Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Press Is Debatable

Moderation of the Democratic debate last night could not have been worse if it were carried out by Rush Limbaugh (sans painkillers)

"I find the cigar smoke masks the stench of lunacy. Did you know that lunacy smells like oral flatulence?"

and the resurrected asshole of Jerry Falwell*.

"Even I'm glad I'm dead. Also, I did know that thing about oral flatulence."

Hyperbole? Nope. Here's why in easily digestible 'bullet' points (that was for you, Heston. R.I.P., you magnificent, ape-fighting bastard):

"If only this really was my penis!"

- I am in firm agreement with myself that at least a half-hour of the two hours allotted to the debate was spent on questions about Barack Obama's associations and patriotism (or implied lack thereof). This was John McCain's wet dream made reality. Stephanopolous makes quite the fluffer*2.

- If you can't out and out attack a candidate for 'angry black man syndrome', why not just attack his pastor? Why not just hammer away at a question that's been asked and answered repeatedly for the last month? Why not employ all of the Republican tactics used against Senator Clinton and her family during the Clinton presidency? Impugn by association, rephrase questions until the questioned stumbles over words, drum up the appearance of impropriety when the questioned backs away from the very association you call into question (I wonder if we can work in a spurious allegation of murder?). Even if the press decried the Republicans for doing so ten years ago, times have changed. In my lifetime, news has become a ratings hungry infotainment industry; vapid and shallow, clinging to manufactured scandal and salacious sound bites.

- That knowledge didn't just come to me last night, but what seemed new to me was the disproportionate application of the hounds to Obama's heels. After at least thirty minutes of Bitter/Lapel/Pastor Who Makes Insensitive and True CommentsGate, Hilary was treated to a lone question regarding her statements concerning a 'diplomatic mission' to Bosnia. When asked by a 'man on the street' about her lies regarding the trip, she replied that after rereading her memoir, she was ready to admit that she has been recently describing sniper fire that wasn't there and a tense military escort that didn't happen. Clinton's response to the prospective voter was in so many words, "I lied, but I hope you don't hold it against me." So, she admitted lying about her personal experience for political gain.*3 What crackerjack Woodward & Bernsteinesque indictment of bold-faced political underhandedness did the team of Gibson and Stephanopolous bust out on her, 'O.G. Edward R. Murrow style'?*4 Silence. I know people (press included) have been conditioned to accept lying from their elected officials as part of the process, but that is just what needs to change if we want good leadership. I'm sick of being in on the joke of empty promises and political unreliability, but last night, ABC News just kept laughing.

- To the question of not showing patriotism by sporting a nifty lapel pin (undoubtedly made in China); let's make sure that our elected officials know that their actions, no matter how atrocious (Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, waterboarding, unlawful detention, extraordinary rendition, suspension of civil rights, exploitation of xenophobia, backdoor drafts aka stop-loss programs, monetary handjobs to their private sector cronies), can be fast-tracked by virtue of how sincerely they affix a trinket to their politician uniform. Better yet, let's require that they wear Star-Spangled jumpsuits, Evel Knievel style. Logic follows that if they're wearing the right bling, they must have the best interests of the country in mind and at heart. Why didn't Senator Clinton wear her pin? Why didn't Stephanopolous or Gibson ask her about it?

- I'll tell you why. Before this primary began, Hilary Clinton was anointed Democratic candidate for the presidency. The press largely complied with and parroted this claim. Then, things got interesting. People, not committees, not lobbyists, not ex-presidents eager for more time in the public eye, started voicing their desire to hear more than one set of ideas coming from the left. Obama and John Edwards appeared in the national consciousness; there was an alternative to old school Democratic gridlock politics. So, the press decided the story was going to be Obama/Clinton. Edwards lost crucial coverage due to his being the most white male-ish candidate (despite the feeling of many that he was the most willing to kick corrupt ass until his foot fell off, and then would come the punching). Suddenly, Clinton got pissy that Obama was being given a free pass by the press, cried about it (literally) and shamed the media into advocating for the continued viability of her candidacy. The press fell for a classic Bush strategy; when in trouble, blame the media for bias and watch them jerk back the other way on the Overcompensation Express*5. It worked. Hilary was back in it enough to justify her ego-driven, 'I'm president or fuck the party and the country' power worship. The press felt important. They felt that through reporting or not reporting, asking or not asking, doing their jobs or not doing their jobs, they could be active participants in the politics of this country. The Fox News model was downright prescient.

- The difference this time, is that the press as a whole doesn't seem to be driven by ideology or association (except for Stephanopolous), but by the need to be a player rather than an observer. I have little doubt that if their situations were reversed, Clinton would be weathering questions as ridiculous, inane and irrelevant to her fitness as president as Obama is right now. Is it a desire to champion the underdog that motivates the press? As callous as it may seem, the underdog's welfare is not the providence of the press. The press exists to report the truth, regardless of who it helps or harms. Anything short of that is irresponsible to their charge and invalidating to their credibility. Executed correctly, this standard will benefit the underdog more often than not, because governmental transparency guards against abuse of power. The benefit to the underdog is a fantastic byproduct of real reporting.

- This is why bitter people cling to guns and religion, or in my case comic books and cynicism.

* Pictures of Jerry Falwell's asshole, pre- or postmortem are ridiculously hard to come by (that is not a pun). Come on people, we have the Freedom of Information Act for a reason!

*2 The person responsible for 'coaching' a porn star to performance size.

*3 At least she didn't work the 'That depends on what you mean by lying about a lie. Isn't that the truth?' angle. Bill hasn't taught her all of his tricks, apparently.

*4 "Goodnight and good luck, trick-ass biatches."

*5 The shittiest rollercoaster ride in Medialand. A close second? The Scaremongering Local News Teaser That Implies You're Going To Die Unless You Hear The Information They Have, But They'll Wait Until After Primetime To Tell You About It.

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