In this week’s mailbag we discuss whether the media should apologize for subjecting us to a 24/7 GOP primary circus, Jon Stewart’s continued assertion that there is equivalency between Democrats and Republicans, and whether we miss Rick Santorum or not!
Would you agree that the media establishment should be forced to co-sign a blanket apology to their viewers, readers, listeners, for having withstood the relentless promotion and coddling of the Republican primary process (dozens of debates, countless million$ spent, shameful disregard for truth) and the obvious attempt to legitimize these otherwise ridiculously divisive candidates in the eyes of the American public?
Chez: Yeah. Keep dreaming on that. First of all, while it may look like the media are one big Voltron of various idiots, they don’t generally operate as one — so no, you’re not going to get some kind of blanket apology, as wonderful as it would be. The day that happens is the day that the media as a whole ceases to exist — because these days it exists solely to create and perpetuate conflict. Whenever anyone asks me whether I feel that the press has a left or right-wing bias, my answer is almost always the same: While Fox News invariably leans right and MSNBC has decided to pick up the left flank, for the most part the only thing modern mainstream journalism is biased toward is conflict. While there’s an argument to be made that there’s nothing really wrong with this — that it’s in a journalist’s nature to want to sow a little discord — it’s become industrialized. There’s an actual machinery of thinking within most press outlets, particularly on cable news, that creates conflict wherever and whenever possible because it understands that the back-and-forth translates into ratings or page hits which translates into dollars. This is why the “both sides” meme is played up, why otherwise worthless candidates are turned into individual news cycle superstars, and why presidential debates are played out like reality TV shows. So, no — they’re not gonna apologize. And in fact things are only going to get worse.
Bob: While it’d be great to get a blanket apology for this and many other trespasses, it’ll never happen. That said, it’s endlessly disgusting how the press continues to legitimize a party that doesn’t have any regard for actual policy, consistency or veracity (to name three). They certainly don’t deserve to be offered equal seriousness with the Obama Democratic Party, which has bent over backwards (almost to a fault) in order to get things done. A party that engages in racial Southern Strategy politics while often threatening secession and reverting to McCarthyism can’t possibly be taken seriously. Is there anything more childish and pathetic than top shelf elected Republicans who deliberately use the pejorative “Democrat Party” slur — a form of name-calling so as to emphasize the “rat” party of the word. Imagine if Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid emphasized the “pub” syllable in “Republican” and pronounced it like “pube?” Of course no respectable Democrat would do such a thing — but almost every Republican says “Democ-RAT Party.” So yes, I understand your frustration with the press treating these people with undeserved seriousness, but no, don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology.
Ben: Asking the media establishment to apologize for their behavior would assume that they are aware of what they are doing. Sadly, people who make it to the top in the corporate press either don’t know or don’t care that they are actively contributing to the dumbing down of democracy. Waiting for an apology from Fox, CNN etc would be like waiting for Newt Gingrich to apologize for being an ego maniac. It simply isn’t going to happen. Every now and then we see moments of self awareness when it gets too ridiculous (when CNN introduced holograms to it programming, Anderson Cooper finally broke), but generally speaking, they make too much money to care about things like serious reporting.
Hi Guys, What do you think is up with Jon Stewart? He’s been trying too hard for a while now to push the inane both sides are equally bad meme, but his show has become nearly unwatchable. Doing a “comedy” bit with O’Reilly last night? Sure, pan the apparent ridiculousness of the GSA boondoggle, but cozy up with that vile spewer of hate? Then run a segment on how stupid the President’s email campaign can be? Sure the begging can get tiring. So hit unsubscribe and go back to covering the right-wing war on women and actual freedoms. And the night before he’s arguing to a former Bushco lawyer that President Obama caved on campaign promises and the fucking bush guy is defending the President.
– Keith Burgess
Bob: I’m as baffled as you are. Whenever I watch a really, really strong Jon Stewart segment I have trouble enjoying it with the gusto it deserves because I keep waiting for him to pull the rug out from under us with a ridiculous “on the other hand, the Democrats are stupids, too” epilogue crow-barred into the proceedings. For a guy who is really the heart and soul of political commentary on TV (second only to Maddow, in my opinion) and a guy who is incredibly smart and insightful, I simply don’t get why he’s so anxious to lapse into that false equivalence. I can’t help but to think he knows better. While we’re here, the president recently called out the “both sides” meme in an address to the Associated Press: “I think that there is often times the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally.”
Ben: As I don’t watch television any more, I don’t have a huge amount to say on the topic. I catch the occasional Daily Show clip because I love Jon Stewart, and I have to say that I am also confused as to why he continues with the whole ‘both sides are equal’ schtick. I get that he is trying to be fair, and there certainly time when the Left deserves to be ridiculed. But when you’re dealing with a political movement that doesn’t believe in evolution, climate science, women’s rights or any type of social welfare, it seems a bit silly to devote time to attacking the other side. Having said that, Stewart is a smart guy who tries to engage seriously with the Right, and perhaps this is his way of retaining a sense of impartiality and avoiding political labels.
Chez: To his credit, Stewart prides himself on a measure of objectivity; he understands that were he to do nothing but cheerlead for the left, there’d be no reason to take his thoughts the least bit seriously. That said, there have certainly been times when I’ve felt like he’s tried a little too hard to prove that he’s not an automaton — and ironically, the need to believe that you’re not a robotic follower and are instead a proud individual is a liberal conceit, the ultimate liberal conceit, actually. When he pals around with O’Reilly, I don’t sweat it because everyone watching The Daily Show knows that the two are secretly respectful adversaries who actually kind of like each other. (The amusing thing is that O’Reilly’s viewers probably really do believe that Bill-O hates Stewart.) And when Stewart doesn’t immediately go to bat for the White House or rip the hell out of conservative stupidity, I also don’t worry about it because overall Stewart’s record of being far is excellent. He’s not a jukebox — he’s not there to do only the stories you want to see him do or to express indignation over everything you feel is an injustice and he’s still one of the best friend’s the progressive movement has had in our culture. Also, while this will sound like a cop-out, please keep in mind that Stewart is a comic and will likely always go after what he figures he can make the most comedic hay out of — because while being incisive is important in his business, being funny is more important.
Hi guys, loving the mailbag! Wanted to hear your thoughts on Santorum’s exit from the race. I know the guy is a nut, but he was at least an honest nut. Mitt Romney on the other hand is a complete fraud and basically bought the election. I’m strangely sad Santorum lost.
Ben: Thanks David! I’m with you on this – I think Santorum’s popularity represents a sad chapter in American political history, but Romney’s ascendance is perhaps even sadder. The fact that someone clearly unqualified to run for President as Rick Santorum got so far is extremely worrying, but it does show that honesty and consistency still counts for something. Santorum wasn’t a liar or a flip flopper – he believed what he was saying and didn’t change his message when the political winds changed. Romney’s assured victory just shows that money buys elections. He has changed literally every policy position he has ever had, lied, pandered and bowed down to every power interest he could, and still came out on top. I wont miss Santorum, but I will miss what he stood for.
Chez: Santorum and Romney were like the Odd Couple — they functioned as the perfect yin and yang of the Republican party’s soul and personality. Or maybe its id and ego is a better metaphor. Yeah, I’m gonna miss Santorum — but it’s gonna be a lot of fun watching Romney try to win over his supporters without alienating the ever-dwindling sane faction of the conservative electorate.
Bob: Thanks for the love! I wrote an extended piece this week in The Daily Banter about Santorum’s incredible showing. For several reasons, a D-list Republican made it to April while winning 10 primaries. Ten victories despite trailing Romney in fundraising by something like $60 million. We can attribute this to several things: the dominance of the small-but-very-loud tea party; the leaderless Republican Party; and the weakness of Romney. At the same time, Santorum was remarkably articulate in the debates and said all of the things the tea party fringe wanted to hear. It was only a matter of time before he got his turn driving the clown car. I could be wrong, but I expect him to be Romney’s vice presidential nominee.
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