Common sense is not so common. ~Voltaire

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Business as Usual

This morning, a local news station reported a story about a rather infamous state (OK) politician, Randy Terrill. His notoriety stems partly from his avid advocacy of Arizona's controversial stance on immigration law, which led to his authorship of a very similar bill in Oklahoma and earned him a loyal following. Not surprisingly, his reputation also includes allegations of wrong-doings and shady dealings. As an example, please consider that while declaring bankruptcy in 2005, he apparently misrepresented an $11,000 personal loan to his campaign fund as a "donation," which is not counted as an asset in bankruptcy proceedings. The case closed in 2006 but was reopened in 2008 when the "donation" was discovered. A federal judge found that Terrill's "explanations [were] without support and lack[ed] credibility," and ordered Terrill to repay that amount to the bankruptcy trustee Story here. 

So...back to this morning's news. Terrill is trying to introduce a bill that would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, who are born on U.S. soil. This requires minimal comment beyond the obvious, which is simply that being born in this country trumps all other claims to citizenship; it is, and should remain, the least contested criteria by which citizenship is determined. After all, from where do Randy’s own citizenship rights originate?

In addition to the substance of the story, it is notable for what it failed to include. Not mentioned was the fact that Randy Terrill is being accused of bribery, in collusion with two other state legislators More info. By now, the casual reader surely will be thinking “Big deal, politicians, bribery, where’s the story?” THAT’S the point—the fact that we are so jaded by stories like these that the only thing we feel is a resigned hopelessness, rather than a healthy outrage. Did I mention that the news channel that told the tale of Randy’s efforts to “protect the rights of Oklahoman’s” with his ridiculous bill is the same one that reported his bribery charges a mere TWO DAYS BEFORE?

This is not an indictment of Randy Terrill or politicians in general (although they deserve it); however, it is an indictment of the media and our own willingness to allow them to shape not only what we think about but also how we think about it. Ultimately, it is up to each one of us. We can let the media tell us one day that one of our lawmakers is charged with a crime, and then “forget” it when that same politician does something popular with the voters—never mind right or wrong, popular is what counts (such convenient timing, don’t you think?). Alternatively, we can decide to think for ourselves and stop believing that the media are bound by some mythical ethical rules that require fair or even accurate reporting. Critical thinking—we owe it to ourselves.   

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