Pop Culture Under a Microscope

File Under “I Told You So”

If I were religious, I might consider it a sign.

In a time where facts are scarce and all “truths” considered equal, it’s like someone is sending a message to settle our debates once and for all.

It happened with the financial crisis.  For years, conservatives and economists (though not all) argued that the “market” polices itself and its interests are ours, so government intervention in the form of regulations was not just unnecessary but ostensibly dangerous.  So despite all the warnings that, like any boom, ours would eventually bust, legislators kept deregulating and banks risked more and more–until, suddenly, we were standing at the edge of an economic abyss.  It’s almost as though Someone wanted to say, “You want unfettered markets?  Let me show you just how well that works.”

And as if to remind us that nothing’s been done since the last mining disaster, an explosion in West Virginia killed 25 coal miners earlier this month.  Massey Energy’s CEO has been calling mine safety regulation “as silly as global warming”; now he’s got the worst industry disaster in 25 years on his hands.

The latest sign-from-above relates to the safety of offshore drilling.  During the ’08 elections, Repubs were feverishly chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill,” and even Obama resisted taking an oppositional stance, instead preferring to pursue “every option” for achieving energy independence, even as we seek ways to reduce our overall need.  As recently as this month, he announced his support for offshore drilling, touting it as safe and repeating the old yarn that none of the spills during Katrina came from the oil rigs themselves.

And then, resoundingly, we have an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.  If you’ve been watching the right news, this would seem to answer any lingering questions about offshore drilling’s ultra-safe “technological advancements,” since the blowout preventer failed, and the site began leaking 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico per day.  [Update: According to Wikipedia, this estimate was eventually revised to around ten times this number.]  Even after the initial explosion, which also killed 11 workers, the backup mechanisms for controlling such a spill have failed, and BP has now turned to the government to help it get control of the ongoing disaster.  The spill, which originated 50 miles from shore, is in danger of reaching the coast as early as tonight, and officials have begun attempts to set it on fire to burn off as much oil as possible before it reaches the Mississippi delta.

Depending what news you’re watching, though, you might think these debates are alive and well.  The Repubs have been trying to block financial reform all week, repeating the same old argument that the market is its own best boss; and even after these events with the Deepwater, we hear that Obama’s support for offshore drilling is unchanged.  (I shudder to imagine what Sarah Palin’s take on it will be.)

How is it that, in the face of unmistakeably contrary evidence, certain positions still persist in our country?  I’ll tell you how: it has everything to do with who’s controlling the narrative.  Who frames our discussions, and how?  I’m convinced that Americans aren’t indifferent to facts or willingly uninformed–it’s just that the side of truth is losing the battle of presentation.  The average American still has faith in the basic integrity of broadcast “information”–or they’re so jaded, they don’t think any source more trustworthy than another.  They’re not stupid (or evil), but they’re easily manipulated by those willing to brazenly make up “truths.”  If there’s such convincing “evidence” to support what you’d rather believe anyway, why take the more difficult stance?

Who out there is working out how to present the Progressive case to the American public?  What’s right doesn’t have a chance if it’s never compellingly conveyed.    It is URGENT that those of us who do value truth learn to get our message across.  We can’t take many more signs from God.

Broder, John M. “Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for the First Time.”  30 March 2010.  <>.  The New York Times.  29 April 2010.

Wonk Room.  “Citing Katrina Myth…”  28 April 2010.  Think Progress.  <>.  29 April 2010.

Wonk Room.  “Conservatives Peddle Hurricane-Spill Lie…”  16 July 2008.   Think Progress.  <>.  29 April 2010.

Robertson, Campbell and Leslie Kaufman.  “Size of Spill in Gulf of Mexico is Larger Than Thought.”  28 April 2010.  The New York Times. <>.  29 April 2010.

NPR Staff.  “Officials Dispatched to Gulf as Spill Worries Grow.”  29 April 2010. <>.

Spetalnick, Matt.  “Obama Unchanged on Offshore Drilling Despite Spill.”  23 April 2010.  Reuters. <  29 April 2010.




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