives in the media over the uses of the terms “liberty” and “freedom.”  The group that is better able to control the usage of those important American ideas will have an easier time getting legislation passed and electing candidates.

In past decades, the terms “liberty” and “freedom” have been used in the media to justify liberal causes.  George Lakoff, author of Whose Freedom?, and numerous other books on political discourse, writes that, in past decades, freedom meant “expanding civil rights, voting rights, tolerance” and numerous other things (Lakoff p. 73).  Using terms such as “freedom to vote” was a useful way for liberals to invoke the term freedom to justify legislation, such as the Voting Rights Act, because it helps associate such legislation with what Lakoff calls “our most important idea” (Lakoff p. 1).  Freedom, in those days, primarily helped liberal candidates and causes in this way.

One example of how conservatives are redefining freedom in the media to their advantage is in the use of the terms religious liberty and religious freedom to rally support for their candidates.  In a radio appearance last year, Karen and Charlotte Pence, wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, respectively, used the terms “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” five times in less than three minutes to justify her husband’s anti-LGBTQ views (“Karen Pence…” video.foxnews.com).  She also invoked America’s history of people coming to this country for religious liberty and freedom to defend her husband against the attacks of openly-gay Mayor Pete Buttigeig (“Karen Pence…” video.foxnews.com).  This use of language may rally sympathy amongst social moderates for Pence because it casts him as someone who is having his freedoms oppressed by Mayor Pete Buttigeig, our current court system, and liberal legislation.  In this sense, it makes Pence seem like the victim of discrimination, not Buttigeig.  It also helps rally support for the Trump/Pence ticket by invoking our nation’s history, founding fathers, and shared values.  In this way, Karen and Charlotte Pence helped their husband’s re-election cause by redefining freedom.

The terms religious liberty and religious freedom are also being used to push socially conservative legislation.  In 2016, Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN), and the conservative Tennessee state legislature, used the term “religious freedom” in discussions with the media to justify legislation that would allow counselors and therapists to deny care to anyone who disagreed with their “sincerely held beliefs” (Margolin www.msnbc.com).  The legislation passed and was signed into law, despite the fact that the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Tennessee Counseling Association, American Counseling Association, and American Association for Suicide Prevention all opposed it on the grounds that it would allow therapists to discriminate against LGBTQ persons, especially in rural areas where there are few counseling/therapy options available (Margolin www.msnbc.com).  If this legislation had been framed as a way to discriminate against LGBTQ people by its creators, it would have been much less popular, and likely would not have passed.  However, by using the term “religious freedom,” the governor and state legislature made it sound as though anti-LGBTQ counselors were the victims of discrimination and oppression, not LGBTQ people.  This created sympathy.  Thus, by using the term “religious freedom,” Tennessee got a strongly anti-LGBTQ bill piece of legislation passed.

Liberals have also used the terms “liberty” and “freedom” with some success in the battle over same-sex marriage.  LGBTQ rights groups have been using the term “freedom to marry” for quite some time to establish support for same-sex marriage (“Winning the Freedom to Marry Nationwide” www.freedomtomarry.org).  The idea behind this term is that everyone should have the right to marry who they love, regardless of their gender. This creates sympathy for LGBTQ persons by casting them as the ones who are having their freedom taken away by gay-marriage bans, not conservatives.  Using this term in press releases and other forms of communication through the media helped liberal groups establish more support for same-sex marriage by associating America’s most important idea with their cause. 

Liberals and conservatives are battling over the usage of the terms “liberty” and “freedom” in the media.  The group that is able to better harness the power of these important ideas will be able to get their candidates elected and rally support for their legislative policies.

Works Cited

“Karen Pence…” Fox News. Video.foxnews.com. 2019.

Lakoff, George.  Whose Freedom?. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2006.

Margolin, Emma. “Tennessee Enacts ‘Religious Freedom’ Measure.” MSNBC. www.msnbc.org

“Winning the Freedom to Marry Nationwide.” Freedom to Marry. 2015.   www.freedomtomarry.org.

Media Distorts the Differences Between Biden and Sanders

The media has exaggerated the positional differences between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and over-emphasized the few issues where they slightly disagree, which may make it difficult for Biden to get Sanders’ supporters out to vote.

One example of media coverage emphasizing the differences between Biden and Sanders is by exaggerating the difference between the two on issues like health care.  Sanders, famously, supports Medicare for All, while Biden supports a public option (“Bernie Sanders” www.ontheissues.org and “Joe Biden” www.ontheissues.org).  And, in debate after debate, we have seen the media moderators question Biden and Sanders about their difference in health care (“Issues: Medicare for All” www.factcheck.org).  Additionally, it’s common knowledge that there have been many articles in political publications about the difference.  Yet, what these articles seem to ignore is that Biden and Sanders’ difference on this issue is small.  They both want to make sure everyone has health coverage and they both favor additional government intervention into healthcare to achieve that goal.  The difference-that Sanders wants to eliminate private health insurance and Biden doesn’t-is not nearly as large as the difference between Sanders and Donald Trump or even Biden and Trump-who favors less government intervention into health care than even Obamacare allows.  This exaggeration of Biden and Sanders’ disagreement makes them seem like exact opposites on the issue, when in fact they are much closer to each other than they are to Trump.

Another way in which the media has emphasized the differences between Biden and Sanders is by over-focusing on the issues where they disagree or have a different past record.  For example, many people on the left have criticized Biden for saying-more than a decade ago-that he would not taking cutting social security off the table in order to negotiate with Republicans in Congress (Farley www.factcheck.org).  This includes New York Times columnist Elizabeth Bruenig, who wrote on Twitter that she would never be Biden’s running mate “because I personally feel that offering to slash social security to get Republicans to agree to whatever grand bargain is a bad idea, and I do not wish to advance that sort of politics” (Yglesias www.vox.com). Columnists like Bruenig continually emphasize this difference between Biden and Sanders, along with their small health care disagreement, yet they seem to ignore the social issues, where Biden and Sanders largely agree.  Biden and Sanders are both pro-gun control, support LGBTQ rights, and have voted for liberal judges for the Supreme Court (“Joe Biden” www.ontheissues.org and “Bernie Sanders” www.ontheissues.org), yet we almost never hear the media emphasize that.  This focus on the few issues where Biden and Sanders disagree creates the inaccurate perception that they are on the opposite side of every issue.

This media coverage is creating a situation in which many Sanders’ supporters think Biden is further to the right of Sanders than he actually is.  I ran into a Sanders supporter on primary day in Missouri who said that Biden “has the opposite position of Bernie Sanders on every issue.”  This is obviously an exaggeration and misconception. However, this woman was convinced that because Biden didn’t support Medicare for All-something that has been emphasized by many media outlets-he was “as bad as any Republican.” My concern is that this woman’s misconceptions may make her not get out to vote for Biden in the general election, and America will be stuck with four more years of Trump.

Some of Sanders’ supporters are also under the impression that Biden’s current platform is more conservative than it actually is. The same woman that I met on primary day said that she thought that Biden wanted to “cut social security” as part of his current platform.  Again, this statement is false.  Biden’s current platform does not include anything about cutting social security, nor has he suggested it would be a good idea in the debates (Farley www.factcheck.org).  In fact, Biden’s current plan is to expand the program (Farley www.factcheck.org).  However, because the media has emphasized Biden’s past suggestion that cutting social security was on the table to negotiate with Republicans in Congress, this woman was convinced that he currently wanted to do that.  One could see where this would create a problem with convincing her to support Biden in the general election over the Green Party candidate, or over not voting, and again, we may be stuck with four more years of Trump, something that is unacceptable.

Progressive media coverage needs to start emphasizing Joe Biden’s full record and platform, and not just the issues on which he is different than Bernie Sanders, in order to paint a more accurate picture of him.  They also need to show that Biden is much closer to Sanders than to Trump on the issues in which they disagree than they have suggested in the past.  We all must get out and vote to defeat Trump.  We must get a competent person into the White House.  The time to unite is now.

Works Cited

“Bernie Sanders.” 2020. www.ontheissues.org.

Farley, Robert. “Biden Vs. Sanders on Social Security and Medicare.” Fact Check. 2020.   www.factcheck.org.

“Joe Biden.” 2020. www.ontheissues.org.

“Issues: Medicare for All.” Fact Check. 2020. www.factcheck.org

Yglesias, Matthew. “Joe Biden Will Have a Very Hard Time Winning Over the Berniesphere.”     Vox. 2020. www.vox.com

The Evolving Media Coverage of Conversion Therapy

So many times, when we cover the nature of the media, we are stuck pointing out how investigative media coverage has gone downhill and become more conservative over time.  Whether it’s Faux News, or even more of the mainstream media resisting true investigative journalism, the coverage is disappointing.

            There is one place where media coverage has improved over time: coverage of conversion therapy.  Coverage has gone from a rather inaccurate representation of conversion therapy to a much more accurate picture.

            In the 1980s and 1990s, media coverage of conversion therapy was very skewed towards conversion therapists.  Despite the fact that he had been booted from the American Psychology Association in 1983 for intentionally distorting his statistics, Paul Cameron, a pro-conversion therapist continued to make regular appearances on media talk shows and was quoted in newspapers as an expert on the matter (Besen p. 111).  For example, he was added as an expert on the subject and made five public appearances on Geraldo during this time (p 114).  Granted, Geraldo did sometimes give LGBT individuals equal time on his show (p. 114), but the fact that he put an unlicensed therapist on the television and did not include the majority of experts, who thought that homosexuality was unlikely to change, made it sound like the issue pitted LGBTQ rights activists against the experts.  This is a false representation, as the American Psychology Association had not considered homosexuality to be a disorder since the early 1970s and shows skewed coverage in favor of conversion therapy at that time.

            In the early 2000s, media coverage of conversion therapy improved, but it was still represented somewhat inaccurately.  At that time, CNN had Richard Cohen, a major leader in the conversion therapy movement, on their TV show about the issue (“Ex-Gay Therapist on CNN” www.youtube.com), despite the fact that Cohen was not psychologist or psychiatrist and, in fact, was not even a licensed counselor (Besen p. 164).  They did not even note this on their show, so the unsuspecting viewer might be thinking that he was an actual expert and that many authorities still believed homosexuality is a disorder that can be cured.  Granted, CNN did give a leader in the American Psychological Association, with a PhD, some time on the show, but he fact that the show treated them as equals makes it sound like the academic community is divided 50-50 on whether or not conversion therapy works.  In fact, The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Association had all opposed conversion therapy for quite some time, so this coverage was misleading at best.

            Now, news articles about conversion therapy seem to present a more accurate picture.  A recent article from NBC News about Virginia’s ban on Conversion Therapy discusses that it is a “harmful” practice that can lead to “depression” and “suicide” (Sopelsa www.nbcnews.com).  The article also interviews a survivor of conversion therapy that describes the specific damage that happened to them psychologically and notes that the major mental health organizations are all against the practices (Sopelsa www.nbcnews.com).  The interview with the survivor personalizes the experience for the reader, and the fact that the article notes that conversion therapy is discredited by major mental health organizations makes people that are uneducated realize that it is largely ineffective and has negative effects.  These are all things that the media should have been saying about conversion therapy for a long time, but the fact that they are finally doing it is good for the public’s education about the issue and will help prevent thousands of people, including many minors, from being forced into this form of discredited therapy by their families and religious leaders.

            Coverage of conversion therapy for LGBTQ people has improved greatly over the years in accuracy and has become more personal now that it is featuring the true experts on the subject and interviewing those that have survived the ex-gay movement.  Perhaps this is one area where investigative journalism has actually improved over the years.

Works Cited

Besen, Wayne.  Anything But Straight. Harrington Park Press: New York, 2003.

“Ex-Gay Therapist on CNN.” CNN. 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJXWFZz0Qjo&t=11s

Sopelsa, Brooke. “Virginia Becomes 20th State to Ban Conversion Therapy for Minors.” NBC News. 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/virginia-becomes-20th-state-ban-conversion-therapy-minors-n1148421.

Selling Progressive Values in the Media

News media outlets, political candidates, and both the Democratic and Republican Parties are using conservative language metaphors in the media, and it is hurting the ability of progressives to pass their legislation and win political races.

What metaphors am I speaking of?  George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant and numerous other books on political discourse, likes to use the example of “tax relief” (Lakoff p. 3).  The word relief implies that working families are “afflicted” by taxes and anyone who cuts taxes is a “hero,” (even if those cuts are mostly going to wealthy people), while anyone who raises them is a “villain,” placing a burden on working families.  So, if one thinks about the metaphor “tax relief,” one can see why it favors fiscally-conservative policies.

So, of course, right-wing media outlets love to use phrases like tax relief.  Fox News’ most recent article on President Trump’s response to the coronavirus touts part of it as a “tax relief” plan (O’Reilly www.foxnews.com).  And, in doing so, they are helping reinforce the idea that taxes are bad.

Now, no one would be surprised by President Trump, the Republican Party, and Fox News using phrases like tax relief.  The problem is that progressive candidates, the Democratic Party, and progressive news media outlets are using these phrases too.  Earlier this month, the New York Times used the phrase “tax relief” in the headline of an article about coronavirus (“On Virus Response…” www.nytimes.com).  Additionally, when I worked in New Hampshire in 2006, the Democratic Party was bragging about how New Hampshire had the lowest tax burden in the nation, and trying to take credit for that.  In using this phrase, these media outlets and the Democratic Party are ruining their chances to send money to education and health care because they are making taxes-something that is vital to invest in these programs-sound awful.

All of this underscores the important point: progressives must start using language and metaphors more to their advantage because it will help them win elections and get their agenda passed by selling their values to the American people in a way that makes linguistic sense.

The question is how?  Conservatives have been drilling phrases like tax relief, small government, family values, and free markets into our heads for decades, and we all instantly know what they mean.  Additionally, they are hard to argue against.  Arguing against family values makes it sound like you are arguing against the family unit, or saying that families are bad. Does anyone in their right mind want to say families are bad?  Of course not.  That’s why conservative candidates and media outlets love to use that metaphor.  Googling the phrase “Fox News” + “family values” returns over 5 million results.  Additionally, key Republican congress people, such as freshman Senator Joni Ernst (IA), who is up for re-election, use it frequently in dialogue with the press (Hall caffeinatedthoughts.com).

So, how can progressive candidates, media outlets and the Democratic Party use language to their advantage?

I can think of one example of a candidate who started doing that: Barack Obama.  As far back as his first term of as a President, Obama would say he wanted to use tax dollars to “invest” in education, and progressive education groups followed suit by using the same language (McCabe www.nea.org).  Investments, in our society, are a good thing because you get a return on them.  Thus, Obama, was making spending on education a good thing.

In this case, the investment Obama was selling to the American people was going to deliver a return in the form of a pro-active way to avoid future poverty, and, of course, having an educated work force.  In fact, he called it “the best anti-poverty program around” (McCabe www.nea.org).  By using this language, Barack Obama helped convince the American people that tax dollars can be a good thing, if properly used.

More recently, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have tried to use the phrase “medicare for all” to win over support for their health care policies (Scott www.vox.com). Medicare is a popular program, so emphasizing it over say “socialized medicine” does make sense. Additionally, Pete Buttigeig has made effective use of language by saying he supports “Medicare for all that want it” (Scott www.vox.com). This way of talking about health care implies more choices, and choices are a good thing in our society. My hope is that Joe Biden will follow suit and use the language the Buttigeig is using.

I’m curious to see what kind of responses people have to Lakoff’s ideas about language.  What are some ways we could use language to sell progressive values to the American people?

Works Cited

Hall, Jacob. “Iowa Senate Candidate Profile: Q & A with Joni Ernst.” Caffeinated Thoughts (2020). https://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2014/05/iowa-u-s-senate-candidate-profile-qa-joni-ernst/

Lakoff, George.  Don’t Think of an Elephant. Chelsea Green (2004).

McCabe, Cynthia. “Obama Calls for $4 Billion in New Education Spending.” National Education Association (2019). http://www.nea.org/home/37894.htm

“On Virus Respnose…” The New York Times (2020). https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/03/10/us/politics/ap-us-virus-outbreakwashington.html

Scott, Dylan. “Pete Buttigeig’s Medicare for All Who Want It Plan Explained.” Vox (2019). https://www.vox.com/2019/9/19/20872881/pete-buttigieg-2020-medicare-for-all.