by Rosemary and Walter Brasch
A Facebook video of a woman wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing almost hysterically in her car has drawn more than 140 million hits from numerous sources in the past two weeks.
Candace Payne, a 37-year-old mother of two from Grand Prairie, Texas, has had to hire a publicist to help field the numerous calls from the media—and, perhaps, wookies who want to have an affair.
Why so many people have been intrigued by the three-minute video may be because people just need to laugh in a year in which political hate and the media have come together to annoy anyone with a temperature. It may also be because the people realize that the media have been abysmal purveyors of information, and the political conventions and what passes as TV news have become circuses of mediocrity.
The presidential primaries are filled with candidates attacking each other, with lies and half-truths fogging the political debate, all of which are faithfully recorded, published and aired but seldom evaluated and challenged by the media.
The mass media, especially television, have devolved from in-depth reporting to entertainment news, erroneously believing that’s what the public wants and needs. And so, TV leads off with whoever makes the most outrageous statements, with the opposition countering with even more outrageous statements. The media focus upon Trump’s outrageous statements and the protests by Hispanics and liberals at his rallies; for the Democrats, the media focus upon Hillary Clinton’s scandals, all of which are trumped-up exaggerations without facts.
Only in the past few months has Sen. Bernie Sanders received any acknowledgement from the media. Still far behind in media coverage are Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian party), Bob Whitaker (American Freedom party), Darrell Castle (Constitution party), Gloria LaRiva (Party of Socialism and Liberalism), Jim Hedges (Prohibition party), Mimi Soltysik (Socialist party), and dozens of other candidates who have ideas that America should at least have a chance to hear, but are placed into a black hole by the media, which believe they have no chance to win the presidency.
Because the media have become the megaphones for outrageous behavior rather than communicators of information, Donald Trump has spent very little for print or electronic media advertising. As long as Trump puts on a big enough dog-and-pony show, he gets coverage, forcing his rivals to spend ad dollars to match the free TV time he wallows in. But, after Trump and Clinton finally secure their parties’ nominations, their campaigns, the Republican and Democratic National committees, and dozens of Super PACs, all proclaiming they want to cut governmental programs and spending, by the November 8 general election will have spent more than $2 billion on political advertising in the mass media.
The pretend-journalists who cover the campaign lean to insipid “objectivity,” afraid to challenge the candidates and terrified of delving into substantive issues. Many just don’t have the intellectual depth to know enough to challenge the lies and half-truths, so they lob easy questions at the candidates and then believe that by tossing bland questions to the public, they are getting “the pulse of the people” who fulfill the media expectations by responding with equally useless answers—“Uh, like, I kinda like him [or her] because he [or she] says what I believe and what I, y’know, want to hear.”
For most reporters and their editors, there is the fear that if they get too intellectual, if they challenge the candidates, those candidates will not grant them access while their audience tunes them out, preferring the reality entertainment that now passes as political coverage. It is a reality where a woman in a Chewbacca mask makes more sense than the political candidates and the news media that cover them.
[Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, labor union grievance officer, and instructor of labor studies at Penn State and UMass. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, professor emeritus from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and author of 20 books; his latest one is Fracking America.]