Sunday, October 13, 2013

THYME Magazine Special Shutdown Issue III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XIX

Taking the Narrative Back

Blogger Bill Evans Writes in a piece entitled NPR and the Power of Narrative [click to read]:

"Most of the government is shut down.” So we repeatedly hear from mainstream news outlets like National Public Radio (NPR), as they continue to hammer the narrative that American wellbeing and the interests of the common person are threatened by a small group of selfish “Tea Party extremists” who have seized control of the Republican Party in order to subvert the Constitution and representative democracy.

Of course, the reality is that the facts don’t support this narrative. According to informed estimates, 83 percent of the government continues to operate. And this, in turn, explains why lots of Americans don’t seem particularly worried, despite mainstream media efforts to portray the situation as apocalyptic or worse."

Dr. Evans continues: "Moreover, the Republican Party is, in fact, a splintered and messy conglomeration of main-street business interests, neo-cons, libertarians, cultural conservatives, religious conservatives, and yes, Tea Party types. And for the record, despite the whining of the current President, in this instance the government is working exactly as the Founding Fathers envisioned."

Dr. Evans goes on to point out that a body of citizens who possess little knowledge of how our government was designed to work look to the narrative as they form their opinions and make choices. He who controls the narrative controls the discussion. Using the example of the Matthew Shepard murder in 1998, Dr. Evans cites NPR host Rachel Martin's interview with author Stephen Jimenez about his book: The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard (Steerforth, 2014).While the narrative surrounding the murder was that it was undoubtedly a "hate crime," Jimenez' own investigation proved otherwise. Jimenez is a gay man himself, but his honest investigation and NPR's airing of the interview are laudible.

Still, the narrative of the "hate crime" became the driving force behind President Clinton's push for the subsequent Hate Crimes Legislation. Even as Jimenez, who admits wrestling with this confrontation of the truth, determined that the truth was what really mattered.

To be perfectly honest, all of us resort to the narrative. I recently considered a purported Bill Cosby quote that underscored MY narrative for inclusion in THYME. There was a problem though, my research pointed to the strong possibility that Cosby didn't say it. The quote was dropped. Another wonderful story hit my desk about NASA scientists "discovering" a "missing day," thus corroborating Scriptural accounts. The problem here was that there was no reference to any actual paper or research.

Truth matters. Sadly Mr. Jimenez is a rare force in journalism. Many in the mainstream media will continue to reinforce the narrative that "the government is shut down," but how many of them will consider the plight of those outside their narrative: "So the next time you hear NPR journalists talking about how “most of the government is shut down” (when it’s not) don’t be surprised. And the next time you notice NPR and the rest of the mainstream media studiously ignoring the people whose health insurance costs are skyrocketing because of the now ironically named Affordable Care Act, and at the same time paying no attention to part-time workers whose hours are being cut or who are losing their jobs due to the quite predictable impact of Obama Care (as anybody would have known if they had bothered to read the bill), don’t be surprised."

Taking Back the Narrative

Conservatives OUTSIDE the political process, ironically, are masters of the narrative  on their home court. (If you are reading this, you probably are Conservative or Libertarian; or one of my colleagues just being nice). Creating beautiful publications like American Conservative [click to read] and City Journal [click to read], we are great at telling a more complete, more truthful story. The problem is who we're NOT reaching.

If anything, the current government shutdown offers us a great opportunity. Our friends and family who are furloughed government workers have time on their hands... dare I suggest we give them some THYME? As self-serving as that may be, it behooves us to attempt at every turn to create provocative presentations of beauty and truth and share them. Hopefully we can insert solid dialogue and reason into the narrative.

No comments: