Orcinus on Xmas in Cambodia

Dave Neiwert puts the whole thing in perspective, as usual

The “Swift Boat Veterans” topic is on all the lips of the conservatives. Just like Vince Foster’s suicide, the rabid right thinks that it has finally latched onto just the right personal smear (the kind in which it specializes) for bringing down John Kerry.

It’s all that conservatives want to talk about, at least among themselves. This weekend, my brother-in-law — a Mr. Oxycontin fan and a guy who roots for politicians like he roots for football teams — and his equally clueless cousin were exchanging verbal high-fives over all the Swift Boat talk.

I got angry and told them this was the scummiest kind of politics I could remember seeing in a long time, which was saying a lot. “You want to see scummy politics,” the cousin told me, “just wait till Kerry gets going.”


Problem is, the Kerry people aren’t even punching back. Yet.

Look, I understand. What we should be talking about in this election is the fact that we lost over 2 million jobs in the USA under this administration. We should be talking about a federal deficit that has ballooned to a record $435 billion. We should be talking about the diversion from a serious “war on terror” in invading Iraq and how it has harmed our national security. We should be talking about the outing of CIA agents, and the setting of energy policy by consulting with corporate interests, and the concrete degradation of environmental standards.

But we’re not. We now have a thoroughly trivialized press corps, which is now busliy feeding the maw of a conservative movement that demands attention to truly insignificant personal smears whose entire purpose is to attack liberals and non-conservatives. Serious issues are “boring” and do little for your ratings.

This should be the No. 1 issue to all of us bloggers: the disgraceful trivialization of the media, which refuses to call the administration on issues that really matter, and instead spends countless hours going over non-issues planted by PR people to distract us all from the government’s malfeasances. Ann Richards is a lesbian. John McCain had an illegitimate black child and wasn’t really a war hero. Al Gore said he invented the Internet. John Kerry’s recollections of a 33-year-old incident in or near Cambodia are inconsistent (heavens!). Kerry once said it was medals he threw in protest 30-some years ago but later said they were ribbons (must be a congenital liar, no?).

As Dave says, by dwelling on such idiocies, debate on the issues that really matter to us — health care, education, the environment, that war in Iraq (remember?), etc. — are stifled, and the political discussion is reduced to meaningless drivel. Like, how dare Kerry use the girlie word “sensitive”? (Never mind the context.) And that is what our political dialogue has been reduced to.

This didn’t just happen in a vacuum. It’s not just that the media have become trivialized; they have allowed themselves to be trivialized. It was a deliberate, carefully architected strategy implemented by our friends Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, and our media have only rarely demonstrated the cojones to fight back.

This is a topic I plan to expand upon as soon as I finish the new book I’m reading, All the President’s Spin, by the fellows who bring us the invaluable Spinsanity site. There’s only one thing I’ll say about their book for now: it’s a masterpiece.

Update: Another great Kevin Drum post on this kerfuffle.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

It starts at the top. We need more diversified media sources that can generate income at a level that can help them compete against “Big Media.” Right now, the trivializing journalists are trivializing other sources of info, and everything’s pretty much trivialized.

August 18, 2004 @ 5:04 pm | Comment

“Trivialized” makes it sound like something which just suddenly happened. But media which descends to, or never rises out of, trivia is nothing new. Remember the New York Times’ 40 articles covering membership policy at an Atlanta golf club? That must be at least 50 trees killed for each person who actually gave a damn about the subject.

August 18, 2004 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

I agree that the NY Times coverage of the golf club was revolting. I lost no sleep when Howell Raines was sent packing.

What Rove and K. Hughes do with the news is a different story and more insidious. It’s not just a matter of making a mountain out of a molehill, which Raines was doing. it is a matter of intentionally drowning out all reasonable discussion of serious issues by focusing on half-truth and blatant lies that they know are of no relevance to the lives of average Americans. Check out the reviews of All The President’s Spin for more — and my own review will follow in in a few days. What a great book.

August 18, 2004 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

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