by Jay Johansen | Sep 26, 1995
ABC's Day One news-magazine recently (as I write this) ran an exposť on James Dobson, a leader in the Christian right, and his Focus on the Family organization.
In their lead-in to the story, they begin, "You've probably never heard of him, but ..." and go on to describe how Dobson works behind the scenes in Washington, silently wielding tremendous power and influence. Indeed, he is apparently so successful at keeping himself out of the public eye while politicians rush to do his bidding, that ABC quotes an expert describing him as "the ultimate stealth politician".
The story then goes on to describe Dobson's empire. He has written numerous best-selling books. His magazine has "a higher circulation than Vogue and Rolling Stone". Over 300,000 people contact his office every month. And his daily radio program is heard by "tens of millions of people".
Wait a minute, here! If Dobson airs his views over the radio with ten of millions of people listening every day, and prints them in a magazine with a circulation higher than that of Vogue and Rolling Stone, by what conceivable standard do they describe him as "the ultimate stealth politician"? I've seen his magazine and occasionally listen to his radio program. The man makes no effort whatsoever to hide his views. When the "Day One" reporters asked him about controversial questions, like abortion and teaching creation in public schools, he gave straight answers. It is difficult to imagine what more he could do to publicize his ideas.
Indeed, one wonders how in the world they could assume that their viewers have "never heard of him". Obviously the "tens of millions" of people who listen to his radio program have heard of Dr Dobson. Not to mention the millions who read his books and his magazine. (I wonder if as many people watch "Day One" as listen to Dobson's radio program ...)
This program told us a lot more about ABC than it did about James Dobson. Perhaps the movers and shakers at ABC had never heard of James Dobson before this program. But to millions of Americans, his name is a household word. These journalists, who make their living based on the claim that they are authorities on what is going on throughout America, admit that they have never even heard of a man who is known and respected by tens of millions of Americans! How can we possibly expect them to tell us what is really going on in this country, when they don't even know who the players are?
© 1995 by Jay Johansen