Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not National News

Maybe they should start a series called "The Real Homeowners of Arizona." Because this is no more than a local drama.

I'm sure some editor is interested in this story if only to highlight the ongoing narrative that the free speech of white, patriotic Americans is being stifled by some mysterious "other," while in reality, this is nothing but a continuation of Americans freely forming and joining associations in order to oppress themselves. We all have to deal with zoning or building codes, but if you're into self-expression, why freely join a group whose purpose is to ensure compliance and conformity?

And by that, I mean "homeowners associations." Organizations of nanny state, NIMBYists who undoubtedly (being Arizonans living in a subdivision ruled by a homeowners association) share many macro political views, as long as those veiws don't violate subdivision rules.

Interesting that this individual was an actual member of his homeowners association. More interesting is that he ceased his participation when faced with a disagreement with another member. Was sticking around and advocating to change the rules not an option? Most interesting is that "teh communizt, socialismz, terroristimz" ACLU has now filed papers defending his rights to display a historic American flag now (incorrectly) associated with the Tea Party*. I'd wager right-wing radio will happily omit that part of the story.

Because this isn't the first time the rights of patriotic Americans have been trampled by homeowners associations - though if all you listened to was talk radio, you'd think the gubbmint or teh ebil libralz were the ones coming for your flag.

The more truthful and unfortunate narrative is a sign of current American times: person participates in group, has disagreement, person gets upset, stomps feet, takes ball & goes home, calls TV stations. A reality or news show is just the next step. Just like the former governor of Alaska.

(* Some of us hoisted the Gadsden round about the time the PATRIOT Act was signed into law by the last President....)



patsbrother said...

I don't know which is odder...

...that you're appear to be upset that the New York Times reported on a non-headline story from around America. (In my experience, they do this all the time, often with somewhat solid results. You don't get mad and yell "This isn't national news!" when you hear "This American Life" come on NPR, do you?)

...or that you appear to believe that the New York Times is secretly interested in highlighting a pro-Tea Party "narrative". (Yeah, I'm sure the New York Times [hearts] Glenn Beck. By the way, you're taking the "other" bit a little too far with this story, don't you think? I'm afraid you won't even realize when certain words become entirely meaningless through imprecise overuse.)

...or that you now appear to have devoted a bizarre amount of space to declaring what is and what is not a local issue. (If it's local, let it be local. If you get so upset by national news outlets reporting on things you don't think are important enough for people outside that locality to worry about, why then worry about them more? Every once in a while I believe that it's worthwhile to critique media's priorities, but the banal national news / local news jive is becoming something of a commonplace occurance on here. What the deuce, man?)

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

You know, I used to ignore stories like this just for the reasons you described. However, in recent times, entire narratives have been built by blowing stuff like this out of proportion on a national level. Leaving items like this unchallenged have assisted the creation of a toxic political atmosphere.

There is a political "side" in this nation whose fortunes are tied up in white, middle class, Christian Americans feeling "oppressed" inside the very nation that protects their position.

While the majority of their problems are self-created and self-inflicted, they are quite motivated to blame "others" for their misfortunes both real and percieved. Acting on these fantasies translate into very real political policy, to devastating effect.

Part of the normalization process for this worldview is the "evidence" episodes like this offer, where someone is being told to take down a "Tea Party" flag by some oppresive "other." Since that movement is built on the assumption that basic liberties are being eroded and that the "government," "media," and "academy" are aligned against them, this can be construed inside the fantasy as a direct affront worthy of a push-back effort.

This is not news if the flag is for the Arizona Cardinals. But when the flag can be construed as a military, historical or patriotic flag, you hear about this on the news. This filters through talk radio and blogs as less about a homeowners association telling someone to come into compliance with rules everyone has already agreed with, a becomes more oftern a story about unaccountable organizations silencing "unpopular" political views.

There is a reason why there is a difference, and even the NYT participates in this. They know this will set off some crazy and generate pageviews.

Without an in-depth examination of the members of this homeowners association, readers and regurgitators of this article are free to associate what they will with this information. That being: the individuals in charge of the homeowners association must be liberals, because only teh ebil communizt liberalz would ask a law-abiding, patriotic American to take down such a flag.

This isn't the first time a "flag on the house" story has run nationally. This won't be the first time paranoid elements in the right-wing inflate the local homeowners association with oppressive elements they would like to attribute to government. This will also have an affect on Arizona state legislature elections as a patent non-issue, since the homeowners association passed the buck with that as well.

Now, when candidates for legislature get ambushed with a question about this non-issue flag and this homeowners association, they can be politically construed to be waffling if they say "this is the purview of the homeowners association."

I know you think my reasoning here is crazy, but this is how politics and media work these days. This is how an entire population of Americans have come to believe that me - your brother - is working hard to eliminate their rights as Americans.

Funny time is over. It is time to start taking this seriously. Just because you look at this article for what it is, there are people who vote with you who see something different entirely.

(Please see also: students kicked out of school for wearing American flags on Cinco de Mayo)

patsbrother said...

Before I get there tomorrow, should I stop by the store? My guess is you're going to need more tinfoil...

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Pick out one item I am exaggerating in all that, and I'll go find the links.

patsbrother said...

"Funny time is over."

(Personally, I thought the tinfoil bit was quite amusing.)

Dante said...

Exaggerated? Maybe not. Blown out of proportion? Oh yeah! (And yes, I use the term "Oh yeah!" here specifically to pick at that thing I pick at you for.) Most people are reasonable enough to see this as the HOA squabble it is. The people buying into this out of paranoia aren't changing their vote no matter what you do. At best case, they'll accept whatever evidence you have to the contrary and twist their world-view around it to rationalize their previous beliefs.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Most people are reasonable enough to see this as the HOA squabble it is.

Riiight. That's why so many people showed up for Glenn Beck's rally with the intention of "taking their country 'back'" from a duly, lawfully and legally elected government.

That's why so many people show up at Tea Party rallies, freely speaking and assembling, expressing their fear that the government will take away their rights to display symbols of patriotism and religion.

That's why the hallowed Burlington Coat factory renovation in Manhattan has become an election year issue.

Because most people are reasonable enough to see this as the squabble that it is.

While this may not be a major thesis, anecdotes like it make up the footnotes and supporting "evidence" of a fairly destructive and political narrative driving the public discourse in this country.

That's the point I'm trying to make.

Dante said...

When I ask 10 people what the Tea Party is and get less than 10 distinct answers, I'll believe there's some underlying message other than some folks are pissed of at the government for varying reasons. Until then, a Glenn Beck rally, Sarah Palin on parade, and a Manhattan zoning issue have zero to do with an ignorant homeowner wanting to fly a flag he previously agreed not to fly no matter how much you or the New York Times would try to persuade otherwise. Hell, the homeowner disavows any connection between his flag and the Tea Party movement. Given you own self-proclaimed alternate use for the same flag, it seems like you of all people, Pat, would be able to cut through the MSM-induced BS in this situation and take it for what it is. But that would require you laying aside you own conservatives-out-to-get-me paranoia and we both know that's not going to happen.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Conservatives don't have an out-to-get-me paranoia. Conservatives will talk about tax policy and economic development and rational foreign policy. I enjoy conversing with conservatives.

Then you have these people I'm talking about, who apparently the Republican party wishes to keep emotional and cater to.

I can ask 10 different people about the Tea Party and get 10 different paranoid answers about how people who share my political beliefs are actively out there trying to turn the nation into a socialist, communist, anti-Christian, pro-homosexual, Islamic sharia government, and we're doing it through the votes of illegal immigrants, felons, and voting irregularities that we used to get our Kenyan-born, Manchurian candidate of a President elected so he could oppress white people.

Their words, not mine.

These are not fever dreams I'm having about the current state of the right wing. They have gone very far off the rails and jumped very high over the shark.

I focus on this flag thing because they will focus on this flag thing.

Dante said...

"I focus on this flag thing because they will focus on this flag thing."

You're full of shit, Pat. Who is talking about it? I trolled Drudge, Limbaugh, the National Review, and Boortz and came up empty-handed. I went to Fox News and found this only by searching and even then it was the 6th item of a search for "flag." It wasn't a front page story. No mention of Tea Parties, evil liberals, etc. The only thing they really talk about is that bastion of the paranoid right wing agenda, the ACLU, jumping in on the homeowner's side of the issue (which I personally disagree with).

Ok, so there's one sort of. Now onto britebart? Nothing. Townhall? Nope. So now I'm really scraping because I don't really go anywhere else for conservative political news. I tired American Spectator's site and came up empty.

So now it's time to search Google News and see what they come up with. First we get something from the San Francisco Chronicle's blog. Arizona Republic seems to have several separate opinion pieces on it. I also found the aforementioned Fox News story, about 3 or 4 network Fox affiliates (mostly in Arizona), the Denver Post and the New York Times story you linked. That's it. None of those were accessible by simple browsing. You had to search to bring up the story.

Oh, and there's one from UPI highlighting the ACLU's involvement. (The UPI still exists? That's news to me.)

This is a bottom-feeder story that's being propagated mainly by news outlets that have to fill a large news cycle. It carries about as much news weight as an apartment fire and is getting almost as much attention.

Oh wait, what about Beck or Hannity? Nope.

Wake me up when those evil, paranoid right-wingers take up the fight. Until then, I stand by my original assessment that it's not the nebulous Tea Party right wingers out to get you that look paranoid here.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Full of shit? They've been talking about this for years, dude. That's why I'm bringing it up: it is a small but important piece of evidence inside a larger narrative.

They don't have to exhaust themselves with every single flag story if the story already exists.

First of all, this immediate incident is news toInfowars, Prison Planet, and Patriot Update. Small fry to be sure, but still a part of the message movers. I'm most concerned with their comments sections when it comes to crazy.

The last of the "flag" incidents to get real national traction was the students-sent-home-from-school-for-wearing-American-flags-on-Cinco-de-Mayo story. I know you remember that one.

But even before that, the stage is set (and revisited constantly) by the "patriots-asked-to-take-down-US-flags-story," which is almost constant: it can happen at the office or, more poigniantly, at the homes of veterans. Some of whom may face eviction if they don't take down their flags.

The narrative loves it when the US flag is called offensive.

But here's the kicker, and I found it over on Snopes - you don't find a lot of these stories with traction on the news, you find them circulating the internet as email chains.

Take, for example, the "California school system protests US Immigration Law by flying Mexican flag above upside-down American flag" emails that were circulated in 2005. These emails refrenced an actual event, terrible behavior by protestors and then attributed the action to government.

This stuff isn't bullshit, and saying the right-wing noise machine will make hay out of it isn't bullshit. They've done it before and they will do it again. It is a part of their narrative to keep people over-emotional, paranoid and distrustful of both people with legitimately differing political views and government.

I mean, be distrustful of government, but be distrustful of real government problems.

Dante said...

"Full of shit? They've been talking about this for years, dude. That's why I'm bringing it up: it is a small but important piece of evidence inside a larger narrative."

No, this is not part of that narrative. I remember the Cinco de Mayo incident because the story was everywhere. Rush and Drudge talked about it. Boortz had a field day with it. National Review did a piece on it. Really real right wingers picked up the story and ran with it. Fox News didn't relegate it to item 6 if you specifically searched for "flag" on their website while standing on your left foot and drinking a glass of water. It was front page with pictures. I put this story on par with a local apartment fire but if you want to further demote it, fine. It's link to any ongoing flag narrative is on par with nusto blogs and chain mail. I guess you can worry about what those people think but it doesn't really matter. You can't win hearts and minds when the target audience doesn't have minds to win.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The Holy Burlington Coat Factory Renovation in Lower Manhattan was also once a news story with zero traction. As were the American flag wearing students sent home from school. You never know what issue is going to ignite with nothing more than attention, that's one reason I bring this up. By the time it makes Limbaugh and Hannity, Breitbart and Fox, the story is already complete and the narrative is ready to move.

Not to say this particular incident will ever gain the traction of either of those stories. But it did flash across the screens "man asked to take down 'Tea Party' flag." Inside the scope of an already active narrative, it counts as just more "evidence." There are a lot of Tea Partiers out there who do think of that as their flag, and who aren't going to read the whole story involving a HOA.

I know too many members of that "target audience" who do have hearts and minds, and only buy into things like this because no one is there to challenge it.

And one reason no one challenges it is that it gets dismissed as "important as a local apartment fire."