Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

VP debate

Here are two things worth noting about the VP debate. They certainly aren't of supreme importance, just merely interesting moments I noted.

Dick Cheney was completely boxed in on the gay marriage such an extent that he had no position to argue and had to bail out. He couldn't
even argue that Edwards was dishonorably or cynically exploiting his
personal family. Well, he could, but Edwards was actually complimenting the Veep. For a brief moment, I felt pity for Cheney, caught in the double
bind. But it quickly faded. You dance with the devil, you deserve to burn.

Then while watching NBC post-debate coverage, Tom Brokaw said, revealingly, that they would, for analysis, turn to...not reporters but a representative
from each party. Now, quite clearly we weren't going to get "analysis"
from--Joe Biden was the democrat and I'm afraid the republican escapes
me--we weren't going to get a critical look at what the two candidates said.
Rather, we were going to get a polished spin declaring each the victor and
restating the same talking points that both candidates tried to cram in
during the 90 minute debate. Useless.

Turning the station, PBS was still conducting commentary from reporters and
then Jim Leher turned to "partisans"--yes, he used that word--to hear what
the parties had to say. The difference between NBC and PBS was that PBS
recognized that their job as journalists was to sift through the accusations
and counter-attacks to find what more closely resembled the truth. NBC
abdicated their responsibility, turning journalism into mere transcription.

Of course, this is old hat as far as current media criticism. Lots of
people have been saying this for years, most notably Eric Alterman in The
Nation. But it's worth consistently repeating until journalism retakes its
position as a reliable, diligent filter. Right now, the fourth estate has
been co-opted. They are being played.

Its for this reason that Jon Stewart's The Daily Show is gaining
considerable cultural importance as a political barometer. Stewart, in the
guise of satire, is one of the few media figures that will pursue a notion
of truth instead of lazily cowering under the blanket of "objectivity."
Ironically, Stewart the comedian better understands that calling a lie a lie
is not partisanship. Its what journalists should be doing.


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