Thursday, June 14, 2007

Media Politics

I often read something that states my point of view more clearly than I can. Today, Gene Lyons nails the media's portrayal of the '08 candidates.
This column has no particular favorite and will make no predictions. Even so, it’s not necessary to be a prophet to know how Beltway pundits will handle the so-called character issue. The Republican nominee will be a virile, decisive straight-shooter who’s 100 percent “authentic” and “comfortable in his own skin.” The Democrat will be an indecisive phony, uncertain of his / her identity, but willing to strike any pose or pander to any constituency in a self-serving bid for power. That was the basic script for the media’s astonishing “War on Gore” in 2000, the campaign of falsehood and vilification that helped elevate George W. Bush, an ex-preppie cheerleader and bicycling enthusiast dressed up in rugged “Texas Rancher” costumes, to the presidency over then-Vice President Al Gore.

It's so true. How often have we been told how "manly" shrub is? Never mind that in the real world Helen Thomas would kick his ass in about 2 minutes.
Look, an American presidential election is essentially a long-running reality TV show. So there’s definitely something in what they’re saying. “Hardball” has very low ratings outside of D. C., but it and programs like it are where the Beltway group narrative gets worked out, the basic story line that pundits use to sell themselves as experts without studying tedious issues like health care or foreign policy. The brilliant blogger “Digby” asks a penetrating question: “Why do so many male Washington courtiers have giggling mancrushes on... Republican politicians ?” Personally, I blame “heterosexual panic.” Half the insulting e-mails and all the anonymous phone calls this column generates deal in sexual insult. Whether it’s fear of terrorism, uneasiness at the prospect of a woman president or cultural change generally, the GOP base responds like trained seals to tough-guy poses. It follows that Democrats must play the foil: John Edwards a foppish girlyman, Hillary Clinton an unnatural woman, Barack Obama a racially confused Oreo—well, you get the picture. Yes, it’s pathetic. And no, it has nothing to do with reality or the nation’s problems, but it’s nevertheless something Democrats can’t afford to ignore.

So how do we fight this crap?

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