By Joseph Mitchell
Exclusive | The Crescent Post
October 20, 2011
American political discourse is vibrant and varied, but there are consistent, unchallenged problems with the discussion of certain issues. The New York Times consistently reports on the Israeli-Palestine issue from a position that is minimally, but consistently, pro-Israel. Muslims are regularly and unreasonably associated with terror, and right wing protesters get positive media portrayal that other groups are denied. The media, as it currently exists, is stained with a xenophobic and right-leaning bias.
Networks of internet writers can be the key to creating, and altering, the way that the mainstream media talks about issues. The recent conservative shift in the media is largely a result of the Tea Party–an organization largely rooted in conservative internet writing. Concise, persuasive, and passionate writing can change the discourse. I hope to participate in this movement–and I have a roadmap to success.
How can internet writing create political change? I believe there are three steps that need to be taken.
1. Identify what is wrong with the prevailing discourse.
During Barack Obama’s campaign, he was consistently accused of being a Muslim. Fox News played up the accusations, and the mainstream media gave the story plenty of airtime. People in the center and left responded by writing how baseless the claim was.
That response was flawed because it assumed, without explicitly stating, that being Muslim would somehow have been a bad thing. Even the left-leaning news outlets never questioned this paradigm; they accepted it blindly. Obviously, being a Muslim is a liability in modern American political culture, but this was left unsaid. Left-leaning and centrist media outlets should have done a better job of saying “Obama is not a Muslim, but even if he was, it shouldn’t matter.“
2. Consistently critique the way news is reported.
When journalists or pundits produce commentary that is tinged with xenophobia, it is important to point it out directly. Sports website Fire Joe Morgan did this brilliantly.The idea here is to republish, in whole or in part, mainstream reports with interwoven criticism. Directly criticizing writers challenges them to improve their perspective and writing. It also helps provide the reader with very precise examples of the problems identified in step one: By picking apart an article, good internet writing can transform the mainstream discourse by showing the reader exactly what needs to change.
3. Engage in original reporting of news events.
When news breaks, it’s important to both criticize the mainstream and create an improved narrative. When the media’s reports on the Arab Spring all incorporated some degree of fear of an Islamist renaissance, there was a need for good writing that removed the xenophobia and focused on the liberation of millions. While a few voices have begun this work, many more voices need to be added to the chorus. I hope to join them.
The process of improving public discourse is difficult work, but it is work that needs to be done. The US is the most tolerant and open society in the world due to the hard work done by our predecessors. The work will never be done–race and bias are deeply ingrained–but I want to participate in the effort to make ours a more just society.
Joseph Mitchell is a second-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis.