April 14, 2012

Partial Disclosure

I'm tired of people manipulating facts to give a different impression of events or situations.  I have several examples of this, most of which have occurred in the past week:

As a writer, I have to begin with the publishers who reissue books with different covers and try to bury the fact that it is a reissued title in the fine print at the end.  This is particularly galling when they publish $20 hardcover versions of previously paperback novels (some dating back 20 or more years!) that can be bought at used book stores for $1.  When readers see a newly available hardcover title, they do not expect it to be a reissue.  I have seen authors get unfairly skewered when this deception is done by the publisher...most of the time.  Which brings me to...

As authors receive rights to their previously published books and issue eBook versions, most do not indicate that these are reissues.  Some are forced by the terms of their old contracts to change the titles of the same book but deliberately do not mention its previously published status in the book description.  I'm sorry, but this is just plain sneaky.  What satisfaction can there be in tricking people to buying your book?

Regarding current events, I'll begin with the despicable act of a network audio technician, who edited out part of the conversation George Zimmerman had with a police dispatcher when he called to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood.  That person was, of course, the late Trayvon Martin.  We all know that this young man ended up dead.  I personally believe this was a case of racial profiling based on Zimmerman's near-pathologic desire not to let him "get away"--like the others who he mentioned in the conversation as always getting away--but that technician edited the tape to make it appear that Zimmerman's impressions (which are damning, given that the young man carried only candy and a drink) of the stranger looking like he was "up to no good" and like he might be high on drugs were immediately followed by the words, "and he's black."  The truth was that those last three words were not spoken until several minutes later, and were in response to a question from the dispatcher.  The edit made Zimmerman's words seem even more inflammatory than they really were, and I see no reason for this other than a desire to incite tensions that were already running high.  This technician has since been fired.  I think he deserved to be...and I hope that anyone else in this position takes dramatic license with audio to give a deliberate misconception remembers what happened to this man.

Speaking of the Trayvon Martin murder, there was a lot of righteous indignation from people who criticized the President for "speaking out" on this topic.  Never in their outrage did they express that the President did not voluntarily make a statement, but rather made his very empathetic and sensitively phrased remarks in response to a question at a Rose Garden press conference that had been scheduled before the details of this tragic murder became the #1 news story.  The President knew he would be asked to comment, and he had his words ready.  Would these people have preferred it if the President refused to answer the question?  That sounds like something that wannabe Mitt Romney would do.

Governor Romney's staff, on the other hand, was not prepared when they were asked a question about his stance on the Equal Pay (AKA Lily Ledbetter) Act.  Luckily for him, the Governor had the opportunity to create a diversion from his own unpreparedness in what became a leading news story in the past few days.  I am speaking of the Hilary Rosen comments about Ann Romney not being the ideal person for the Romney campaign to point to as understanding women's economic concerns.  Yes, it was a poorly phrased comment (or at least the first part of it):

"His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing."

The firestorm that erupted from this was just unbelievable, as everyone from the President on down focused only on the first sentence and totally ignored the second, including, 95% of the time, the media.  Even a fifth grader would know Hilary Rosen's intent was not to denigrate stay-at-home moms, but to point out that Ann Romney never had to worry about how to make those mortgage and car payments, how to pay for things like mortgages, cars, the kids' college tuition, and everyday expenses like new shoes and soccer leagues.  Today's woman has to cope with rising gas prices that cut into their food budgets, plus rising food prices, wondering and worrying where all this extra money is coming from to maintain the same standard of living. 

Those who were so morally outraged were quick to paint Rosen as a member of the President's campaign staff, which she is not...yet another case of deliberate misleading from people with an agenda. 

White House staffers were as quick to distance themselves from Rosen as they would be to get out of a burning building, with David Axelrod declaring that the remarks were "offensive and inappropriate."  While I really can't disagree with him, I do feel he could have come to Rosen's defense.  Even if he reminded the public that the current administration feels that candidate's family members should be off limits (a wise position, in my opinion), he still could have said added that he didn't feel that Rosen's ill-chosen words were meant to demean stay-at-home moms because of the rest of her statement, thus reminding the public of the full context of Rosen's observations, before declining to discuss the matter further based on the administration's policy.

Vice President Biden also concentrated only on Rosen's first sentence, sprouting some politically correct rhetoric about how he wants his daughter to be able to choose whether to be a stay-at-home mom or to work outside the home (I half expected him to declare that America is a free country, since he's talking pointless jibberish that we all already know).  This is a man who has on more than one occasion put his foot in his mouth...he couldn't say something in Rosen's defense?

As for the First Lady's tweet that all women should be respected again only addresses the first sentence of Rosen's remarks and easily could have been left out of the equation entirely.

But most disappointing of all for me was President Obama declaring that "motherhood is the hardest job there is."  Really, Mr. President?  Hilary Rosen, a mother herself, probably had no idea (yes, I'm being sarcastic).  I would have a lot more respect for the President had he simply stated his well-known belief about candidates' family members being off limits and changed the subject, keeping that sanctimonious, self-serving statement to himself.  I am ashamed that these men all chose to abandon Rosen like a sinking ship.  Rosen ended up apologizing, which was all right with me because of the words she used, but it was a spirited apology, expressing regret at her word choice while simultaneously emphasizing her true intent, standing by it if not her original words. Apparently this did not satisfy someone (perhaps the person who signs her checks), because Friday morning there was a second apology that had no fire to it at all.  She sounded as wimpy as the President did.  I could practically see her tail wagging between her legs.  This made me very sad.

Everybody knows damn well what Hilary Rosen meant, even though as late as Friday morning (I turned off the political discussion shows) it was either being addressed gingerly or with faux confusion  (a political analyst on MSNBC said this morning that he was "still trying to figure out" what she meant). I don't understand why everyone is pussyfooting around the clear intent.  No one can be that dumb where they can't grasp the meaning of the two sentences that appear above, ill-chosen words or not.  If that's all it takes to be a political analyst, I'm going to apply.

Finally, it occurred to me that I have not watched the Today show since the day they brought in Sarah Palin to be a sort-of guest host.  Instead I've kept Morning Joe on for that third hour.  It wasn't until I found myself tuning in to Good Morning America that I realize I'd made an unconscious decision not to watch Today anymore.  In probing my thoughts further, I realized that Palin's constant references to the President as "Obama" while the on-camera talent fell all over themselves to address her as "Governor" really grated on my nerves and was the final turn-off for me (it's also not much fun watching the somewhat strained interaction between anchors Matt Lauer and Ann Curry, but that's a topic for another day).  I doubt that there's anyone in the country who doesn't know that Palin resigned from her elected office for various money-making opportunities, while the man she calls "Obama" is still the President, but it sure sounded as if they were trying to make people believe she is still a governor and that he is someone who simply wants to be President of the United States.  I have no problem with utilizing the titles of former elected officials, but only when they complete their terms in office.  I saw this as an attempt at manipulation no different from the others that I've mentioned, with the exception that this fooled no one.

Here's to full disclosure in the future...and while I doubt this will happen, at least the world knows I'm on to the games people play!


DonnaD said...

Bettye, you nailed my sentiments. I originally bought into the hype until I read Hilary Rosen's full statement. She did make a poor choice of words, but her point was lost in the dialogue that followed. And personally, I find Ann Romney the most disingenuous of them all. She made the choice to be a stay at home mom, yes. It's not an easy job, yes. BUT, it becomes much easier when you don't have to worry about money. She may not have had nannies, but she had a cook, chauffeur, and domestic help. I think her argument would be a lot stronger if they weren't loaded.

I would love to be a stay at home mom, but I work because it's the only way we can afford the life we have. My husband's salary alone is not enough. I feel guilty about putting my son through before and after care at school, and yes, we made the choice for him to go private rather than public school. But I can't and won't judge any mother who does the best she can with what she's got. And that's the real point of the discussion.

bettye griffin said...

Well said, Donna! Speaking of disingenuous, Ann Romney stated she has had challenges in her life, referring to her very real health issues. But once again she avoided Ms. Rosen's direct reference to "economic issues." Having a chronic medical condition (MS) or one that can be life-threatening (cancer) is stressful, and Ms. Romney has had both (I believe her cancer is in remission). But it's a lot easier when you can ride your horses to help with your equilibrium or not have to worry about how to pay for your treatments...

I think you and your husband are providing beautifully for your son...a private school education will give him a strong foundation. I can see the two of you beaming when he earns his Master's degree!