Beware sensationalist tactics — wherever they appear

Virginia Bower’s reaction upon seeing a full-page advertisement for the documentary film 2016: Obama’s America is understandable, but ultimately misguided and potentially damaging to this publication and the Asheville community at large. Her letter suggests a mode of thinking that is far more concerning than the issues she presumably intended it to raise.

As a citizen of this country and an adult human being, Bower has surely encountered other blatantly propagandized material before now. The political agendas of news media — let alone entertainment media, like film — are documented almost as thoroughly as the “news” itself. The sensationalist tactics used by conservative radio to gain listeners are the same used by religious fundamentalists to gain converts, by politicians on either side to gain voters, by hot-dog vendors to sell hot dogs. They are immediately identifiable, which is why Bower or anyone else needs not watch the film in question to know, if not exactly then sufficiently, the falseness of its agenda.

What’s concerning is that Bower’s letter embodies the same methods used by the likes of sensationalist media, directing readers’ attention away from the acknowledged problem (the film itself), and instead stirring contempt for the Mountain Xpress — a local newsprint which, as publisher Jeff Fobes rightly pointed out, is meant to be a platform for public discussion. Like the film, Bower’s message becomes damaging when it succeeds at convincing others to follow suit. In this case, ceasing to support an important publication, and no longer patronizing the businesses who advertise in it — a reaction so plainly misjudged it hardly deserves mentioning.

Bower may not have exaggerated the absolute horror she felt seeing the film ad, but her response indicates a lack of consideration. Cutting ties with Asheville’s only alternative news source not only reduces citizen engagement, it perpetuates reactionary, one-sided thinking on both sides of the party line.

— Garrett Simmons

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