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June 29, 2011 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-29

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

Muddy media

"I frankly, am stunned."
- Rod Blagojevich, in response to his 17 guilty verdicts.

Of all the acclaimed and influ-
ential works that political theorist
Hannah Arendt wrote in her life,
"Lying in Poli-
tics" stands out
to me as the most
timeless and
relevant pieces
about American
politics. Arendt's
work discussed
the controversial MAX
Pentagon Papers LEVENSTEIN
- top secret
documents that
were leaked to the public by Daniel
Ellsberg in 1971. These papers con-
tained information about the Viet-
namWar and other conflicts around
the region that proved that both
President Johnson and President
Nixon knowingly lied and misled
the American people and Congress
about their military efforts.
Lying in politics has proven to
be not just for the presidents of the
1960's; Americans today have faced
it numerous times, especially on
issues surrounding overseas mili-
tary operations. We are skeptical of
our government, as we should be,
and rely on both our intuition and
media sources to guide our senti-
ments about our elected politicians.
Butwhatifourtrustedmediasourc-
es are no longer reliable? What if the
things we read and hear from news
sources do not reflect the truth in
politics, but exactly the opposite?
We would no longer be able to fully
judge our politicians or form a sen-
sible'opinion ofourgovernment and
national issues, thus virtually inca-
pacitating the American voter.
In a recent segment of "The Daily
Show," Jon Stewart makes a com-
plete mockery of Fox News by list-
ing various statements made by its
hosts and pundits that were proven
to be false by the non-partisan
political fact checkinggroup, politi-
fact.com. Among these were claims
like Obama has overseen the gen-
eration of more U.S. debt than all
other presidents combined, nation-
al health care will include death
panels and Governor Rick Scott's
approval ratings are up. To be sure,
this is not just a Fox issue, as false
or exaggerated statements are quite
common on many "news" stations
on television. Start worrying.
I am fully aware that cable news
outlets are partisan, as it is com-
monly understood that Fox News
leans right and its counterpart,
MSNBC, leans left. This leads each
to present events and issues in a dif-
ferent light, supporting the political

ideology that is most convenient.
This fact, however undesirable, is
something we have come to accept
and put up with.
What we cannot accept are out-
right lies. We cannot allow sources
that call themselves "news" to have
zero respect for the ethics of real
journalism and blatantly lie to the
American public. These examples
that Stewart pointed out could
never be considered nonpartisan.
There is no room for ideological
interpretation in these statements
as they are either true or false. The
debt under President Obama can be
researched and compared against
all debt in the past. Death panels
are a made up idea created to scare
Americans away from any notion of
supporting a Democratic agenda.
Misrepresenting poll numbers to
say that Republican Governor Rick
Scott's ratings are up, when in fact
they were not.
Lying isn't
reserved for
politicians.
How can we listen to media if we
never know what is fact or fiction?
There is no possible way to know
how I should feel on an issue, or
which candidate I should vote for, if
the only sources I have available lie
to me Is it not enough that we are
fearful of our government lying to
us, much less the media?
Unfortunately, the print news-
papers that have respected the eth-
ics of journalism and truthfulness
are dying in America, leaving the
news industry to those on televi-
sion and online. Americans no lon-
ger demand truth in their news,
but rather entertaining stories that
they can gossip about with others.
Sensationalism is not news, nor is
it truth. We need to shift our view
of media and demand that it change
from entertainment to informative
discussion. We have plenty of other
sources of entertainment, but news
should not be one of them.
Arendt wrote about the dangers
of lying in politics and stated that
a free press would help prevent it
from being commonplace. How can
we ensure that our media is held to
the same standard?

Trendy philanthropy

It seems as though philanthro-
py and consumerism are becom-
ing ever more indistinguishable.
Now, you can
accumulate
donations
for a cause
while brows- -
ing the web ,i
using Good-
Search.com or
you can buy a ANNA
pair of shoes CLEMENTS
from TOMS
and know that
because of your purchase, a pair
of shoes will be donated to a
needy child in a disadvantaged
country. You can order textbooks
from Better World Books, which
raises money for literacy and
education as well as donating to
overseas literacy programs. You
can even support the Ann Arbor
Public Schools by shopping at the
PTO thrift shop.
Especially in the current eco-
nomic climate, we see it as our
duty as citizens to buy more and
support the economy. The solu-
tion seems clear: If people buy
more, then there will be more
jobs available, more tax money
going to the government and
more satisfaction all around.
This may not be as beneficial as
it seems, however. Even if the
corporations from which you buy
your shoes and books are donat-
ing things to people in need, it's
important not to let that turn into
a red herring, taking attention
away from the various problems
with over-consumption.
While it is undoubtedly good
for companies to be aware of their
responsibility to the greater com-
munity (on whatever scale they
may conceive of), philanthropy
and consumerism must remain
discernable from each other -
confusing the two is detrimental
to both. The goal of business is
normally to make a profit, where-

as the goal of philanthropy is to
promote the welfare of others.
The two are not congruent. Nev-
ertheless, businesses have found
ways to practice philanthropy
in ways that, through improving
their image, actually promote
profit.
The problem with this spurs
from placing primary attention
on the consumerist aspects of
philanthropic projects, rather
than on their goals and achieve-
ments. Don't get me wrong, I love
the bake sales in Angell Hall. But
when you're being charitable it's
important to make sure that the
ways in which you go about it
don't make people ignorant of the
sources they're supporting.
For example, the TOMS shoes
website includes extensive infor-
mation about where, how, and
why they give shoes to needy
children around the world. What
is not mentioned on the site is
where, how and by whom the
shoes are made. They sell a line
of vegan shoes, but the materials
going into their other shoes may
come from cows that were raised
in factory farms and spent their
lives being overfed in confined
spaces, thus adding methane to
the atmosphere and contribut-
ing to global climate change.
Furthermore, carting loads of
shoes overseas causes additional
emissions from planes, and dis-
tributing free shoes may put
local industries in developing
economies out of business. Of
course, this is not an overall con-
demnation of TOMS; it's simply
a suggestion to look beyond the
donations a business makes.
My point is not to criticize
TOMS shoes or any other indus-
try that strives to give back as
well as gain. But it is clear that we
should not let philanthropy put a
blinder over our eyes, so that we
cease to examine these business-
es as critically as we would any

other. Furthermore, for student
organizations to promote simi-
lar business behavior is also fine,
as long as the students that par-
ticipate in them recognize that
what they are doing is providing
free advertising, not community
service or organizing or fund-
raising. I say this as a member of
SOLE (Students Organizing for
Labor and Economic Equality),
which, for about a year, has been
promoting Alta Gracia, the union-
made University apparel supplier.
Clearly, if people are looking for
a pair of shoes or a University
hoodie, then they are not doing
anything wrong by buying from
the union-made or philanthropic
sources rather than the alterna-
tives. It's just not OK for consum-
erism to become the new charity,
and for people to assume that by
buying something they are having
a net positive impact on the world.
It's vital to look
past corporate
charity.
Actually figuring out the net
impact of shopping in philan-
thropic stores is tricky, but it is
important to look at more than
just charity when judging an
industry's imact. If the sources
of the goods are unsustainable
- either socially, through labor
standards or environmentally -
then aid to charity is most likely
not worth the damage that those
donations may cause. If we want
to actually put our money where
our ideologies are, then it's
important to see beyond corpo-
rate charity.
Anna Clements can be reached
at asiobhan@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor.
Letters should be fewer than 300 words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation.
Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.

Max Levenstein can be
reached at medl@umich.edu.

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