February 25, 2008

Where's the Beef?

Trying to keep my mind off of presidential politics for the last year has been like trying to keep some awful catchy song out of my head. The media aren't making things any easier by milking each stage of the process for ratings. The whole process has acquired a sideshow feel to it. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Here are three people expressing similar sentiments (preceded by a brief summary).

1. Noam Chomsky - Without open discussion and accurate information about the issues the public cares about, elections in the United States can be considered free and fair in only a limited manner. Elections are public relations campaigns instead of information campaigns. Public opinion on most issues is eschewed in favor of public opinion about the candidates.

2. Chris Floyd - The candidates are like geeks at a carnival, grotesque and fascinating. The issue of military dominance of the world and a bloated military budget are not being put on the table by any of the major candidates.

3. Howard Zinn - The "sense of proportion" is what's really missing from media coverage of the candidates. People should keep in mind that voting is only one among many ways to get their voices heard.


Diggs said...

I've been paying attention for a while now, and I think if you watched you would see a discussion of issues. How can you have such a strong critique on something you refuse to pay attention to?

the unbeatable kid said...

the election coverage is so ubiquitous that it is impossible to ignore even if you try (hence its comparison to a catchy song). I'm critiquing what i'm exposed to which has been about 2 or three articles/stories a day for the past year.

my experience of coverage is that for every discussion of issues there are 20 more on electability/identity politics/fashion choices. i guaranty that you will find more media coverage of hillary's gender than of her health care proposal.

fred thompson called the media to task about their obsession with political drama over issues better than anyone else so far.

From the Chomsky clip above, "[i was] listening to npr...they happened to have a long segment on barak obama...this is going on for 15 minutes. i was listening to see are they going to say anything about his position on any issue. ANY issue. nothing. i mean it's just about the image...that's what considered significant...elections are run by the same people who market toothpaste: you're not supposed to know the information about toothpaste and you're not supposed to know information about the candidates."

i actually follow the issues very closely but not the election. you might not believe it from the coverage but health care, Iraq, the economy, and american foreign policy exist as issues outside of elections. the elections are about image and muddy the waters so that the issues become more catch phrase than substance.

i would invite any further specific criticism you have about what Chomsky, Floyd or Zinn has to say. otherwise, if you think that the issues are well covered, we'll just have to disagree.

Diggs said...

Only time to read your summaries not the articles. Sorry.

Chomsky: All I can say is watch the debates. Topics on last nights debate related to trade policy, healthcare, the war, etc. The following topics were not on the list: Hilary's fashion designer, Barack's middle name, you get my point. If electability were the sole issue: then your analysis does not explain how a black man named Barack HUSSEIN Obama could be the leading democratic nominee for president. I know its easy to think that you and the 15 other people who voted for Kucinich are the only people who consider policy, but that simply has not been the case. Clinton and Obama constantly discuss who has the more effective healthcare plan and WHY.

Floyd: 1st sentence is personal opinion. So the military budget is important to you. Just because the candidates don't discuss it everyday does not = candidates do not discuss the issues. That is one issue amongst many. And although the democratic candidates wont use the term "bloated military budget" the opposition (or at least Obama's) to the Iraq war is a form thereof.

Zinn - If you don't vote you don't count. Go to political rallies all day long. Enjoy the cold. But if you sit out the primary or general election, and Bush gets elected please don't complain.

the unbeatable kid said...

i agree with you in that the debates have been the high water mark of issue coverage in the media, and this last debate has been the most issue aware of them all. health care, withdrawal from Iraq, and even nafta were all brought up. i was surprised that the candidates focused on policy and even redirected some of the more catty of campaign questions towards policy issues. usually, we think that the reporters should be the ones trying to pin the candidates down on issues but the opposite seemed to be the case for much of the night.

one interesting thing that i noticed was that russert and williams were almost playing good cop/bad cop with russert focusing on issues and williams throwing questions based on personality and campaign strategy (not issues).

today, the media were back on form. using google news search with the key words “democratic debate” this morning gave me these 4 hits on top.

from the wall street journal (ironically self-styled as “a summary of the smartest new political analysis on the web”)

from newsweek

from time

from the washington post

you can take a look and see how poorly they covered the specific policies discussed in the debates into their columns. these articles are, i believe, more representative of media coverage than the debates.