As we close in on the start of the election season in earnest with the New Hampshire As we close in on the start of the election season in earnest, with the New Hampshire Republican primary just around the corner, it's an ideal time to have a quick look at what you'll be seeing both on mainstream media outlets and from politicians.
Whether you're a seasoned corporate political news watcher, or someone who only starts paying attention as presidential elections loom near, it's always useful to have a glossary nearby. Whether you're traveling through a foreign country, studying for that organic chemistry midterm or just watching people on television tell you things, it's easy to get confused without the appropriate translation tool.
If you've ever wondered how a television "expert" becomes an expert, or haven't been able to figure out just what makes that "exclusive" interview with the soccer mom whose husband had the affair so exclusive, this is for you.
In order to provide a better experience when gearing up for the election, I'll provide a glossary of terms as used in the media and by politicians, followed by the meaning of these terms in the real world. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I encourage you to email me the many I'm missing.
When you hear (the following): here's what it really means ...
• Chief correspondent: First intern we could get to approach a microphone.
• Citizen journalist: Someone working for us for free.
• Non-partisan think tank: A think tank we agree with.
• Intellectual elites (derogatory): Anyone more articulate than Sarah Palin.
• A shocking new poll: An inaccurate poll.
• An expert analyst: Someone with a publicist who wouldn't stop calling us, often with no real expertise.
• Exclusive interview: An interview other media outlets had the common sense not to pursue.
• Unbiased debate: Debate where the news anchor agrees with one side while setting up the other side to look silly with biased questions.
• Pro-family: Doesn't like gay and lesbian people, logical sex education, women's right to choose or science.
• Traditional marriage: Marriage based on the Bible, but not the part where the Bible says kill a woman who can't prove she's a virgin on her wedding day.
• An incredible, shocking story: A story that's untrue, which will later be retracted quietly enough that no one will notice.
• Breaking news: News from four hours ago that was on the Internet three hours and 55 minutes ago.
If you'll be paying attention to the coming election, prepare yourself for an increased level of spin and misleading terms, maybe more than ever before. One reason for this is the particularly extreme field of Republican presidential candidates this election.
The current field includes candidates who:
• Had a ranch named Niggerhead and aren't sure President Barack Obama's birth certificate is real (Rick Perry)
• Are obsessed with numerology, specifically the number 45 (Herman Cain)
• Own anti-gay therapy clinics and believe God speaks directly and specifically to them (Michele Bachmann)
• Believe there's a reasonable comparison to be made between bestiality and homosexuality (Rick Santorum)
• Have no consistent positions on any issue, beyond saying what seems most politically convenient at that moment in time (Mitt Romney)
Even religious televangelist Pat Robertson said the field is just too outrageous and may result in a Republican loss in November 2012.
How can you avoid the confusion that's sure to crop up? Know the glossary, know the tricks, know the distractions and consider alternatives to mainstream corporate media to supplement - or even replace! - where you're getting your news. There's no shortage, and they're all easy to find.
The Young Turks and RT's The Alyona Show have been providing incredible coverage from Occupy Wall Street over the last weeks. Sam Seder's analysis on Majority Report Radio has been hilarious and incisive. Jay Tomlinson's Best of the Left Podcast has been compiling brilliantly diverse snippets of coverage from a wide group of independent media outlets.
My program, "The David Pakman Show," hasn't been bad either!
As the election draws closer, know that you don't have to be subject to boring analyses from the same non-experts on the three-letter cable news channels and nightly news broadcasts.
Choose wisely, or you might end up watching an exclusive interview conducted by a chief correspondent on the incredible, shocking news story of a pro-family group complaining about violent protesters. If you have the glossary, you certainly won't be falling for that one.
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com.