Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Mendocracy

One of the biggest problems with the America media is their veneration of civility and surface politeness, paired with a dismissal of honesty and accuracy. The dynamics are precisely reversed from how they should be: Media figures generally won't call out liars – but will scold the people who dare to call the liars out as terribly rude.

Rick Perlstein's written a few good pieces on this theme (a popular one in the liberal blogosphere), but a new article for Mother Jones may be his best to date on it, "Inside the GOP's Fact-Free Nation." A tag line below says: "From Nixon's plumbers to James O'Keefe's video smears: How political lying became normal." Here's a taste:

It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us: Kings, corporate executives, politicians, and ideologues from both sides of the aisle have been entirely willing to bend the truth when they felt it necessary or convenient. So why does it seem as if we're living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What's changed?

Today's marquee fibs almost always evolve the same way: A tree falls in the forest—say, the claim that Saddam Hussein has "weapons of mass destruction," or that Barack Obama has an infernal scheme to parade our nation's senior citizens before death panels. But then a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound—until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse...

There evolved a new media definition of civility that privileged "balance" over truth-telling—even when one side was lying...

The protective bubble of the "civility" mandate also seems to extend to the propagandists whose absurdly doctored stories and videos continue to fool the mainstream media. From blogger Pamela Geller, originator of the "Ground Zero mosque" falsehood, to Andrew Breitbart's video attack on Shirley Sherrod—who lost her job after her anti-discrimination speech was deceptively edited to make her sound like a racist—to James O'Keefe's fraudulent sting against National Public Radio, right-wing ideologues "lie without consequence," as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by "balanced" outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said "controversy."


Do read the rest. While lying isn't limited to one party, Perlstein tracks how it became endemic to the Republicans Party, and points out the key role Reagan played in creating the current dysfunctional dynamic.

7 comments:

Suzan said...

Thanks for running this, Bat.

Hadn't seen it yet, but I'll highlight it at my place too.

Kudos!

S

completelybaked said...

Cheers! Somebody said that it is impossible for the rational to argue against absurdity. A long time ago, Republicans figured out that absurdity pays. Thanks for nailing this down. Keep doing it...

ed waldo said...
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ed waldo said...
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ed waldo said...

(typo affliction corrected)

Thanks, Batoccio.

Joseph Pulitzer said that the job of the newspaperman was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. The modern media's (insert pejorative term here) have managed to get it exactly backwards.

And, of course, a Pulitzer Prize was awarded this year to a WSJ Opinion writer for columns containing *demonstrable lies and distortions* of the Health Care Bill. ghood ghod.

Hart Wms.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Another major contributing factor is that the mainstream media are all owned by massive corporations whose bottom lines depend heavily on the preservation of the status quo political power structure.

Batocchio said...

Yes, indeed. I have a few long-delayed posts in the works on the themes you mention...