Joe The Plumber: Another Symptom of a Dead America

The Young Turks (TYT) is an Internet-based political news and views media organization. They report primarily on American politics. They are liberals and support the Democratic Party. I’m a subscriber to their YouTube channel and I watch new videos of theirs on a daily basis. I usually agree with the views they express and generally tend to enjoy the videos I watch. But I don’t always agree with the views expressed or how they were expressed, and have expressed my disagreement on a few occasions via YouTube text comments. This time around, I will post my disagreement as a blogpost.

Today, TYT’s anchor Cenk Uygur commented on Joe The Plumber’s recent criticisms of John McCain and endorsement of Sarah Palin, as well as discussing other things Joe has said and done.

My primary beef with Uygur’s commentary is with the following statement, in which he begins expressing why he does not like Joe:

Who the hell are you? Talking about the financial bailout? Joe The frickin Plumber? Why the hell would I care about what you think about the financial bailout? Dude, you’re a plumber and you’re BARELY a plumber! Okay. Why are we having a conversation about what Joe The Plumber thinks about the financial bailout?

I definitely think that there is something to be upset about and people to be upset at when a plumber who doesn’t seem to know enough about the issues he’s discussing to warrant prominent media spots receives more media exposure during one 2 month period than the grand majority of leading intellectuals and social activists will receive in their lifetimes. But I think Uygur’s frustrations here are misdirected. While Joe can surely be criticized for what he says – if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then criticize him just like you would anyone else – he’s not the real problem here. Joe didn’t force his way into major media studios and commandeer them guerilla style. He was invited and asked to comment on particular issues. So he went on and said his piece.

And why all the trash talk about him being a plumber?  Would it have been preferable if he were an insufficiently informed engineer? I’m sure that there are plenty of plumbers out there who could quite hansomely hold up their end of a political debate, just as I’m sure that there are many engineers, dentists and doctors who are utterly clueless on current affairs. Address his points, not his title. Plumber, doctor, accountant, taxi driver, or teacher, he’s aloud to have an opinion and to voice it if asked. If you’ve got an issue with a major newsmedia provider who thinks it prudent to use its incredibly valuable media spots to ask a plumber about the perils of the economy, take it up with the media execs.

Joe The Plumber was not the one who decided that Joe The Plumber would comment on the bailout, on the election or on anything else. Sure he accepted the invitation, but had he not there were probably a few million other blue-collar stereotypes that would have filled the spot. Joe The Plumber is simply a tool. He’s a political device that was exploited by the Republican Party and by the economic elites controlling the media and the government to fill up media airtime with the messages they want people to hear. The real problem is not Joe The Plumber or Tito The Contractor or even Ann Coulter. Well, okay, Coulter is a bigger problem than Joe or Tito. But the real problem is the people who are giving these people airtime.

The newsmedia are necessary for a democracy. The nation needs to be informed. A democratically and intellectually responsible newsmedia agency brings on knowledgeable guests with integrity. Their only partiality is to do what is best for the discovery and dissemination of truth, for the defense of the rights of the people, and to maintain honest and effective government. The newsmedia do not come remotely close to achieving what is required of them by society because before they answer to the democracy, they answer to the corporate and government oligarchy who collectively control their access to revenue, to media licensure, and to quick, cheap and credible news. In a largely deregulated major media industry, the economic viability of the media providers and the career status of the media execs are critically dependent on consistently sacrificing good service to the democracy (i.e., excellence and objectivity journalism and reporting) in favour of good service to the economic elites (e.g., pursuing ratings, the buyers’ mood, not opposing the interests of powerful lobby groups, etc.). Deregulation of the major media have choked out good journalism and reporting.

Major media is not inundated with ignoramuses, sock-puppet experts, inflammatory and deceitful pundits and other forms of intellectual pollution because these people choose to be in the media. Major media chooses these people because they help shape the culture and the discourse in ways that the power wielders desire. Well known pundits are often not well known pundits because they have intelligence, integrity and knowledgeability. They’re pundits because they’re able to have a desired political impact on viewers.

You don’t have to look hard to find countless highly intelligent people representing this or that cause who would walk across the country and back just to have a two minute spot on a major news network to discuss their cause. But until that cause lines up with what the powers that be want to hear, these people will continually be passed up for someone with less integrity, intelligence and knowledge who will carry the right tune.

The implication of all of this is that the America of the Constitution is dead – if indeed it was ever alive to begin with. I guess it never really had much of a chance, though. But it could’ve done a hell of a lot better than this.*

* Not that America is by any means the only country with room for growth in the way of democracy. I’ve never known of a country that didn’t have significant room for growth in this area . But, I also haven’t looked into the matter much. If I recall correctly, though, countries like Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark have been at the head of the international community on numerous assessments of core elements of democratic wellness.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Joe The Plumber: Another Symptom of a Dead America”
  1. amanda says:

    Joe the Plumber’s thoughts are important because Joe the Plumber can call his Senator and tell him/her how to vote. And politicians are supposed to do what the voters want. That’s very simplified, and I don’t want to encourage anyone to take Joe’s OPINIONS on a topic in the same way they’d take a think-tank pundit’s opinions, but it’s imporant for news outlets to dissemenate what regular people’s perceptions are. Blaming “The Media” is like blaming “The Government.” It’s too easy and broad to be useful.

  2. Ron Brown says:

    Amanda: The media is systematically corrupted. I won’t go into to it now as there’s just too much to say, but I plan on doing a post specfically on it very soon. Perhaps this weekend.

    Next, I fully agree that Joe’s views are important. As important as any other individual’s. But why is he receiving so much airtime. Consider this: If a social survey were run in America, siimply asking people if they recognize certain names, which names do you think would be more well known of the following:

    1. noam chomsky – one of most acclaimed and influential intellectuals to have ever lived; has been referred to as the most important intellectual alive
    2. stephen hawking – one of most celebrated physicists alive
    3. the president of the ACLU (i dont even know who it is)
    4. Joe the Plumber
    5. any nobel prize winner
    6. Bill Gates
    7. 99.9999999999% of the social/political activists to have ever lived

    Joe the Plumber wins hands down. If this were just a once-in-awhile sort of thing, it’d be one thing. But the media is constantly giving airtime to people who are clearly not among the most knowledgeable, most intelligent and of the most integrity over people who could far more effectively serve rational and productive discourse.

  3. Ian says:

    I agree fully with you Ron. The media is far too concentrated into far too few hands. In the US you have them playing into the Republicans hands a lot, in Canada they often feed right from the Conservatives. Supposedly Europe has less concentrated – but still competitive – media markets. I don’t think the answer here is massive regulations or government intervention (contrary to my social democratic tendencies), but we do need to demand the breakup of media empires. More competition, and an emphasis on journalistic standards (not sure how to accomplish this though).

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