September 19, 2012 - September 12, 2012
. The news is all so completely bad that it's worth
either a book of commentary a day or no comment whatsoever. A
thousand facts should be cited or none should be needed. So I will
(sort of) split the difference with some scattered thoughts that may
seem random but are not.
Since the appalling explosion in the middle east, the one page of headlines at the Drudge Report should be sufficient to convince voters that any alternative to Obama is acceptable and that Romney is about the least sinister alternative conceivable. In just a couple of days late last week we had links to stories: 1) indicating that the U.S. had been warned of an impending 9/11 attack in Libya while the Obama administration was denying both that it had received any warning and that the attacks had anything to do with America, Obama, or anything but a lame video repeating the long ago (but well documented) charges of Salman Rushdie; 2) verifying that U.S. gas prices had doubled since Obama took office; 3) announcing that U.S. debt had been downgraded yet again from A to A-minus; 4) calculating that average U.S. incomes had fallen to 1995 levels; 5) establishing that the 4.5 million claimed Obama era jobs created -- offset by perhaps 20 million job losses in the same timeframe -- were essentially subsistence level positions in the fast food industry; 6) speculating that an isolated and frightened Israel was preparing an all-out assault on Iranian nuclear installations; 7) revealing that Iran acknowledged having elite troops stationed in Syria even as it threatened the west with $150/barrel oil prices; 8) citing the huge number of MSM attacks on Romney for mentioning foreign policy while the president was telling snarky jokes about Romney and Republicans at fundraisers in Las Vegas and with Beyonce in New York; 9) reporting, somewhat disbelievingly, that liberals and even the DOJ were advocating prosecution of those whose free speech offended muslim terrorists -- in the context of complete silence from the ACLU; and 10) polls by leading MSM outlets showed Obama opening up a substantial lead on Romney in the presidential campaign.
Ten is a round number. I could add more, but they'd all be in the same vein. The Obama administration is the most utter and total disaster of my lifetime. What else do you want to drive it home? Samuel Jackson taping an ad for the Obama base whose tagline is "Wake the fuck up!" Or the story that got the most Google hits while the world was imploding: The Duchess of Cambridge got photographed topless!!!???
I've read so much in recent days that I can't think for the life of me who said this, so I apologize. But I will repeat the thought because while the First Amendment is experiencing this unexpectedly virulent assault from liberals, actors, artists, musicians, and film directors who have always clung (bitterly?) to the knees of ACLU lawyers when their works transgressed the bounds of taste and consensus morality, this one clear voice summarized the whole mess in a single well chosen sentence: "The founders made freedom of expression an absolute right because they conceived of the press as a defense of the people against government; now the press has become the defense of the government against the people."
The key word in the old days was "reporting." The new key word is "narrative." The MSM is no longer in the business of facts, hard questions, and populist skepticism. They are in the business of creating the story for which supporting facts are summoned or created and of ignoring facts and omitting questions which might change the preferred story. A useful question to ask: how many of the MSM narratists are themselves members of the 1 percent? Concoct any list you want to of the people who shape the news for us from network and cable news desks (not to mention Hollywood). How many of them are not not under contract for upwards of $250K to upwards of multimillions a year? The 99 percent are those who are expected to submit to their smooth faces and patronizing reconfigurations of the facts. Obama sneers at the idea that people are worse off than they were four years ago. We should too? Really? And what the hell would you know about that, Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams, Bob Schieffer, George Stephanopoulos, David Gregory, Judy Woodruff, David Gergen, and company? "Because we know that Obama is going to win, as he should, and everyone who doesn't agree is a gap-toothed, gun-crazy, fundamentalist racist from some godforsaken place that isn't Washington, New York, Los Angeles, or the Hamptons."
Got a lesson this weekend in MSM narratives. Courtesy of the NFL.
Bear with me, non-sports-fans. Sports journalism takes its cue from big-time journalism. They're under the same pressure for headlines, and they're an instructive example of the symbiotic relationship between big media and big government, of which the NFL is the best and most powerful example. (The NCAA is another lesser example, but as a footnote, observe how the sports media are slowly shutting down their coverage of the Penn State scandal. Better for them if the stain goes away quickly. When Penn State won its first game this year against a lowly Navy team, coverage of ugly campus demonstrations against the Penn State president and the governor of Pennsylvania -- on grounds Paterno had been unfairly smeared by the Freeh Report -- were virtually nonexistent. Penn State won its first victory under a new head coach!!! And so it goes.)
Minus political parties, for example, ESPN and the major networks who cover the NFL operate a lot like the MSM. Certain targets for abuse and derision are acceptable: Tim Tebow, Terrell Owens, Rex Grossman, Tony Romo, Ocho Cinco, and Philadelphia fans have always made good copy because it's always okay to ridicule them. They're outside the protected circle. Other potential targets are handled with kid gloves. Donovan McNabb has been immune from criticism since Rush Limbaugh suggested he was being given a pass by the sports media. Which he was. He may yet get into the Hall of Fame despite a career that proved he always fell short in critical situations and during which he was never averse to throwing everyone else under the bus for his own failures.
The most educational part of the NFL example is that its heroes and villains are more fluid than those of politics. Which means you can see the narratives grappling to find the narratives that best serve their NFL masters. And masters they are. Without NFL cooperation, they don't get to talk to the superstars in the "candid" terms they purvey to their viewers.
Sorry this is long, but be thinking throughout of the presidential campaign. This post is not about football.
So after Week 1 of the NFL season what did we get from CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN? Not real analysis, which would have been 'nothing to see here yet, move along,' but pronouncements about huge storylines we were expected to hang on like soap opera cliffhangers:
We heard endless blather about all these narratives all week. Then
came Week 2. It doesn't matter that all the original narratives
might still be right. It's that Week 2 made some of them look wrong.
Indy won and Washington lost. Which makes Luck and RG3 even in the
infant season. The Jets got crushed by the Steelers. The Cowboys
lost humiliatingly. New Orleans lost again and didn't even seem to
be trying too hard on key plays. Michael Vick refused to lose yet
again against a great team and engineered a second touchdown
comeback for a another one point victory. The Ravens looked sick and
dumbstruck against the Eagles, resorting to calling the Eagles a
"dirty" team. Really? The Ravens? Flacco displayed his classic deer
in the headlights look for the whole second half. Super Bowl? Think
again. Cleveland's "lousy" rookie QB and RB had big days against the
Cincinnati Bengals, suggesting they're NFL caliber and unlucky to
have met the Eagles defense first (ask Flacco.) Eli threw three
interceptions in the first half but won the game in the end with 510
yards passing. (Yeah, Peyton is
still Peyton...) And the 49ers failed to accomplish a blowout
against the upstart Lions. But they won. Best team in football? A
looooong season awaits.
What's interesting about all this is how the networks responded. I'm not imagining this. We watched the Eagles-Ravens game and switched back and forth between the Jets-Steelers game and the Washington-Rams game. We got the game updates from the presiding network. What we didn't get was updates from the Dallas, Indy, Saints, or Giants games. The official narrative was being sabotaged. And in the games we did watch, the broadcasters clung to the official narrative until it could no longer be sustained.
For example, my wife, since Vick, has become a Ravens fan. We watched, with me rooting for Eagles and her rooting for Ravens to the bitter end. Even in her view, the Ravens thought they could bully and intimidate the Eagles when they came to Philadelphia. They failed. The second half belonged entirely to the Eagles and Vick. There's an odd hole in the physics of the universe she remembers from when she was an Eagles fan: it doesn't matter how long a field goal you try or who tries it that will fail against the Eagles. IT WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD. The Ravens kicked three field goals against the Eagles averaging more than 50 yards apiece. You're a tough guy? Tell me you beat me with three 50+ yard field goals. The Eagles beat the hell out of the Ravens. But the narrative persisted. Fox, CBS, and NBC all called it an ugly game and showed mostly Eagles screw-ups, interceptions, fumbles, and disputed calls from the fake refs. The broadcasters on the scene called it a playoff game.
What it was. What it will be. How about them San Diego Chargers? Best team in football.
The narrative. Be alert to it. And how synthetic it is. Reality ain't how the press calls it. Especially now. Listen for the story they're trying to sell you and understand that the story is all noise. Why the games are played. Why the votes are counted.