Monday, October 18, 2004

The Triumph of the Trivial

Paul Krugman reviewed 60 days' worth of transcripts from the major cable and broadcast TV networks and finds [SURPRISE!] little of substance and plenty of bias. Why don't they just say "The TRUTH? You can't HANDLE THE TRUTH!"...

"...Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured.

When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in it.

On the other hand, everyone knows Teresa Heinz Kerry told someone to "shove it," [but] none of the transcripts I've read mention the target of her ire works for Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who financed smear campaigns against the Clintons - including accusations of murder...And viewers learned nothing about Scaife's long vendetta against Heinz Kerry herself.

There are two issues here, trivialization and bias, but they're related.

Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities.

We hear about Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.


And since campaign coverage as celebrity profiling has no rules, it offers ample scope for biased reporting.

Notice the voter's reference to "these millionaires." Columbia Journalism Review [finds] a press prone to needlessly introduce Sens. Kerry and Edwards and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as millionaires or billionaires, without similar labels for President Bush or Vice President Cheney. ...the Bush campaign has been "hammering away with talking points casting Kerry as out of the mainstream because of his wealth, hoping to influence press coverage."

The campaign isn't claiming Kerry's policies favor the rich - they manifestly don't, while Bush's manifestly do. Instead we're supposed to dislike Kerry simply because he's wealthy (and not notice his opponent is, too).

Republicans, of all people, are practicing the politics of envy, and the media obediently go along. In short, the triumph of the trivial is not a trivial matter.

... BOHICA, baby. It's 4 years until Jeb's turn.

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