Friday, April 25, 2008

The news media thinks we're stupid.

No, seriously, it's true. Have you ever noticed that they always report the news about the presidential race with an eye to the opinions of the most shallow, inattentive, easily led members of the public? It drives me nuts. Take this ABC News story, as merely the most recent example of a near-ubiquitous phenomenon. The synopsis--Jeremiah Wright gives an interview to Bill Moyers of PBS, in which he attempts to explain his controversial remarks and the ways they've affected Barack Obama. The spin--this will hurt Barack Obama. Why? Because it keeps Wright and his remarks in the public eye, I assume. One thing that is never discussed explicitly nor considered implicitly--is it possible that, three weeks having passed since this controversy started, that the public has already made up its mind about it? Is it possible that people have evaluated things, reassessed their opinion of Obama accordingly, and moved on? Certainly not in the minds of ABC News and the various political pundits they spoke to for this story. "'If he was a Barack Obama supporter, I think he would pull himself off of the stage at this point,' said National Public Radio senior political analyst Juan Williams. 'Nothing good comes of this for Barack Obama,' concurred ABC News political contributor Cokie Roberts." And why not? Because they assume that we, the public, are only moving on from this issue because we forgot about it. Reminders will hurt Obama's numbers.

Later in the article, a telling quote: "'Even though he was defending himself, quite nicely, he said Barack Obama spoke as a politician. That is the last thing Obama wants people to think of him as. He has approached the American people as a pastor-type himself,' said Roberts." What? Yeah, you're right, I like Obama, and I feel like he's not quite on the same level as a lot of other politicians, but does Cokie Roberts really think that mere acknowledgement of the fact--and it is a fact--that Obama is a politician is enough to hurt him politically? As everyone paying the least bit of attention to all of this knows, everyone running for president right now, from Barack Obama and John McCain down to Ralph Nader and all the other third-party guys none of us have ever heard of, is a politician. That's what you call people who serve political office, and it's also what you call people who are trying to win said political offices. Who that isn't totally stupid doesn't know that?

You see what I'm getting at here? The news media thinks we're stupid. They think that polls are shifted and votes are cast based on stupid, shallow interpretations of what's going on in the political world. And then they report these stories in a way that reinforces a stupid and shallow view of the current political spectrum, rather than an intelligent and nuanced one. Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" and Bill Maher of HBO's "Real Time" both seem to have far more respect for the American viewer's intelligence than anyone at the mainstream news media, and the two of them are both comedians. It drives me crazy.

More on this later, I'm sure.

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