President Obama on BET

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama's aversion to governing and addiction to going on television, led me to write that when the going gets tough, Obama goes on TV.

Here we go again with the president moving from camera setup to camera setup talking to safe interviewers about how well he's serving us -- as the country does worse and worse economically.


As a TV/media critic, of course, I love the belief of the president and his advisers like David Plouffe that everything will be all right if he just keeps slapping on the TV makeup and moving his lips when the little red light comes on. But as I citizen, I despair as to how bad things will get during the next 13 months while the president spends his time raising money for TV ads and grabbing all the free and friendly media available instead of doing the hard work of running this country.

And so it is today, that the president will appear on mtvU, a cable channel that will allow him to reach 9 million young viewers in one shot.

Here's what the release says: "mtvU, MTV's 24-hour college network, today announced that President Barack Obama will address college students' concerns on employment and the economy in a message welcoming them back to school for the fall semester. President Obama's convocation address will premiere exclusively to upwards of 9 million college students on mtvU and on-demand at mtvU.com beginning Wednesday, September 28 at 12 p.m. ET/PT."

This is what makes me angry as a critic and an educator: seeing a media outlet aimed at young people used this way by a politician and media corporation to exploit young citizens rather than inform or illuminate them.

Consider for a moment the phony conceit of "President Obama's convocation address," like he's the young viewers' friendly dean, provost, chief academic officer or school president "welcoming them back to school for the fall semester."

I don't know about your school, but at Goucher College in Baltimore where I teach, we are in our fifth week of the semester. In terms of "welcoming them back," I'd say the president is almost as late on that task as he has been in addressing the job crisis in this country.

But this is the formula that Team Obama thinks got him elected, and he's making all those TV stops again. Monday, the interview was with BET where he was given a clear field to tell young black viewers how much worse things would be if he hadn't been allegedly working so hard for them. He was also given plenty of room to address African-American leaders who have criticized him for doing so few of things he promised during his last campaign.

I am not going to take apart the BET session. You can see it online and judge for yourself. And I have already said all anyone needs to say about those lovely chats between Obama and NBC's Brian Williams, the bowing anchorman.

As a media critic, I held my powder on BET and Williams, even though the TV strategy and attempt to use the medium as an instrument of propaganda rather than enlightenment were crystal clear.

But as someone who sees the classroom as sacred ground in a free society, I am outraged to see Obama and the executives at MTV trying to appropriate the academy's moral authority for their selfish ends.

You can read my latest thoughts on Obama still coveting TV time, but the medium no longer loving him back here.