November 7, 2008

The Media & Today's Patriotism

by Sarah Filley

After what seemed like the never-ending story of a fight for the presidency; the United States will soon have a new administration. During election, my network of choice was CNN. After a quick and painless vote count, floured with mostly ignored commentary by the likes of Campbell Brown, Anderson Cooper, and, of course, Wolf Blitzer, I found myself saying to a friend, “Oh my lord, I love America!” and instantly I wondered, why have I never said this before election night. I attribute this in part to my upbringing in a nearly anti-right wing, raging liberal town where “Fuck the government,” and “Shit I better move to Canada,” are chants that were heard far too often throughout the past eight years. But I also think that for me personally, the media have altered my sense of patriotism.

Watching the news has instilled in me a resolute uncertainty about my country. There are too many conspiracies, too many plots, and overall too many analysts with frightening things to say about our leaders to always feel a sense of confidence or trust. News outlets exist to bring to light the little known secrets of the influential men and women of America. In February 2008, The New York Times falsely accused Sen. John McCain of having an affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Skepticism arose through the media’s coverage of Barack Obama’s connection with William Ayers and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The media took a comment made by now Vice President-elect Joe Biden and implied it had racially insensitive connotations, potentially stirring up trouble. Investigative journalism wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the mistakes and discrepancies made throughout history.

The definition of patriotism has changed drastically with the emergence of the media. Since Thomas Paine incited revolutionary sentiment in 1776, the media have flourished by presenting the American people with the kind of information that makes it possible to lose faith. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not in favor of living in a cloud of ignorance. Having the power and right to question our authorities and be made aware of what’s going on at the national level is part of what makes living in America so great. But since the media began uncovering certain inconvenient truths about our government, there are fewer and fewer people who can, without doubt, say that they have full faith and trust in our nation and its leaders. So during this week, after history was made and a beautiful example of the democratic process was displayed to the world, I would like to take a chance to profess my love for this country. By next week there will be more scandals. Something new will arise in the media that might scare us or cause us to doubt. But in this pause for celebration, I will remember that I do have faith in my country. And despite the fervent scares that the media have maxed in on, I know it is possible to be informed as well as patriotic. I am proud, and always have been, to be an American.

(The photo of CNN Center in Atlanta, GA is by tanjila via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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