Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, February 09, 2004  

What if the Unthinkable Happens?

Aside from the obvious joys of travel, I get a nice fringe benefit--cable TV. During my extremely packed weekend, I managed about 15 minutes of TV time on Saturday morning, all of which I devoted to Fox News. The show featured Brit Hume (host?) in a talking heads format. The segment I watched was essentially no more fair or balanced than the average Michael Savage segment--and about as paranoid. It was probably a show designed to be partisan, but it was well beyond the pale in terms of bias. Commenters referred to the "shocking smear" campaign of the Democrats about the President's reserve service. (No mention was made that the media is the central prosecutor in that case--well, all media not owned by Rupert Murdoch, anyway.) And then at one point, one of the heads began a sentence this way: "If the unthinkable happens and John Kerry beats George Bush...."

Unthinkable? That's an interesting way to put it.

A series of events--all of them false--has led to a circumstance in which the right wing media has confirmed its own self-generated reality with flatly wrong data. It's circular reasoning, so it doesn't really matter where you start. I'll go with spin of the kind exemplified by the "unthinkable" quote. Since George Bush took office, the conservative media haven't had to give voice to the left. News begins with a GOP press release, continues to a GOP flack, is refuted by a slightly critical GOP flack who thinks some minor element of the release is inaccurate, and then is "analyzed" by a conservative commentator, who either toes the line or boldly sides with the "dissentor." There's nothing to refute the spin cycle.

Next element: the media. Until very recently, even the "independent" media (read: not explicitly conservative) failed to give voice to true opposition voices. In large part this was because even the Democrats weren't really opposed to the President (until Dean). Bush got tax cuts, wars, massive spending increases on pet issues, corporate giveaways, and environmental givebacks--all without much of a whisper from the Dems.

Next element: the people. While Bush was pushing through those tax cuts and wars (etc.), the people loved him. They approved of his actions in the highest numbers on record. This meant the opposition wasn't opposed and the independent media weren't investigating, and the Murdoch media were using those same numbers as external proof that the spin cycle reflected reality.

Final element: triumphalism. Finally, conservative politicians crushed moderate Dems and moderate Republicans (there were no liberal Dems), and ran the tables on pretty much every sector of the federal government. Bush was polling in the sixties or seventies, and we were in the midst of a war fervor. Patriotism, always the sole purview of the GOP, was even on their side.

So the media's conservative because they say that's what the people want, and the people vote conservative because they think that's all there is--because the Dems aren't in opposition and the ("independent") media aren't reporting--and so the GOP run the tables which shows that the country's conservative, so the conservative media conclude that's what the people want, and....

There's a certain logic to it. It's mesmerizing. It's so convinicing that there have been times when I've even wondered if I'm crazy (I'd link to a past post here, but I can't find it). Maybe this is George Bush's reality, and we're all just living in it. On the other hand, what happens when links in the chain of Murdoch reality start breaking down--the people start to hate Bush, the situation in Iraq collapses, evidence emerges that Bush really was AWOL, John Kerry wins the election.

For Rupert Murdoch (and his big fat bottom line), that must really be unthinkable.

posted by Jeff | 12:13 PM |
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