Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Essential Reading

One doesn't normally look for brilliant political commentary in the Arts & Leisure section, but don't miss Frank Rich's piece on the triviality of the press, the anniversary of "mission accomplished," and the power of images on Nightline and from Abu Ghraib:

Koppel's salute to the fallen was heartbreaking, no matter what you think about the war. The Abu Ghraib images shocked us into remembering that real obscenity is distinct from the revelation of Janet Jackson's breast.

As we know from "Mission Accomplished" and Colin Powell's aerial reconnaissance shots displayed as evidence to the United Nations, pictures can be made to lie - easily. But over time pictures, because they have a true story to tell, can trump the phonies. Eventually there comes a point when the old Marx Brothers gag comes into play: "Who are you going to believe - me or your own eyes?" Last weekend, many, if not most, of us had little choice but to believe our own eyes.

Rich is merciless in his treatment of the coverage of war as well:
If that coverage had been more skeptical of administration propaganda, more of the fictions that sent the United States to war would have been punctured before it signed on. Perhaps a majority of Americans would not have been conned into accepting as fact (as it still does, an April poll shows) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda.

Rich's piece is just a warmup, however, for this grand tirade from Orcinus.
We still treat our national politics like a combination sporting event and gossipfest. We're still demeaning the national discourse with a steady diet of propaganda/spin souffle served up on a platter of triviality, with a side of slander.

In the process, we keep the public (a large portion of it willingly) in the dark about the very real politics and policies that directly affect their security and well-being, both here and now and for the long haul.


The ... entire framing of the debate -- as a question of "character" as opposed to such boring details as policy -- heavily favors the party that relies more on imagery and jingoism, wrapping itself in the flag and pounding its chest about moral superiority: in other words, conservatives.

One hopes that Frank Rich is right -- and that this time around, the true images will trump the phonies.


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