The Engaged Citizen vs. the Passive Consumer: Media Malpractice and the Illinois Senate Race

Among the most debilitating effects of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is the transformation of an ideally engaged citizenry into passive consumers of political infotainment and pliant objects of ideological manipulation. Yesterday, I noted that discontent with the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate in Illinois has led to a spike in support for Green Party Senate candidate LeAlan Jones (14% according to a recent poll). Support for the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate, Rich Whitney, is also now approaching double-digits (9%). Ross Levin writes at Independent Political Report:
Interestingly, Whitney was only seen favorably by 5 percent of those polled, much as Senate candidate LeAlan Jones only had 2 percent say they had a favorable opinion of him. For both Greens, 80 percent or more of the respondents didn’t have an opinion one way or the other, showing that the biggest challenge in their campaigns might simply be making the Illinois electorate aware that they exist as an option.
Ross is right on the mark here, but, as with so many things, this is easier said than done. Consider the following lines from a commentary by Chicago area columnist and radio host Ray Hanania. Hanania states that the choice between the Democratic and Republican candidates, Giannoulias and Kirk, constitute a "sad situation" for voters and then writes:
So what do we do as voters? We could vote for one of the Third Party candidates, but I really don’t know too much about them because they can’t seem to raise the funds to pay for the literature to tell me who they are. While they think it is the responsibility of the media to publicize their candidacies, it is their responsibility to win over the hearts and minds of the voters and get their support and campaign contributions. That is not going to happen. So, we’re stuck with Giannoulias and Kirk.
At the dawn of the so-called information age, it is difficult to imagine a more pathetic excuse to remain ignorant of the full range of choices one is afforded in the voting booth. Hanania's position effectively amounts to the following: "I am not going to consider voting for any third party candidates because they haven't sent me any junk mail yet." Hanania could have chosen to do a bit of work and read up on the third party candidates for US Senate in Illinois so as to inform his readers of alternatives to the stooges of the Democratic and Republican party machines. Instead, in the remainder of his column, he opted to regurgitate the sort of boilerplate that passes for "strategic" advice in Democratic and Republican circles.

If, as Hanania claims, it is not the media's responsibility to publicize the candidacies of third party political hopefuls, then it is also not the media's responsibility to publicize the candidacies of any political hopefuls, and so he probably should not have written the column at all. But this is absolute nonsense. Arguably, if a media organization is not simply an explicitly partisan political outlet, and at least pretends to some form of journalistic objectivity, then it has a clear and distinct responsibility to publicize the candidacies of all ballot qualified candidates for a given office. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, an informed citizenry is the bulwark of democracy. However, the ideology of the two-party state promulgated by the corporate media would have us believe that journalistic objectivity consists in nothing more than ensuring one queries a Democratic and a Republican source, whatever the issue at hand may be, as if every issue is exhausted once a Democrat and Republican come to an agreement or a disagreement, and as if no other perspective on the matter is possible.

In case folks like Ray Hanania are unaware, "literature" of all sorts can now be found on the internet, and indeed, candidates for public office have entire websites devoted to their campaigns where they explain who they are and what they stand for to anyone who's interested in finding out. There are at least seven third party and independent candidates for US Senate in Illinois:
Randy Stufflebeam, Constitution Party
LeAlan Jones, Green Party
Michael Labno, Libertarian Party
John Blyth, Independent
Will Boyd, Independent
Michael Dorsey, Independent
Stan Jagla, Independent
In future posts, I'll take a closer look at a number of these candidates. Perhaps one or two would be interested in an interview.

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