April 13, 2008

Here it comes

Yes, it started some time ago, but it's beginning in earnest now. The elite pundit and press, after grappling during all these weeks of slow news, is finally beginning to obediently fall into line and agree on a story line for the Democratic primary candidates.

Yes, it's sad but true that the press doesn't like working too hard. They're under a lot of pressure. There's not a lot of real material to work with. If they stuck to strictly reporting just the facts, or were honest in their appraisals of the candidates, it would be deadly dull.

How do you get your writing quoted on say, "Meet the Press" or the cable news shows? Why, you invent some damning story line and write a piece where you take a pretty mild and understandable incident or utterance by a candidate and spin an elaborate story from it. Then in turn, it gets amplified and repeated in various ways by dozens of other journalists, and eventually becomes "The Story", the narrative which the media nearly always adheres to lemming like, for the entire campaign.

The players in this drama know this fact. They know it will happen. So their job is to try like hell to feed the media and spin them to get them to go along with the story line most favorable to their candidate or damaging to the opponent.

We've seen this so often and for so long that it's ridiculous to pretend it doesn't happen or to act like we can't see it coming or don't recognize it for what it is.

The Republicans have literally lived on this sort of thing for decades now. We saw it in the past couple presidential elections in which truth and reality were tossed aside like some burger wrapper and the press willingly went along with things that simply had no truth to them.

But the press is lazy. So Gore was a serial liar, constantly exaggerated, would say anything to get elected. (all untrue and proven untrue) Kerry was wishy-washy and rather than a patriotic and brave young man who voluntarily served in combat in Vietnam (that's REAL bullets whizzing by your head folks. Not sitting on your ass with multiple deferments or getting sloshed and skipping duty in the National Guard.) was turned into some girly-man coward and traitor. (Yes, try to believe it. But it actually happened, didn't it.)

How were these things accomplished? How, in this country, could the press participate in spreading thing that they knew were patently false and stories which were provably false?

The books have been written on that subject, and more undoubtedly will. But the driving force behind it was the literally massive and lavishly funded conservative effort to systematically upend the normal journalistic process. They'd invent some blatantly false spin, e-mail it to Drudge, who'd post it with a screaming headline. Believe it or not, despite repeatedly being shown to report blatantly false stories, Drudge is often the first site most journalists and pudits read.)

The utter crap, completely unverified or confirmed, mind you,would get picked up on and broadcast literally around the clock from hundreds of AM stations from coast to coast, and on their own cable network around the globe. All this within hours at times.

Then the army of right wing shills, including the zombie blondes, would be marched out onto the TV airwaves to further distort, spin, and spew mock outrage.

The next piece falls into place when major papers would then feel pressure to report it under the guise of reporting what someone ELSE was reporting, then...

The other cable channels would then rush to cover it so as to not be scooped, and now you have an utterly ridiculous story invented in the bowels of the Republican National Committee being sent straight to the top, reported and discussed as if it was completely legitimate and true by the entire national media.

And God help anyone who didn't play along. They were then scorchingly condemned as the lowest of the low, the "liberal media", who obviously weren't "fair and balanced" and were in the pocket of the liberals. (despite the fact that they were owned by enormous conservative corporations.) CNN and others completely freaked out and scrambled to replace execs and started hiring right wing loons left and right and cancelling even the few shows which featured ANY voice from the Dems or leaning left (Crossfire with Carville and Begalla, Phil Donahues highly rated and short-lived show) in response to these utterly false and ridiculous accusations.

It's referred to as the echo chamber, and it worked like a charm.

Did it work for the Democrats? Nah. They didn't make the effort to invent lies, or at least nothing like the Republicans, and they certainly weren't successful in getting any of them accepted as fact. Lord knows they had more than enough TRUE things to get out about Bush... but it never gained wide-spread coverage.

Remember Bush's getting into the guard by Dad pulling strings and then skipping out of service after he was asked to take a physical and then simply disappearing? There was a mountain of evidence that showed this to be true. But it was completely dismissed at the time. Then when someone tried to get the story out again and resorted to recreating the evidence, all true, mind you, but recreated, it resulted in Dan Rather getting fired and the story was deep-sixed forever.

Yes, a few documents had been faked, but the FACTS WERE ALL TRUE. No matter.

It was far more important to spend hours upon hours of airtime repeating the demonstrably false accusations of a bunch of paid-off right wing liars who hadn't even served with Kerry in Viet Nam.

Recently we've seen the "liar" narrative attempted to be nailed on Hillary Clinton's back. She didn't help things by lying. But nonetheless, now the effort to turn the Dems into cartoon simple characters begins.

Hillary is a liar who can't be trusted. She screwed up and that gave them all they needed. Now they'll try to pound that relentlessly.

Is she a liar? No. Not in any real sense in that she's more dishonest than the average politician. But no matter.

They've had a more difficult time trying to turn Obama into a cartoon.

He's more complex, there's less history to try to distort or mine for a narrative.

They've ran a few things up the flag pole, and they'll no doubt do some damage amongst the demographic which has always been absolutely crucial to any chance at Republican victory: clueless morons.

These folks couldn't spell Iraq let alone point it out on a map. These are the folks that are responsible for the WWF and monster truck racing being multi-million dollar industries. They don't know what they're talking about, and they're almost proud of it. But they know what they're scared off, because the right wing tells them. (actually, the right knows what they hate and fear, they just feed them crap that confirms and increases it to levels beyond anything resembling reality.)

These are the sort of gullible half-wits who both believe and forward around laughably false right wing e-mail spam which either purports to reveal some shocking "truth" about Obama or Clinton or Dems, or otherwise jacks up their ignorance and mindless support of right wing goals such as endless war. (See the post "When a Wingnut Wetdream Explodes" here for but one small example out of hundreds of the sort of thing these morons send around constantly. In a way, it's not their fault. They're fed so much false information, manipulated like mindless tools, no wonder they think like they do.)

So Obama has been a bit tougher. They tried the whisper campaign and that got a lot of the morons to believe Obama as a "secret Muslim", a concept laughable to anyone with even a flimsy grasp on reality or fact, but entirely sellable to the right wing demographic. Polls show that there are still a vast number of people who honestly believe that Obama is a Muslim.

Then there was the attempt to somehow paint him as a clone of his minister, a minister that they utterly distorted and mischaracterized through a few snippets of the most inflammatory few seconds of a few sermons. Never mind the hyperbole that's routinely employed from the pulpit, never mind all the other good works he's done, the thousands of needy people he's counseled and brought to believe in the same religion the right claims as their exclusive domain. Just excite the rubes. That's the name of the game.

Obama dealt with the issue in a remarkably honest and bold way, and largely put out the attempt to fan it into some mushroom cloud of irrational spin.

So now they're trying on a new label.

As usual for the right, this one's been used before. It's the "elitist" label we all recall from their effort, successfully, to pin it on the last two Democratic candidates.

Of course, this is code for the moron right and those who manipulate them.

"Elitist" to them means anyone who is clearly more intelligent, more educated, more aware of facts, more capable, more accomplished, and eminently qualified for president than you are, you being the average guy who might work for the city patching potholes or perhaps selling insurance or anything where you make less than $300,000 per year.

The "Elitist" label is the code word they use for a blatant and extensive effort to foster RESENTMENT and JEALOUSY towards a candidate who actually is accomplished and very intelligent.

Why, the right says, he thinks he's BETTER than you!

You may recognize this from the same boozy and bizarre tendency, often mocked in comedy, of those who are extremely drunk to suddenly turn on someone and accuse them of thinking they're "better than" the person who's completely sloshed.

Yes, millions of us harbor deep down a sense that we're failures and that it's US who should be sitting at their beach home or driving that nice car, not those Mexicans or Blacks or... it doesn't matter. Who drives those cars and owns those homes? Why PEOPLE LIKE GORE AND KERRY AND OBAMA, that's who!!!

You know, those egg-heads who actually graduated from college and made something out of themselves. Those guys who speak with authority and explain things in detail because they know what they're talking about. The guys who never seem like idiots. God I hate them.

So it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the right makes a major effort to try to tap into this simmering resentment among their moron demographic.

They don't have to be moron's per se, just too stupid to realize that they're acting out of an astoundingly selfish and irrational motive when they dislike someone for simply being intelligent.

The right wing actually gets millions of people to vote against someone PRECISELY BECAUSE they possess the rare qualities of intelligence, judgement, and demeanor that's necessary to be an effective leader.

The right has succeeded in getting people to think that someone they'd "like to have a beer with", in other words, someone as ignorant, inarticulate, and incurious as they are, is actually a better pick to be leader of the free world. And anyone that dares demonstrate superior intellect or the ability to process complex and nuanced situations is suspect and an..... elitist.

Again, you can be forgiven for wondering if we've all fallen through the Looking Glass. It's almost impossible to believe, but there it is. You've seen it happen with your own eyes.

So now comes this ridiculous attempt to completely distort what Obama said to some San Fransisco fat-cats in an attempt to explain why working people in middle-America have been persuaded to vote directly against their own interests for so long.

What he said was perfectly true, and perfectly rational. There's been books written by researchers that back up what he said exactly.

Now Clinton and others pretend that he was demeaning these people, that somehow he was trying to say that the ONLY reason people like guns and religion is because their local economy has tanked.

That's so willfully wrong it hurts. Yet there was good ol' Jimmy Carville spinning that like mad on today's "Meet the Press". And with a straight face.

It should be clear, as it is to anyone who has looked into politics and elections in the past few decades, that what Obama said is exactly true, though he obviously in trying to make the explanation wasn't as exact and precise as he may have been. But he wasn't there to deliver a socio-politico treatise on why middle-Americans have been conned into voting against their own interests, he was just trying to give an overview off-the-cuff.

But since he didn't expound at length, and with a professor's accuracy and precision, they're pouncing on him and distorting his words beyond recognition.

Clinton even thought it would be a great time to pay homage to the right wing machine that spent hundreds of millions trying to destroy her and her husband by hauling out their good old "elitist" trick and using it herself.

What a swell gal.

And to capitalize on the "elitist" attack, they even had a press availability in a bar showing Hillary downing a beer and a shot. Made nearly $20 million last year, but she's just like your average Joe. (see "have a beer with" above.)

Obama came from broken family and clawed his way to graduating with honors from Harvard, then went to work in neighborhoods you wouldn't dare be caught in even during the day. But psst...... he's "elitist".

A recent poll was cited a couple days back that I found of interest. I've talked to many people of the female persuasion who have been ardent Hillary supporters in the past. Now these same women seem to have no problem disguising their strong dislike of her.

This struck me as interesting, though I could see why they may have soured on Hillary. There's no shortage of reasons I suppose.

But the poll I saw was the first to actually identify and address this phenomena. It reported that somewhere around 27% of women now had a worse impression of Hillary Clinton than they had prior to her campaign. Based on what I'd heard, this was no surprise, and I actually thought it might be higher.

And it's exactly the sort of low tactic that Clinton is now trying on Obama that is moving them away in my opinion.

I myself have always held Hillary in high regard, and was completely outraged at the horrible efforts to spread outright lies and distortions about her. The blatant misogynistic streak of so many on the right that tried to dismiss her simply because she was a woman was outrageous as well.

But the more I see of her on the stump, the less I like her. And I too find that I've gone from liking her a lot and looking forward to her run, to thinking she's truly no better than the right wing which she fought for so long.

Perhaps I'm being sexist myself for finding her behavior so objectionable. After all, if a male candidate was getting as down and ugly as she is, would I feel the same way? I'd like to think the answer would be yes, but I can't say for certain.

What's true is that her sex definitely puts her in a special box. She looks bad if she plays the victim, yet she often is. She looks bad if she fights dirty, yet male candidates do so with impunity.

I think all one can say is that even in 2008, it is decidedly not an advantage to a candidate for president without a Y chromosome.

Keep your eye out for such examples of the press and/or the opposition attempting to create a false "identity" or label for a candidate. They're looking high and low for this elections nice, neat, and above all, overly simplistic story line.

Have any other examples?

PS. I made this post very long to ensure that my right wing troll wouldn't be able to read it.


At 4/13/2008 7:55 PM, Blogger Saul said...

For the life of me I can't figure out why "professional" journalists think Drudge is worth reading.

At 4/14/2008 11:56 AM, Anonymous the final countdown said...

e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism Audio Help (ĭ-lē'tĭz'əm, ā-lē'-) Pronunciation Key

1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
1. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
2. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.

This is the definition of elitism. Can anyone make a valid argument that we've had a President in the last century who wasn't a member of the elite in one way or another?

Furthermore, can anyone make an argument that rule by elites is a bad thing? FDR was a member of the elite. So was JFK. Is Obama? Absolutely. It is obvious that his intellectual gifts put him in a small group of people.

The "regular guy" thing has always escaped me. I want a regular guy that I can have a beer with to, well, hang out and have a beer with. Not a President. I want a decidedly un-average person to be my Commander in Chief.

At 4/14/2008 2:09 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Keeping in mind what I so inarticulately tried to explain above, the reason they'd feed at that trough becomes a bit more clear.

First of all, thanks largely to Fox, the news is now not news, but gossip, innuendo, and cheap titilation.

Why do they check Drudge first thing in the morning? Because they have to.

That's where all the bullshit tabloid political rumor and dirty tricks appear first.

As I said, the minute any right wing operative or the RNC or even the White House has any crap that they want to disseminate without having their fingerprints directly on it, who's e-mail inbox do you think they find?

That's right. Good old weirdo Drudge, who they know will reliably publish it, adding his trademark breathless hype, and not spend so much as a moment wondering if the rumor or gossip he's blasting across the world is true or not.

So why do even the top anchors and print journalists read it?

Because as I explained, anything that appears first on Drudge will undoubtedly follow the echo chamber path and end up being reported by these supposedly "professional" sources anyway.

So they might as well find out right away so they can get to work on the story.

It no longer matters if something's verifiable or not.

As I say, the "majors", such as Wash. Post, NY Times, etc. and all the cable news shows skirt that issue by conveniently reporting on what OTHER sources are reporting.

Someone sends Drudge a story that there's pictures of Obama snorting heroin off a dead hooker's stomach.

Drudge reports it across the top of his page in inch big type "BREAKING!!!"

The rest of the pack all chime in.

Where before FOX/Rove/Gingrich... before the right wing noise machine, no legit paper or mag would touch this.

But now that very evening they report, 'It's being reported that there are pictures which show a red-eyed Barack Obama snorting heroin off a dead hooker's lifeless body tonight."

When people that give a damn about real reporting scream about this, they simply say they weren't reporting it themselves, just reporting what OTHER sources were reporting.

You get the picture.

This is how it works.

At 4/14/2008 7:30 PM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, while I'm not in total agreement with what you just wrote, I do agree with what I perceive to be the gist of the post; the laziness and ineptness of the press.

I was amazed the way Clinton and McCain jumped on this "bitter" thing. Talk about a non-story! A bad choice of words? Probably. Personally, I think "cynical" should have been the replacement word. Going back to Carter (and maybe even further) one has to ask "just exactly what HAS Congress done for the middle class?" But talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill, that's exactly what the lazy press has done.

With blogs, a wide variety of Internet sites, op-ed pieces, etc., the real working press hasn't had to go too far to find a story. Like you said, they just find something and jump on it as the truth.

I didn't get to hear Carville on Meet the Press, but this morning on the Today Show, he was as condescending as ever regarding Obama's remark. I've never heard the guy so calm and leaning to side with Obama (wonder of all wonders).

You needn't go far to see how lazy the press has become. Most of our local newscasts on radio tend to not rely on the AP or some bonafide news agency... many of their stories are taken straight out of the QC Times.

An not all of the stories or subject matter that appear on the national news comes from the "right wing spin miesters." Heck, I remember Hillary playing up the "Obama is a Muslim" idea in some of the clips of her campaign stumping. Liberals can play dirty, too. But, hey, that's what politics has become. And that's why I've become so cynical to this whole process. Anyone who totally believes what the politicians or the news media for that matter, are preaching are just plain gullable.

It's been somewhat of a pleasure lately to forego our network news shows and watch the BBC Report. Basically news without the slant and editorializing towards one side or the other.

At 4/14/2008 7:58 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

First of all, you have my undying admiration for actually getting through that whole post. (no kidding) I've always thought that there were a few folks out there who could actually digest something that length without having their brains seize up half way through.

So thanks for that first of all.

Secondly, your point that both sides can pounce on a minor gaff and attempt to twist it completely into suggesting that it means something utterly different from what it was intended is indeed not limited to just the right.

But that said, it is a fact that there was a lavishly funded, and by that, I mean in the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, effort by Richard Mellon Scaiffe and several other billionaire far-right figures to literally create a parallel media in this country.

They decided their message (or spin or propaganda) was never going to get out through legitimate means, so they did what incredibly wealthy people tend to do when they want something... they simply bought it.

They created a cable news network, funded several right wing magazines and pumped millions into promoting them, funded right wing think tanks to the tune of tens of millions to produced and pay off professors and accademics to produce "reports" and studies that backed up their views, then funneled these into the press.

They trained dozens and dozens of "reporters" and pushed them onto the air as pundits. (remember all those blondes and others that no one had ever heard of before? Remember how the airwaves were suddenly flooded with right wing "experts" that no one had ever heard of before?)

They had Regnery press cranking out right wing books by the dozen, and Limbaugh and other AM radio hosts pushing them and their own books like crazy.

They literally created out of nothing a multi-million dollar industry out of right wing propaganda.

Nothing was too crude, too irresponsible, or too outright crazy to push, up to and including dozens of books purporting to prove that the Clinton's were drug-dealing mulitiple murderers, that Hillary hung condoms from the White House Christmas tree, that Bill Clinton had raped women, and on and on and on.

I actually have one commenter here who, believe it or not, actually ran a serious campaign in the Republican primary for Lane Evan's seat who STILL believes that the Clintons were involved in murdering Vince Foster and somehow bringing down an entire plane and killing everyone aboard in order to kill Clinton's close friend and commerce secretary Ron Brown.

But I digress. (sorry!)

As to the Dems being guilty of spinning wild tales, I don't think there's any better example than the stunts Hillary has pulled lately, particularly taking Obama's remarks DEFENDING why poorer voters often gravitate towards Republican issues like God, guns, and gays, and had the nerve to say that Obama was "elitist", "looked down on" these people, and was "condescending" towards them.

Not only that, she went as far as suggesting that he was mocking people who believed in God, for God's sake!

What makes that particularly loathsome and slimy in my opinion is the very fact that everyone knows damn good and well that Hillary KNOWS that to be utterly false. She KNOWS exactly what Obama was talking about and probably has based her campaign on the very fact he alluded to.

Yet she had the lack of character, the ability, and the willingness, to go out and BLATANTLY lie and distort those remarks in order to score some political points.

Now yes, this IS politics, after all, and it ain't beanbag, as they say. But it IS a democratic primary and Obama IS a fellow democrat.

There are ways to score points or to elevate yourself other than going to this length.

It's not that she pointed out these remarks per se, it's how BADLY she twisted them, trying to say it suggests that Obama is "looking down his nose" at poorer voters.

And not only that, but as a Democrat, to see this woman essentially working hand in hand with Republicans and McCain to falsely attack and falsely create this misleading characterization of Obama just about makes me sick.

As I noted in the post, there are a lot of people whose opinion of Hillary has fallen after having witnessed her style of campaigning and seeing her true colors.

I'm firmly among them. I'm finding her more and more worthy of contempt all the time.

She is acting exactly like the typically phoney, dishonest, slimy politician that we've all grown so sick of.

I don't get that feeling at all from Obama. But it oozes from Clinton's pores.

At 4/14/2008 9:25 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Re: The things that have been run up the flagpole on Obama, in the fall, the Obama camp can turn around and say "these things were brought up before in the primary, it is old news and it didn't stick then, so there's no story now". Other than these 3 trouble spots, you have to agree that the media has given Obama a cakewalk.

The bitter small town people whom Obama was referring to, who "cling to guns and religion", TID will admit that Obama was right! - he was merely talking about all the small minded small town people of middle America who vote values and social issues over their economic self -interest. They have an innate distrust and they vote their fears not their hopes. TID called them "morons". I'm not gonna go that far, but we get the picture. Yes, Obama was right. Not the smartest thing to say, but honest, yes.

Here's an idea that can settle the Democratic contest right now: The DNC should nominate former Sen. Mike Gravel. (the man from Alaska who ran briefly) PROS: He is best able to articulate the Democratic message, he's good on the stump, and as a compromise candidate, it would solve this bitter rivalry between the Clinton and Obama camps. CONS: A Gravel candidacy would make John McCain look young.

At 4/14/2008 11:54 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Interesting thoughts Nico.

And I agree that it's better to get these tempests in teapots over and done now.

Whether any of this will come back in the general to haunt Obama is always the second topic of discussion on all the talk shows, right after rehashing for the thousandth time what happened, (and every time the sound clips get shorter and shorter and the pundits description of what happened changes until it sometimes isn't even true at all, like a gigantic game of "Telephone")

It's the god damned most boring TV you can imagine. First they rehash the latest nothing, getting things wrong all the time.

Then they ask the "panelists" if this will be serious enough to hurt Obama in the general election.

Then guess what? All the Republicans seriously intone that they think it's VERY serious and it will impact the voters come November, and all the Democrats say it's a big nothing and won't have much impact at all.

Wow, what great analysis, eh?

I'm with you all the way until you suggest Gravel, though I don't suppose you did so with a straight face.

I like Gravel for what he is. I think even Gravel himself took his candidacy with a bit of humor, and I appreciate that.

Don't get me wrong, I think he said some really HONEST things when he was allowed to speak during the primary and many of them needed to be said. (Same of Kucinich and Paul and the others to lesser extents)

But Gravel, bless his heart, just radiates screwball. And in this case, as in others, a screwball in politics is someone who has the courage to tell the truth about almost everything. A screwball is someone who isn't completely dependent and addicted to big money interests and isn't afraid to speak truth to power lest he offend his patrons.

Sad but true.

That being said, Gravel's even harder to take seriously than Kucinich.

Remember his campaign commercial where he stood next to a pond and glowered into the camera in silence, not moving, for about three minutes. Didn't say a word.

Then finally he picks up a rock, throws it in the water, turns his back and walks away?

Cutting edge? Maybe. Innovative? I guess. Weird? Definitely.

As I say, he says some truths that are sorely missing from the discussion and should be included.

And thankfully he realizes that many people don't take him seriously and is able to deal with it. (though it must be tough.)

But the sad reality is that Gravel has effectively zero support from anyone, much less any party big-wigs and anyone making your suggestion would be a laughing stock.

And I've got to give you credit for realizing that the essense of what Obama explained is the truth.

He wasn't trying to be "elite" or condescending or "looking down his nose" at anyone, and even fair-minded people of either party can realize that.

That's why it really disgusts me to see the way Clinton is twisting it beyond recognition in order to suggest things that are ludicrous on it's face, such as the suggestion that Obama is "out of touch" with average people, or "elite", or even something as outrageous as pretending to be shocked and outraged, as some right wing pundits have, that Obama is "making fun" of people for believing in God.

And yes, they're actually trying to take his statement and spread it around that Obama looks down on people who are religious.

And all this from one sentence in reply to a question at a PRIVATE fund raising event that was closed to the press.

Someone evidently recorded his remarks secretly on a cell phone or something, or this wouldn't even be an issue. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the person who did so was affiliated with the Clinton campaign.

What's never reported in this is the fact that Obama was responding to someone who asked him specifically why working class whites weren't supporting him as much as the questioner thought they should.

Obama, far from putting these voters down or mocking them, was actually trying to defend them, by explaining why they "cling" to the values they do.

In that respect his response shows a welcome understanding of poor working class voters.

It shows understanding and compassion, not sneering elitism.

Ask John McCain why some group isn't supporting him and he'd probably just say they were all lefty loons or idiots.

Obama tried to explain his theory on why these voters were inclined to be skeptical of a black guy with a funny name, and why they are so manipulated politically by the God, guns, and gays tactics of the right.

And this is what he gets.


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