Wednesday, August 27, 2008 By Aaron Brown
I tried to watch "Morning Joe" this morning on MSNBC. Normally, I like that show but there's something weird going on. It's as though there is absolutely no memory on that (or most) cable news shows. No one remembers, for instance, that Obama's nomination was a statistical miracle, that there was a reason people flocked to him in Iowa. Today, Joe Scarborough says (paraphrasing) "Hillary doesn't have voters, she has followers. She has a movement." This is why her movement won't transfer over to Obama, which was the established universal narrative of Tuesday night's media programming.
Now, Hillary may indeed have developed a movement. I, for one, thought she was more impressive as a candidate later in the process. But don't we all remember that they said the same of Obama's voters after Iowa, that THEY might not vote for Hillary if SHE were nominated. It's as though they're ignoring the fact that the Democratic party is always full of division and that many of the problems that now exist are the same (the intellectual wing vs. the lunch bucket wing) but only amplified by the way they're being covered and the horribly twisted version of a race/gender discussion we're getting this year (a discussion that has left women and minorities no better off than before this whole thing started). I am truly left wondering if the problem is agenda setting in the media or just rank incompetence across the board.
This is the worst media coverage of any modern election I've ever seen. I'm talking Fox, but even MSNBC and the networks I watch regularly. I didn't think it could get worse than 2004, but it is much worse. There is no line whatsoever between facts and opinions, "stories" and "narratives." It's not a liberal or conservative bias, specifically; it's a biased on the worst of all things: the projection of this election and American voters as vacuous and cynical, and that we can't change anything, do anything or expect anything but deception and the same old.
Narrative: Barack Obama is simultaneously too wonkish and detached, but also too popular to be trusted.
Media-prescribed solution: Release more details, but not too many details. Be liked, but not too liked. But don't worry, if you what we tell you we'll report that you lack confidence and are preparing to lose. Also, we'll do that if you don't. Really, the problem is that your name is funny and that people think you're a Muslim. You aren't but we'll report that.
I'm in full rant mode now, but let me just say that I've got no problem with people who are voting for McCain because they are ideologically conservative and believe in him. I would hope people voting with me for Obama are doing so because of his vision for America. But I see so many people -- so very many -- in my life who are voting off of the media narrative, influenced by pop nonsense, even though the stakes are so high.
There are many examples of the poor quality of the media's handling of the Democratic convention and this election in general. Republicans, Hillary-backers and Obama-backers now share that loathing. And I'm well aware that "blaming the media" is something experts say you only do when you're down. But this election was supposed to be the highest-minded and purist of my generation and instead it is ugly and crass, the death throws of a wealthy empire unable to navigate its place in a changing world. I expect better and now believe that the only way things will change is if the people directly and specifically reject the media narrative and vote their conscious and/or pocketbook. The problem is, no matter how this one turns out, we may never know why people voted the way they did. I'm sure the pundits will tell us, though.
The bad news:
“The people can have anything they want, the only problem is they do not want anything. Or at least they vote that way on election day."The good news:
Come gather 'round peopleCome writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.
From "The Times they are a' Changin'" by prominent Iron Ranger Bob Dylan. (Note that he doesn't talk about political parties or ideologies, just the acceptance of change from one generation to the next. Change will come, even if the guy on your TV is a moron).