Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Sunday, July 25, 2004
The "L word" and other media absurdities
By inadvertent chance, I stumble across a national broadcast news show occasionally. This morning that chance arose as I flipped to This Week, where, in separate interviews, Ted Kennedy and John Edwards were both grilled on their liberal politics. (Reminding me why I should be a little more advertent in avoiding such chances henceforth.) It's one of the many examples of the lazy incuriosity of the press that this rises like clockwork at every election. Here's the blueprint for how the questioning goes, which played out more or less identically when Cokie "I haven't really been following politics for a decade" Roberts and George "Look, I'm a real journalist" Stephanopolous interviewed Edwards and Kennedy.
The trap: "Senator X, the right wing smear machine has called you a commie rat bastard, which I will now uncritically, puppet-like pose to you. Is it true that you are, in fact, a commie rat bastard, or are you rather a liar who tells his base he's a rat bastard commie only to appease them while you secretly support the sober and judicious policies of the patriotic fundamentalist far right? Which is it?"
The response: "Well [good-looking vacuous reporter's name here], I don't think you can reduce it to labels. Those are the politics of division, and I am an optimistic candidate who looks for solutions, not divisions."
The follow-up: "But you do oppose God and support ripping infants from their mother's wombs and also special rights for buggerers, isn't that correct?"
The second response: "Well [good-looking vacuous reporter's name here], I do support a woman's right to choose, and I think writing bigotry into the Constitution is a drastic and unnecessary step."
The final word: "So you are a rat bastard godless commie, as the patriotic right assert.
Moving on from there, Cokie and George joined Sam "I've been insane ever since Lewinsky" Donaldson and George "I've been insane ever since Dubya" Will in a discussion of the election. Now, I don't mean to be cynical, but what they discussed and what's actually happening don't appear to have the vaguest coherence. It appeared a lot more like the analysis you hear from NFL commentators who are in the early third quarter of a 31-6 blowout and are trying to convince you the thing's still competitive so you don't tune into Marry a Millionaire Dullard on FOX. Could it be that a close election is far better for business than a blow out?
While they did mention that things could be looking better for Bush, it was Kerry whom they identified as being really in trouble. You know, because he's just not "connecting" with voters--another talking point imported whole cloth from Karl Rove's script. (According to recent polling, he's connecting well enough with Pennsylvania voters, who now give him a 10-point lead, 48%-38%, and Florida voters, who place him in a dead heat with their governor's brother.) Oh, he's also, according to Cokie, in serious trouble with independents because of his ultra-liberal stance on social issues.
The whole thing is absurd. Is this how it's been with the national media lately?
(Incidentally, the correct answer to the liberal question is: "That's a rigged question, [good-looking vacuous reporter's name here]. The GOP has spent 25 years demonizing the word "liberal" in order to create the situation I now find myself in, with a dim-witted reporter regurgitating conservative talking points and offering them as objective questions that will inform viewers. Actually, what you should ask is, 'am I a liberal in the fake, absurdist sense of Ronald Reagan's Welfare Queen, or a liberal in the FDR, resurrected-America-from-the-depression-and-liberated-Europe-from-Hitler sense.' I'm the latter, and thanks for asking.")