Friday, April 18, 2008

"Mickey Mouse" journalism

Leave it to ABC, ground-breaking pioneer of such wonderful journalisming as "The Path to 9/11", to manage to put on what is easily the most horrible "debate" yet this primary season.

The S.F. Chronicle reports:
ABC News drew both impressive ratings and a heap of complaints about how Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos moderated the Democratic presidential debate, criticism that Stephanopoulos on Thursday called a sign of how much people care.

By Thursday evening, more than 16,800 comments were posted on ABC News' Web site, the tone overwhelmingly negative. A prominent TV critic, Tom Shales of the Washington Post, said Gibson and Stephanopoulos "turned in shoddy, despicable performances."
Translated from Beltway-Speakā„¢ into English: "how much people care" means "how outraged and upset people were at the hack-job ABC did".
The Obama campaign, whose supporters were most angered by the debate, quickly sent out a fundraising appeal Thursday titled, "Gotcha." The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org said it would run an ad protesting ABC if 100,000 people signed their petition.

"Last night, I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people," Obama said at a rally in North Carolina on Thursday. "Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices."
That pretty much sums it up. Stephanopoulis and Gibson, OTOH, think that what's really important is whether you have a flag pin on your lapel.

Need to know what this all accomplished? Just pay attention to who was happy:
There was some positive feedback, with columnist David Brooks of the New York Times giving ABC News' performance an "A."
Maladministration flack and sycophant Brooks (who thinks he is in touch with the 'Merkun people if he goes to a Red Lobster) is quite happy about the debate. The questions he thought should be asked were asked. The questions that RW "Noise Machine"harpy Sean Hannity wanted asked got asked, ferchrisssake.....

I had the bad (or perhaps good) sense of timing to be leaving Philly in the hours before the debate, and being on a plane as the travesty unfolded. When I got to Salt Lake City, a bobblehead on CNN was explaining in a post-mortem that such questioning was necessary because the candidates didn't differ on the issues. How the would you know if you don't ask them about the issues, you bleating cud-chewer?

Perhaps the best commentary and analysis of this comes from the inestimable Digby over at Hullabaloo, in a piece on Glenn Greenwald's new book "Great American Hypocrites" (go buy it and read it):
The "issues" that Stephanopoulos and Gibson thought were of such interest to the Democratic primary electorate are the vaunted "character issues" which are pulled off the shelf in each successive election cycle and reused like an old winter blanket. These manufactured controversies are supposed to illustrate something important about the candidates --- indeed, journalists tout them as necessary to see if the candidates can "take it." Since the media see Republicans as being straight shootin' sons 'o guns who tell it like it is, there is no need to run them through the same meat grinder to find out if they are similarly "qualified."

It's absurd to think that Americans really care about flag pins or unreliable memories of a single event, (which have already been hashed out ad nauseum for weeks, by the way.) Of course they don't.

Glenn's book takes a nice long look at this phenomenon, examining the MSM's unabashed obsession with tabloid gossip and their eagerness to help the conservatives employ the death of 1000 trivial character slams, which we've all observed with slack-jawed incredulity over the past couple of decades. He carefully examines the long standing "Republicans are real men, Democrats are wimps" narrative that was consciously and carefully marketed to the mainstream media over the course of many years by the right wing propagandists. He takes us through the Dukakis campaign, through the bizarre case of Bill Clinton (where they feminized him by masculinizing his wife) to the recent atrocities of Gore and Kerry. It's not in the book, obviously, but we can see the same forces at work with Obama and Clinton just this past month.

The important thing to realize is that these themes have been completely internalized by the villagers. They really don't even question it anymore, it's completely natural to them. When you see George Stephanopoulos essentially explain that Democratic voters are choosing between an flaccid, unpatriotic "metrosexual" and a lying, delusional succubus, and it's simply his job to help them sort that out, you know that he's completely lost touch with what people actually need politics and government for. (It pays to remember that George made his bones by being the first in the media to use the word "impeachment" when Monica Lewinsky was revealed. He always knew which side his stale baguette was buttered on.)
Digby has a knack for getting to the heart of the situation, and the bolded part bears repeating.

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