The Press, Facts and Reality

Posted September 24, 2015 on 11:01 am | In the category Election, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Uncategorized | by Jeff

In about 13 months the U.S. will have elected a new president. That is a long time away, but already it is not going well, with a Republican field of fact-resistant candidates and a Democrat field led by a candidate with a couple of self inflicted wounds. There is no useful purpose running through a list of candidates that until recently included a governor under indictment, another governor  looking at possible indictment,  a third who dropped out after his poll numbers disappeared, a couple of religious hustlers – one protestant, one catholic –  a woman campaigning on a record of running a major into the ground, a Southern governor who has destroyed his state’s education and health programs to kiss down to the GOP base, a former Lehman Bros. operative running on – yes! – economic expertise, a brain surgeon with zero political experience, and a narcissistic TV loudmouth.

Some initially saw the GOP race as an entertainment but with all candidates given a degree of credibility strange things can happen. And the press tends to provide that credibility to practically any candidate, regardless of their tenuous grasp of reality.

It is easy to criticize the press. While no one is innocent, culpability does vary from source to source. It is silly to complain about Fox News – serious news is not what they do. They are a propaganda machine and they feed the beast and are good at it. MSNBC serves a similar function for the left, with the important exception that people like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (an actual journalist) maintain an attachment to facts and reality.

But what about the “serious” “objective” press, like the Washington Post, the NY Times and subscriber supported PBS Newshour? Would a serious press treat Trump seriously? Well, as it turns out – yes. His poll numbers are up therefore he gets an if not free, at least reduced fare, ride. Is there any reason to report that when Trump says we need to remove 11 million people from the U.S. he is suggesting an impossibility? Is there any reason when reporting that Carly Fiorina wants to defund Planned Parenthood because she claims to have viewed a video of alive babies being slaughtered by PP  not to mention that no such video exists? Are climate change deniers entitled to a free ride away from scientific fact? Candidates’ statements typically are reported without filters of facts partly because it contributes to the narrative of political campaigns as horseraces and allows journalists to produce words without doing the real work of journalism.

Monday is “politics night” on the PBS Newshour and last Monday their panel discussed the current GOP race and with a wink wink here, and a wink wink there, they disposed of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s removal from the race without discussing his real policy and personal deficiencies, which are considerable. It was the horserace – he could not raise enough money they said – well, there might be a reason for that and maybe that could be discussed. Stories like Walker’s claim that he is saving Wisconsin’s education system by cutting the state’s premier University’s budget and spending the money instead on a basketball arena, and Carly Fiorina’s manufactured story on Planned Parenthood are reported without comment. Overall too many journalists seem to believe that they are not to call a lie a lie when the liar is an”important” politician. And in the name of “balance” they seem too often to be able to find someone able to make up facts to denigrate Planned Parenthood or deny climate change.

PBS Newshour does a fine job when they bring in real expert analysts but they have a tendency to head toward the on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that face offs, sometimes providing opposing party politicians air time to exhibit what is frequently an appalling lack of substance, apparently aimed at pleasing their bases. Newspapers are improving their approach to analysis by opening opportunities for experts to write focussed oped pieces that frequently serve as correctives to developing myths. We would all  benefit from more of this and less timid acceptance of all that comes out of a politician’s mouth.



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  1. Mr. Jeff shows out a bevy of Monty Python baserunners here with his fine throwing arm but somehow lets one of the chief clowns run the bases unchecked. Is Mr. Cruz still circling around? He’s the Canadian chap who didn’t know where he was born or what country he was a citizen of, and nevertheless feels himself to be the best person to run US foreign policy. The Canucks did him a favour by taking away his citizenship, probably on the basis that he was an embarrassment to his place of birth. But please, Mr Jeff, say it aint so, can it really be true that in the whole conservative cohort there isn’t a single candidate that you could hope would actually make it home without getting thrown out rounding first.

    Comment by Kent Lyle Birdsley — October 5, 2015 #

  2. Kent,

    You of course are correct that Cruz did not make the first cut, partly because of his Canadian ancestry but mostly because he is a lunatic and while he is strangely able to raise lots of campaign funds he is not getting a base on balls leet alone a hit.

    As for the excellent question regarding my hope for at least ne conservative candidate making it around third base, i can answer forthrightly and transparently, in full disclosure, that the answer is that I do not hopefor anything good to happen to any of today’s active Republican conservatives. We are pretty much running out the string on Trump, the HP lady, Cardinal Santorum, Rev. Huckabee, Carson, Md, et al. And, viapolls, the voters have eliminated Perry, and Walker. That leaves Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, and Kasich from Ohio. Nothing much there although if Rubio gets around third anything could happen.

    So, in a search for an acceptable conservative candidate (kind of an oxymoron for me) I would nominate either Jim Webb (a Democrat) or an old line Republican like Richard Lugar, who had too much intelligence and integrity to get re-elected by the voters of Indiana. But he represents the honorable tradition of Republican conservatives who were able to work across the aisle and who also had some serious thoughts on foreign affairs. The party no longer has any of this type.

    I wonder if Romney waits forthe call to attle but suspect that he is done nad either Bush orRubio will get the nod unless one or both self-destruct. Then there isHillary to face off with the Republican unless Bernie sanders gain the kind of traction with the national press that he already has with many voters. i think for now i should turn my attention to the thrilling election up North where the son of a former canadian political super star heads into battle against the reigning Minister of dirty oil, Stephen Harper. The good news is that that campaign will last only several weeks; ours has well over a year to go.

    Comment by Jeff — October 9, 2015 #

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