Last weekend President Obama gave a commencement speech at the historically African-American Hampton College in Virginia. But, as has become routine, any utterances of the President are merely new opportunities for the rightist deception machine to misconstrue his remarks. This speech was no exception.
Much of the right-wing media eagerly ignored 95% of Obama’s speech to focus on a short passage that was partly humorous and entirely true. The President told the graduating students that…
>”…you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”
“With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.”
This common sense observation of modern media has stirred up the wingnut faction from one end to the other. Everyone from David Horowitz to the John Birch Society to BigGovernment to RedState, and on and on, set about picking apart this soundbite to accuse Obama of being anti-technology. And to no one’s surprise, Fox News was all over it.
The consensus amongst these psycho-Chicken Littles is that Obama was warning students that all technology is dangerous and evil, and that information is bad. They start by registering shock that the President would assert that not everything on the Internet is true (oh my). Glenn Beck went down this path, staring incredulously into the camera after playing Obama’s remark about the “truth meter.” Beck couldn’t believe what he was hearing. In his response he accused the President of advocating censorship and the banning of information.
Beck: Name the president in the history of America that has said, “information is a…it’s a diversion. It’s distracting. There can be too much information out there. Some information is…we’ve gotta stop it.”
Then Beck said that he has never before heard a president say these things. Well, he hasn’t seen this president say them either. Obama never even implied that any information should be stopped. He simply said that there’s a lot of it and information consumers need to be discriminating. The funny thing is that Beck says the same thing almost every day. Beck is constantly criticizing the media as a purveyor of lies, and warning his disciples to pay close attention so that they don’t get duped. But if Obama says it, he is somehow crossing over into suppression of free speech. Beck even compared it to book burning.
Beck might want to consult Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and a frequent guest on his show. Ablow wrote a column on the Fox News web site that agreed with Obama:
“President Obama has apparently had a moment of epiphany and realized that new media and new technology can cleave young people from the truth and render them addicted to gadgets and entertainment. He said as much – attacking the iPod and iPad – at a speech to graduates of a college in Virginia last week.
The president is doubly correct. First of all, he is right (as I have written a number of times) that the Internet, Facebook and, yes, the new iPad and many other devices can interfere with people becoming wise and knowledgeable, rather than simply deluged with facts. They can also become estranged from real relationships and from themselves as they become obsessed with pretending to be stars on YouTube or worthy of ‘followers’ on Twitter or popular with thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook.”
Of course, Obama didn’t actually “attack” any gadgets. He simply noted that they should be used sensibly. Then, because he is a Fox News contributor, Ablow went on to make some rather predictable criticisms of Obama that had no relevance to the topic before conceding that “None of this discounts Obama’s astute observations.”
It is remarkable how determined Obama’s critics are, that they can find so many straws on which to grasp. And now that they have declared Obama a foe of iPads and other technology, perhaps they will stop accusing him of using technology to thrust decent, patriotic citizens into slavery. That is another of the current falsehoods that the right is spewing with regard to Network Neutrality. And they have just launched a $1.4 million campaign to convince people that giant corporations should be able to decide what you can and cannot access online.
Feel free to visit FreePress.net and help them in their efforts to keep the Internet open, free and independent of the crushing influence of government and business. And don’t forget the iPad burning tonight that will start at 8:00pm in front of Rockefeller Center.