Seek Election Guidance Outside Media Madhouse

    Trying to figure out what to do on flights has always been a challenge for me. I always bring a book, but almost certainly end up next to the family with crying quintuplets. I also bring my iPod, but for whatever reason, my music collection just doesn’t seem as cool 30,000 feet up. If I’m lucky, I can fall asleep, but this normally doesn’t happen and more often than not I end up simply contemplating life or engaged in some awkward conversation with the not-always-so-interesting person next to me.

    On my most recent flight, however, I was lucky enough to fly JetBlue, which finds the kindness in its heart to bless all passengers with over 30 channels of cable TV and several more for watching movies (that is, at $5 a pop). Sure, they didn’t feed me a single scrap of food on a six-hour cross-country flight, but free entertainment is better than vital nourishment any day!

    So after stowing my carry-on luggage in an orderly manner and attentively watching the preflight safety instructions, I was able to spend over four hours switching between cable news channels such as MSNBC, Fox News and CNN. Over this span of time I found myself laughing, crying, staring in disbelief and experiencing a queasy feeling deep inside my stomach that could only have resulted from a cross between depression and disgust.

    On MSNBC, I had the wonderful opportunity to catch “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” I had watched Olbermann only a few times before and was genuinely shocked when I heard what was coming out of his mouth. In less than 10 minutes, he accused presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of claiming to invent the Blackberry and single-handedly ruining the United States’ economy.

    It is truly amazing what clever editing of sound bites can do to a politician’s speeches. I honestly believe that Olbermann was on the verge of standing up out of his chair, ripping off his clothes and claiming that Sen. McCain was the devil incarnate and calling upon the American people to strike out against the demonic minions of the hated Republican Party.

    After tiring of Olbermann’s rants and raves, I attempted to find solace in switching over to CNN for the legendary insight of Larry King. On his panel he had four women, two supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and two supporters of Sen. McCain. After each fine lady was allowed to make her initial remarks, the scene quickly melted into the inevitable shouting match, as participants took turns rolling their eyes and scoffing at one another. Mr. King himself tried to maintain his journalistic integrity, but I almost certainly caught a glimpse of his “Obama ’08” undershirt when he was cutting to commercial.

    Then, I reluctantly settled in to watch the undisputed king of cable news mudslinging: Fox News and Bill O’Reilly. I have a family friend who says he tunes in to Fox News ever so often to “find out what all the crazy people are saying.” I was not disappointed. “The O’Reilly Factor” presented me with a panel similar to the one on “Larry King Live,” except that this selection of keen political minds was all men. Of course, the same shouting match ensued, O’Reilly cutting off his distinguished participants midsentence with seemingly little remorse.

    Next up was “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” and Part I of her exclusive interview with Todd Palin, husband of Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaskan governor and bona fide superwoman Sarah Palin. Mr. Palin has come to be known on Fox News as the first dude, and his professionally groomed facial hair and grown-out crew cut left no doubt that he could indeed kill a moose with his bare hands and lift it into his F350 without anybody else’s damn help. Van Susteren attempted to drag interesting answers out of the first dude but he simply was not up to the task of offering any single bit of insight into the political accomplishments or know how that would make his wife a viable vice-presidential candidate.

    As I watched hour upon hour, I found myself hoping that the average American or student at UCSD is not honestly considering these laughable TV shows and political pundits as reliable sources of information on which to base their vote.

    Unfortunately, I realize that television and the Internet sites that accompany it are the dominant outlets when it comes to getting political information and these programs, no matter how blatantly biased, are certainly shaping the opinions of millions of voting Americans. Sure, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert host really funny and informed shows, but they are hardly political experts.

    These facts are nothing new, but election season is upon us and most people truly believe this election will be one of the most important decisions we make as a country in decades. Certainly, the next president will have a profound effect on the lives of college students, as we watch tuition rise in a troubled economy and attempt to find jobs after graduation. I encourage everybody to skip the cable TV and find more reliable sources when seeking out information about the various candidates and their ideas for the country. Newspapers, while still biased in some regard, usually try to present the facts in a much more objective and informative manner. And there is usually less screaming and old men wearing hairpieces. Better yet, visit the Web sites of both candidates and their respective parties where you will find exactly how they intend to approach nearly every issue. Take the time to fashion your own opinions and make an informed decision.

    And, of course, tune into the various cable news channels to find out what all the crazy people are saying.

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