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Presidential candidate blasts press for short-changing U.S. citizens

October 30th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and current Justice Party presidential candidate, told a USU audience Friday about the polarizing, increasingly criminal nature of two-party politics in the United States, and the failure of news media to shine light on these conditions.

“The journalism profession provides the information that forms the bedrock of our democratic system,” Anderson said, as he got at the heart of his topic of discussion — the decline of journalistic integrity relative to political reportage.

In introducing Anderson’s talk, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Media in an Age of Mass Deception,” for the Journalism & Communication Department’s Morris Media & Society Lecture Series, department head Ted Pease noted the timeliness of the subject.

“It is surely an apt topic in the midst of any presidential campaign, and maybe especially this one,” Pease told the audience of about 200 students, faculty, staff and local residents at the USU Eccles Conference Center.

See The Utah Statesman’s story.

Anderson came to Logan, his home town, fresh off a four-way debate on foreign policy in Chicago among third-party candidates, moderated by CNN’s Larry King.

Friday’s lecture covered topics from the current presidential election campaign, which Anderson says marginalized the American people because of its focus on only two mainstream “establishment” candidates, and included a PowerPoint presentation he had delivered to editors for MediaNews Group, which includes The Salt Lake Tribune and The Denver Post

He said rather than being received in disgust, as he’d expected, many of the newspaper editors lined up to speak with him about their worries for the future of print media, as well as their “embarrassment” at how the press increasingly fail to uphold their social responsibilities and ethical code “to seek truth and report it.”

“They were embarrassed at what their profession has done to this country,” Anderson said. “The news media in this country [have] responsibility unlike that of those in any institution. Reporters are entrusted with finding the information that political leaders, businesses and individuals use to make informed, autonomous decisions.”

Anderson has vociferously maintained an openly liberal platform, both as mayor and also now as one of a handful of fed-up third-party presidential candidates who believe they speak for millions of Americans who desire something more of their leaders than the two-party domination of politics and government in America.

He said he left the Democratic Party in disgust a few years ago when he realized President Barack Obama failed to back up promises of hope, transparency and change as the nation’s leader — who, instead, has become just as focused on self-preservation and driven by special interests as those who came before him. “The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper,” Anderson said in quitting the Democratic Party in 2011. “It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party.”

Anderson, co-founder of the Justice Party, announcing his candidacy for president in 2011.

He expanded on that theme Friday, placing much of the blame on the news media. “Voters are disempowered to the extent they are not provided truthful, unbiased information,” he said. “Our democracy depends upon an informed citizenry and our democracy is denigrated — truly debased — whenever we’re manipulated or ill-informed through false, biased or incomplete information.”

During the current period of citizen disgust with its national leadership, Anderson pointed out the growing gap between the nation’s most affluent people and its poorest individuals — the richest 1 percent own 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, he said. Meanwhile, he said, the American watchdog press has gone to sleep.

“We’re seeing such a massive transformation, in this country now, of journalism — the absolute disregard for the most essential human civil rights, and domestically with regard to our economy,” Anderson said. “Again, [there has] never [been] as great a disparity between a very small, elite wealthy class and the rest of us in terms of both income and wealth.”

Anderson didn’t hold back criticizing both Bush administrations, as well as the Reagan and Obama administrations, calling them criminal, manipulative and accusing them of colluding with major news outlets to doctor press representations to cover up their egregious acts.

Highlighting President Ronald Reagan’s use of public relations and the media to sway public opinion in a way that would be advantageous to his administrative strategies, Anderson quoted former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, who said the Post had been “kinder to President Reagan than any president [he] could remember.”

“Reagan’s affability and telegenic personality, combined with a ruthless public relations machine, created media coverage that was disproportionately sympathetic to Reagan’s view,” Anderson said, quoting Bradlee.

Anderson also urged audience members read Mark Hertsgaard’s 1988 book, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency, which he said illustrates how the press helped Reagan “get away with murder” by misleading the American people and compromising and manipulating American news media.

“Today as the federal government has grown larger and more powerful than ever, journalistic integrity and fidelity and truth are more difficult to maintain,” Anderson said. “This is especially true considering the Bush and Obama administrations’ fixations on national security and their lack of openness.”

More whistleblowers have been prosecuted for espionage, in relation to exposing secrets, crimes and other governmental improprieties, during the Obama administration than all other administrations combined, Anderson said. This is a direct renege on the promise Obama made in 2008 to ensure more transparency in federal government.

As mayor of Salt Lake, Anderson attracted national attention as a champion of various causes—including climate protection, immigration policy, criminal justice reform, LGBT rights, and an end to the “war on drugs.” He was an early and outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq.

Many in the audience clustered around Anderson after his talk, some taking photos with the Justice Party candidate. Later, on Facebook, Logan resident Erin Brewer said she’s been inspired by Anderson’s talk, and was torn about her vote. “I am still waffling, and thinking Rocky might get my vote,” she posted. “He made a compelling case for change.”

Michelle Bogdan, director of USU’s Access and Diversity Center, attended the event and said she appreciates that the JCOM department’s Morris Lecture organizers are not afraid to invite “diverse points of view” into public discourse at the university.

“Oftentimes we get so polarized at either one part or the other, and there are options out there that people can consider,” Bogdan said. “And this is hopefully an opportunity for people to become a little bit more open to those varying degrees of political opinion and change.”

JCOM’s Pease said this is the object of the lecture series. “We are very excited to have Rocky Anderson come to campus to give us an insider’s look at the presidential campaign, especially from the perspective of someone who is dependent on the press corps to get his message out,” he said.

“Rocky is no stranger to the challenges of working with the press, from his eight years as mayor of Salt Lake City, and as founder of High Road for Human Rights. For journalists and journalism students—and for citizens—understanding press performance from the newsmaker’s perspective is important.”

USU student and conference coordinator Joy Brisighella, who attended the Anderson event with her daughter, posted photos on Facebook. “I’ve had a shameless case of hero worship over Rocky Anderson since before the last general election,” she said. “There was an inspirational quality that stirred my activist soul — to the point of being evangelical.”

This was the second event in the JCOM Department’s Morris Media & Society Lecture Series, which is designed to bring media experts “from both sides of the microphone” to USU to expand students’ understanding of the role of the mass media in their lives.

TP

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