car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

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I know the world isn’t fair,but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?

Gore Vidal’s column over on Truthdig yesterday brought back some feelings of resentment that had faded into the background over the course of the week (I’m in the midst of fall semester finals).

I don’t agree with Mr. Vidal on the particular cause of Rep. Kucinich’s exclusion,however. Please consider his assertion reproduced below:

Elements of right-wingism are keeping his voice from being heard,even though there are many millions of us (Kucinich is ahead of both Biden and Dodd in the national polls) out here who like to hear his voice. He is in the great tradition of the original People’s Party of the 1880s;he is in the tradition of George Washington and of Thomas Jefferson,and to silence him with a bunch of political hacks who have made such a mess of our political system,pretending these were the only voices who could talk as presidential candidates …is it because of their campaign budgets?

Now,I know,as all of you know,that people can come in with millions of dollars,like Romney and so on,and can buy time in Iowa and in the North Pole or wherever it is they are running. They can buy it,but to get an honest member of Congress speaking out for the people of the country is a great and rare thing.

What Mr. Vidal is asserting here is quite a bit of a stretch,at least in terms of the exact particulars on which he chooses to focus. He has erroneously jumped to the conclusion that a vast right-wing conspiracy is excluding Rep. Kucinich from the Iowa debates in the face of a much more simple conclusion –that the mainstream media is not interested in devoting time to candidates which do not boost or maintain their ratings.

Every television minute or inch of column spent discussing the candidacies of Dennis Kucinich,Mike Gravel,Ron Paul,or yes,even Alan Keyes is a minute or inch that a competitor can use to steal the media market of Americans grown fat and stupid on the Hollywood headliner political mentality. For the sake of ratings (and thus,income derived from the selling of advertisements) the script must not deviate from the Safe Six of the Democratic side (Clinton,Obama,Edwards,Richardson,Dodd,and Biden in more or less that order of “importance”) or the Foolproof Five of the Republicans (Huckabee,Romney,Giuliani,McCain,and Thompson in a somewhat more fluid order).

A much more egregious and recent example of this media glass ceiling for non-headliner candidates is the near-complete media silence after Ron Paul’s record-breaking fundraising event on the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party this week. Dr. Paul,who pulled in a haul of over $6 million dollars in 24 hours last Sunday,was virtually ignored by the mainstream media the following day.

I had stayed up until 3am studying for a Russian exam,and throughout the night had monitored Dr. Paul’s attempt to break John Kerry’s record. Before I went to bed I had learned from Politico.com that Dr. Paul had been successful,but had I not looked specifically for that information I would have gone completely unaware of both the attempt and the ultimate breaking of the record.

No major news source which I checked via Google News –including MSNBC,CNN,FOX News,and the major American newspapers –gave a headline to Ron Paul. Some mentioned it well down in small print on their pages devoted to Politics,while others made no mention of it at all. Curious,I watched cable news that night to see if Ron Paul would make the headlines he might have missed due to the late hour and the nature of press-time deadlines (which would be a weak excuse at best in the age of 24-hour digital news via the Internet). Again,Ron Paul was stonewalled.

When I saw that Ron Paul was tied with Alan Keyes in the most recent Gallup poll of GOP candidates,it seemed pretty obvious to me that part of the reason for this is because the media won’t give any exposure to Dr. Paul’s campaign. When Ron Paul does seem to get media exposure,it comes from statements like this,or a calculated-to-be-damaging report like this,both of which are amplified by the media to antagonize the voting public and deprive them of any proper context in which to place Dr. Paul. In short,it’s yellow journalism designed to mislead and shape the conversation in a way most appeasing to advertisers.

Reexamine Mr. Vidal’s words for a moment,with minor changes made for an interesting effect:

Elements of media bias are keeping his voice from being heard,even though there are many millions of us (Dr. Paul is ahead of Fred Thompson in New Hampshire and tied with Rudy Giuliani in Iowa) out here who like to hear his voice. He is in the great tradition of the original People’s Party of the 1880s;he is in the tradition of George Washington and of Thomas Jefferson,and to silence him with a bunch of political hacks who have made such a mess of our political system,pretending these were the only voices who could talk as presidential candidates …is it because of their campaign budgets?

Now,I know,as all of you know,that people can come in with millions of dollars,like Romney and so on,and can buy time in Iowa and in the North Pole or wherever it is they are running. They can buy it,but to get an honest member of Congress speaking out for the people of the country is a great and rare thing.

Given Mr. Vidal’s reasoning,one would expect Ron Paul’s $18 million in fourth-quarter earnings to be speaking louder than words. Sadly,Mr. Vidal is mistaken.

This is not to imply that Dennis Kucinich has not been wronged by the media. Last month Rep. Kucinich was running fourth in a Democratic primary poll and made a joint appearance with his wife on CBS’Early Show. In the course of the brief interview the ever-vapid Hannah Storm went to great lengths to repeatedly establish the existence of Mrs. Kucinich’s tongue ring. Given the demographic likely to watch The Early Show,I’d say this qualifies as a similar attempt to shift coverage from a candidate’s success or stance on issues to a topic which is calculated to be misleading or damaging. The exclusion of Rep. Kucinich from the Iowa Democratic debate is just a step further down the road.

While Mr. Vidal’s resort to what I hope was hyperbole at the end of his piece was unfortunate,I was very much heartened to see at least one prominent American speak out against the exclusion of Dennis Kucinich from the most recent Democratic debate in Iowa. It is unfortunate Mr. Vidal hadn’t been so moved earlier this year when NBC excluded Sen. Mike Gravel from a nationally televised Democratic debate. It seems from this that Mr. Vidal,while more than willing to bemoan the exclusion of his pet candidate,is willing to look the other way when it comes to the media’s silencing of those individuals with whom he disagrees. That,too,should qualify as a form of yellow journalism.

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