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  LET THE MEDIA MANIPULATION BEGIN.  
   
   
 

Someone needs to sit America down for a desperately needed intervention: Our nation is in an abusive relationship with the media, and we need to break it off for our own good.

The media beat us down with their doomsday scenarios, manipulate us with exaggerations, hide the truth with misrepresentations and then we come crawling back when they shamelessly pull at our heartstrings. The problem is we can't break up with the media, especially right before a presidential election. How else are we going to know who wins, which candidate is suing the other, or which demographic of voter is being disenfranchised this time? The country is too big to run around from polling place to polling place and tally it up ourselves, and hardly anyone knows Morse code anymore.

So we're stuck with the big lug media, bullying us and stringing us along, only to break its promises. In spite of the onslaught of reality TV, television news has moved in the opposite direction. What started as straight reporting of the facts has evolved into over-produced entertainment television complete with a soundtrack and a screenplay. The media has found that if it distorts reality, it can pretty much create reality, and what better time to test that power than the presidential election?

While there's absolutely no way to call the election, there are a couple of certainties that the near future does hold, and all of them have to with the media driving you insane. Here's a sampling of the abuse you can expect in the coming weeks. Because there's no way this is all going to end Tuesday, not a chance.

 

Manipulation Tactic #1: The Media Will Call the Election.

After all the buildup, the boredom, the panic and the resignation, we all just want to know who the next president will be before the nation develops a collective ulcer. And boy, is the media eager to tell us. The television networks will call the election on November 2, probably before the polls even close, and possibly before you've even voted. This will be in spite of lessons they purport to have learned from the last time we tried, feebly, to elect a president. In 2000, they announced the wrong winner about five times throughout the course of election night. The networks are going to call the election again this year, whether the ballot count goes on for days or for months, as some have reported that it could. And let's face it -- odds are they will probably be wrong no matter what they say.

 

Manipulation Tactic #2: The Media Will Subject Us to Pollsters and "Experts."

Countless pros and quacks are making a living trying to predict the outcome of the presidential election, but whoever signs their paycheck is a sucker-pollsters might as well being using a Magic 8 Ball. No matter how many polls or studies you consult, and no matter how many political analyst schmucks are paraded through the studios of CNN and MSNBC, there's no way to know whether you'll be wearing a black arm band or you're drunk in public from the flow of champagne in the streets when the election is over some time in mid-March. First of all, almost every polling group -- including the biggies like Gallup and Zogby -- have an agenda, even if they're not blatantly partisan, which some are. Secondly, do you really want to listen to someone from a so-called "neutral" polling firm? They sound like nambie pambies to me. Come on! Get an opinion! The future of the world is at stake!

 

Manipulation Tactic #3: The Media Will Scare Us Needlessly.

Even if the election this year goes off without a hitch, the media will lead us to believe that it was on the brink of catastrophe. It's the media's favorite game: Strike fear into the hearts and minds of millions, then later soothe the viewers with the knowledge that the mountain they previously distorted turned out to be a molehill. TV networks shamelessly make up the news so that they can later discredit it and come off looking like private investigators that cracked a big case. They will scare us with a myriad of worst-case scenarios: Blackouts! Terrorist attacks! A fast-spreading disease that paralyzes the lever-pulling arm! And then they'll add unnecessary intensity to all of the mundane stories: Heavy traffic that might keep people from the polls; a rain shower that might keep people from the polls; and even Willard Scott's announcement of a woman in Pennsylvania turning 114 years old will include a comment like, "Hope she's mobile enough to make it to the polls! Every vote counts in a swing state!"

 

Manipulation Tactic #4: The Media Will Stay Overly Calm and Neutral.

While we freak out over the media's doomsday prophecies, the talking heads on television will remain strangely devoid of feeling about the situation, mocking our uncertainty and woe with their steady broadcasting voices. "Oh, isn't it interesting that with our voting process in peril, we might as well be a monarchy?" they seem to say. The networks go about their programs as if civil liberties, our education system, reproductive freedom, gay marriage and the merging of church and state don't hang in the balance. They do.

Even more irritating, the media will continue to make us crazy because in spite of all the data collection, in spite of all the fact-finding, they refuse to call it like they see it. Barring Fox News, the networks are neutral to the point of meaninglessness. For example, here's a likely scenario: The election will be too close to call, and the ballot count will continue. The Republicans will be shameless, and the Democrats will be whiny. Because of these attributes, there is a good probability the Republicans will come out on top, though the Democrats will deserve to -- what with wanting to count ALL the votes, including those of minorities, students, and women. We all know this! Regardless of whether we majored in political science or whether we even went to college, we all know that's how it's going to work. But the media, while they full well know it, too, will refuse to call a spade a spade.

 

Manipulation Tactic #5: The Media Will Take Away Our Will to Care.

Either way this election goes, Americans could lose their faith in civic participation, and it will be the media's fault. They'll beat it out of us in the same way they twisted our dedication to longshots like Howard Dean into a nomination for Kerry. If the ubiquitous statistic of 527 votes in Florida determining the 2000 election was the poker in the ass this country needed, the exhaustion of that very mindset -- that just 527 votes CAN determine an election - will leave our country particularly susceptible to the whims of the media. If Bush wins, the media will report that all our efforts toward a mobilization of the electorate rendered nothing, and we will obediently throw in the towel. If Kerry wins, the networks most likely say the same thing, that it wasn't the time and money of millions of Americans that brought about change, but -- how about that! -- it was just some fluke with the new electronic voting machines in New Jersey.

The media has done it before and they will do it again; they alter reality, and then they making us feel crappy about not only what is, but what could be still to come. And we, the desperate viewers we are, will be tuned in on election night and for the weeks following, dependent on the media's meager handouts. Maybe we'll get fed up, throw something at the TV, and even threaten to leave the media forever. Then somehow the news anchor will insinuate with his tone that we'll never do any better, and we'll come crawling back … as we always do.

 

When not throwing things at her TV or bitching about her non-profit job, Ashley Glacel can be found updating or shamelessly plugging her Web site, AnnieDandAshleyG.com.