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20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4 NOUM ……. y but not Narrow Pick up your FREE copy at over 200 locations in Austin & Houston. Forfurtherinforrnationcall 512.476.0576 or 713.521.5822 ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512-453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip NORMAN SOLOMON et’s face it: both major parties depend on a high degree of collusion with national news mediaand vice versa. The mutual sniping that goes on is more synergy than anything else. The politicians and journalists need each other; their shows must go on. Inside the San Diego convention center, the press gallery provided a clear view of the superb choreography. All over the hall, eyes tilted to the giant screens. And reality didn’t have a floor pass. In fact, authenticity did not intrude on the TV movie known as the 1996 Republican National Convention. Again and again, the lavish facades and careful rhetoric filled the almighty screens on behalf of the illusion-promoters. ‘ _ Even the most genuine human emotions were grist for the propaganda mill. Nancy Reagan spoke movingly about “the long goodbye” of Alzheimer’s diseasebut she did so in a speech that was marbled with bedrock partisan schlock. Even that was not enough for the convention’s choreographers, who piled on more soft-lens footage of the former First Couple in happier times. It was fitting that the initial big media bounce of the convention came from the speech by Colin Powella man who became a national hero as a result of the Gulf War. His current stature owes much to the refusal of the TV networks to convey the human suffering inflicted by that war. At the podium in San Diego, the retired general denounced “violence” and lauded the sacredness of “families.” Naturally, no network pundit was willing to mention that Powell had overseen the decimation of many Iraqi families when his career was capped by. the Gulf War’s massive carnage. While delegates and journalists dispersed from the convention each night, in the hours between dusk and midnight, other Americans gathered a dozen blocks from the lavish spectacle. Not ready for prime timenow or everthey rolled out thin blankets on sidewalks in San Diego’s warehouse district and went to sleep. For the politicians scaling new towers of babble, the destitute of San Diegoand throughout the country and beyondare unimportant. That’s politics. But journalism should be a higher calling than imitation of the priorities of the powerful. At convention time, the usual patterns of media politics intensify. Partisan struggles, more than ever, resemble the battle for market share that pits Coke against Pepsi. Yet, in politics, while some commercials are paid for, others are provided gratis in the form of de facto propaganda often called “news coverage.” Many people imagine that journalists are a rather cynical bunch. But, whatever they may say in private, most reporters are routinely deferential to the conventional wisdom on the job. In San Diego, few seemed interested in departing from their colleagues on the crowded media trail. A shortage of independence in journalism can have dire consequences. When the media focus excludes some people, then theyand the human realities of their livesare rendered invisible. That invisibility makes it easier for us to assume that some people don’t matter. Out of sight, they remain out of the public mind. Ignored by politicians and media, the wretched of the Earth cannot even tug at our consciences unless we go out of our way to consider their plights. So, if you visit San Diego in a few months, or a few years, and take an evening stroll several blocks east of the downtown area, the chances are good that you’ll find people on the same sidewalks where I saw themlaying out their blan kets and going to sleep on cement as matter-of-factly as most of us brush our teeth and go to bed. But, the truth is, you’d hardly need to travel to San Diego to see impoverished people whose lives of quiet desperation get little notice from news media. Many of our communities are suffering from extreme gaps between the comfortable and the powerless, the wealthy and the poor. The selective coverage of what has just occurred in San Diego is a distant mirror of problems closer to home. Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News. AUGUST 30, 1996 Conventional Unreality Soon after the Republican convention began, CNN was rating the speeches by how much prime time they had snagged on the big three TV networks. That says a lot about the media echo chamber that has surrounded the political process in America.