To the Editor:
As we approached the 2002 Election, the pundits commenting on our two parties on many television programs nearly all agreed that the Democrats were in bad shape because they lacked a coherent and convincing program. But Democrats had a program to deal with social security, health care and prescription drug costs, tax relief for the middle class, a viable minimum wage, educational improvements and many other middle class issues that had not been sufficiently addressed by the Republicans.
However, the Democrats could not generate intelligent discussions about their issues because the principal medium of public information, television, devoted most of its air time to generating greater audiences and incomes with stories of crime and violence. Those were of great interest to a public that was converted into a mass of quivering jelly by the events of 9/11. People suddenly realized and were fearful of the fact that two oceans did not protect them from harm from abroad. The government exploited that fear for its future plans, the organization of a vast anti-terror bureaucracy, which, curiously, did not include the CIA or FBI, but would allow the president to reduce the influence of unions and to curtail citizen’s civil rights; these plans were accepted as long as the government promised to defeat terrorism.
When the war talk diminished a couple of weeks before the election, the television media found a substitute in constant coverage of a sniper in the Washington area. He managed to take a few lives and terrorize the entire area. However, fatalities from traffic and other accidents were more likely to happen to anyone than a sniper attack. Just before the election, Republican Sen. Frist mentioned on television that the sniper had distracted public attention from consideration of campaign issues. The televison stations got large audiences and incomes from his activities.
The public was deprived of important campaign information by television networks that preferred cops-and-robbers stories over true political information. If they want to be better informed, Americans should read books, magazines and newspapers beyond the front page, financial news, sports, and the funnies.