It’s All About Context

Watching “Morning Joe” this morning on MSNBC, I was once again disappointed with television pundits.

It wasn’t even a major thing. I know every 24-hour news network is going to have some sort of bias to keep viewers, and in order to keep that bias, some context needs to be removed. But when the story is boiled down to sound bites and over-simplification, that’s when it gets extremely disappointing.

The segment of “Morning Joe” in question was when they were discussing Stephen Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress. They did the usual stripping of context, playing only the parts of Colbert’s testimony where he mentions that he would rather have his tomatoes “picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan, in a spa, where a Chilean gives me a Brazillian.” And then the discussion stemmed from what is definitely the most unimportant part of Colbert’s testimony.

But what became frustrating was when Mika Brzezinski referenced, and was offended by, her over-simplified back story: Colbert was testifying about a segment that he taped for his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.”

Yes, he did immigrant labor work for a segment on his show, but it wasn’t originally meant to be a segment. It was originally Colbert fulfilling his promise to work a day as a migrant worker as part of the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign, which asks all Americans to spend a day working as a migrant laborer. It is a brilliant idea, since the prevailing mantra among people against illegal immigration is that immigrants are taking jobs away from true Americans. If this was the case, the UFW says, then all unemployed Americans should be jumping at the chance to “take back their jobs” from the illegal immigrants.

And jump they did. The program started this summer, and to date, only 16 people have taken the offer. Not so much of a jump as it is a hop, possibly a skip.

Colbert’s testimony was meant to offer a perspective of what it is to be a migrant worker, the harsh working conditions, the extremely low pay, and the idea that you have absolutely no rights, and may very well work this job for the rest of your life, never really having made a living. And members of Congress were “surprised” that a comedian who riffs on politics for a living would dare to make a mockery of the Grand and Glorious Congress.

But the whole Colbert thing is just a small part of a bigger picture of context. With election season in full swing, political ads are saturating the air waves, especially here in Iowa. Ads put out by Republican and Tea Party committees are urging people to go out and vote to “take back America” from the evil President Obama. One ad states that Obama’s “experimental policies” have failed, because 15 million people are unemployed, the economy is still rough, and thousands of houses will be foreclosed on by the end of the day.

Never mind that the decline started in the Bush administration. Never mind that the rich in Congress, regardless of party, consistently look out for their own best interest, all but ignoring Middle America. It’s easy to look at a small chunk of something out of context and make a big deal about it, but if the “big deal” is blatantly wrong, then the whole idea of informing people with the news is no longer relevant.

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