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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The corporate media campaign (oh, and primaries, too)

Forget what you think about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Chances are, you know better than the pundits who are analyzing the heck out of the candidates. Each has strengths and weaknesses that attract or repel a stunning variety of constituencies: Soccer Moms, Security Moms, Log Cabin Republicans, Pop Tart Dads, Tiny Angels of Death Families, The Wheat Pasta Lobby, and of course, the growing Stay At Home Dads in Suburbs Who Secretly Crave Cupcakes demographic.

All of these groups have no doubt contributed to the success or downfall of your favorite candidate, according to the Alphabet Broadcasting Contingent (ABC, CBS, NBC, Faux News, CNN, MSNBC, and so on).

While today's primaries are crucial to both candidates' hopes of clinching the nomination, let's look at how these people — and they are people, after all — are cast by the corporate media.

Here are a few observations independent of what's been streamed at you, much like the sludge cannons I see fertilizing open fields at this time of the year.

The first bit of nonsense was the contention that Barack Obama was “the most liberal” of all the senators in Washington D.C. in 2007.

This came from the National Journal, a publication obviously dedicated to political fiction. I wish the allegation were true. If it were, Mr. Obama's first name would be Dennis, he'd be a lot shorter, and he'd be a congressman from Ohio.

Don't get me wrong: I'm supporting Obama (I've said it outright, so don't continue to look for the bias), but he isn't the unflinching idealist that many conservatives say he is. He's not the Messiah, and he's not Satan bin Laden. He's smart, capable, and eloquent. I can live with that. As for Hillary Clinton, she's also smart, capable, and eloquent (without her handlers).

With either candidate, we the people have a shot at being heard, as opposed to being ruled. And there's spin.

For all my bashing of the traditional media (and deservedly so), they're not doing as much damage to any one candidate as they are turning the whole thing into a sporting event. This is a lot easier to cover.

Somebody wins, somebody loses, people pay to get in, everybody makes money, and the fans go home happy (sorta). Something like that.

And the sports cliches abound. One of them always comes out swinging, it's a real horse race, no knockout punches were thrown, but there was perhaps some hitting below the belt. Yet nobody really hit a home run.

What, no corner kicks? In the last debate, Tim Russert looked like some sort of deranged Popeye ringmaster, using a scary face and a bit of a growl to provoke the jaguar into mauling the lion, while not getting any blood on himself as he charged at Clinton with NAFTA, and Obama with Louis Farrakahn.

The only thing missing was an obnoxiously large top hat, a chair, and a whip. But I guess that's what presidential candidates can expect from corporate media in 2008. That, and if you're lucky, a Dial Test from CNN.

Jeez, is that what we're reduced to? “Dis one good, dis one bad.” Wow. Corporate spinmeisters have peddled whatever scum floats to the top of the campaign cesspool: the Hillary's a bitch narrative, the Barack's a militant Muslim narrative, she's too angry, he's not angry enough. Stories. Some of them stick (usually the most hateful), and some of them get repeated by people who don't know any better.

They're doing their best to create stories where none really exist. The truth about the candidates usually lies between the boundaries of understatement and hyperbole. But that doesn't make news exciting, and won't keep you glued to your widescreen through the 57 Viagra/Zoloft/Purple Pill commercials.

What's not being reported? How brutal and absurdly long these campaigns have been for each candidate personally.

How wrong it is for each candidate to have to devote most of their time to raising obscene amounts of money to even get noticed, let alone noticed nationally.
How, once they're in office, they'll have to devote a certain amount of their term to fundraising for the next election.

How the actual election machinery hasn't significantly changed in the past four years, and could thus result in dubious counts in key states and counties.

Why the Electoral College, so outdated, is still guarded by those in power.

It's much more immediately rewarding to show Obama in a turban, or to show Clinton yelling at a rally.

We must stop giving corporate media this power. It's not "the people" telling corporations we want to be entertained into oblivion; we want objective reporting. It's not "the people" demanding three minutes of national news and 23 minutes of local car crashes and waterskiing squirrels. Focus groups do that.

We want, and need, an American voice. It will be messy, and it won't fit in a 10-second clip, but it will be ours. And it must be heard.

Today, I hope the people in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island completely screw up prognosticators and talking heads, and vote for who they please.

If we really want change, a Democrat in the White House will be a good first step, but the people driving the message: That's money.

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