Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What's wrong with the news

Sorry for the return to negativity. I'll try to stop soon.

1. This post from Matthew Yglesias illustrates how the trend in political reporting is to treat matters of fact vs. falsehood as simply differences of opinion. This is emblematic of what's wrong with the myth of the liberal media. A couple weeks ago Gallup found that more than half of Americans think that Obama will raise their income tax. This is utterly false, unless somehow they polled a bunch of people making more than $250,000 a year. Ideas like this persist because far too often political news is presented as "Democrat Smith says X and Republican Jones says Y" rather than "I have done some research and discovered that reality is Z." (And yes, obviously, it's not like everything Democrats say is true, but the fact that so many public misperceptions skew Republican is strong evidence that Republicans have used the media's laziness to their advantage.)

2. Here's how I see the public debate going these days:
Democrat: Hey, John McCain has a lousy policy X, lied about policy Y, and doesn't know anything about policy Z.

Republican: How dare you impugn the honor of war hero John McCain, who doesn't like talking about his time as a POW?

Democrat: Hey, Sarah Palin has a lousy policy X, lied about policy Y, and doesn't know anything about policy Z.

Republican: How dare you apply that sexist double standard to a wonderful mother like Sarah Palin? And her kids are off-limits!


At Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 3:44:00 PM PDT, Blogger Paul C. said...

Yes. Like it or not, over the past decade the Republicans have gotten much better at using the shortcomings of the media to gain political advantage. The major networks and newspapers pretty much need to report everything that happens ASAP so they won't fall behind. It doesn't matter if it's true- if CNN or the New York Times reports it, it might as well be. There's a reason why most publications don't print retractions on the front page- because most readers don't think that far back. They've moved on.

Besides, truth isn't what wins elections anymore. Perception is. If someone looks and feels more like Presidential material, that's good enough for the majority of voters. The trick in taking down your opponent is to create doubt. There's a reason the Swift Boating thing worked four years ago- because enough voters believed enough of the bullshit that they doubted Kerry's war heroism. It doesn't matter how many people actually bought Unfit for Command. Just seeing the prominently-placed shelves of books with the title just under Kerry's face planted that perception in people's minds. It was simple and crude, but then, so are many voters. And their votes count just the same.

If the Democrats want to have a prayer of winning, they need to go on the offensive perception-wise. No more making nice like they did at the convention. Time to get serious, to be active instead of reactive. Because honestly, if they can't win back the Presidency after eight years of Dubya, something is seriously wrong with the Party.


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