Problem With Debate Coverage

Matt TaibbiMatt Taibbi has an interesting take on the debate. He thinks that both Obama and Romney lost. But I suspect that he sees it pretty much the way everyone else does, because he spends most of the article attacking what Romney actually said.

The main point of the article is that the media should not elevate style over substance. They already know that they work in a medium that distorts politics in a very bad way. But instead of pushing back against this, they just pile on more.

Taibbi discusses this as it related to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates:

In that legendary meeting, radio viewers[1] thought Nixon won, but TV viewers, blown away by Kennedy’s smile and tan, thought was a landslide for the Democrat.

Journalists who cite that Nixon-Kennedy debate always forget that the lesson of that night is that the new broadcast media technology made superficiality and nonsense more important—that thanks to the press, it was now possible to get someone elected to the most powerful office on earth because he had a superior tan. Reporters love this story because it reminds everyone that the medium they work in has the power to overcome substance and decide elections all by itself. What’s amazing is that they don’t have the good sense to be ashamed of this.

Indeed, they should be ashamed. But they aren’t. This reminds me of when Bill O’Reilly is on The Daily Show claiming that he’s just an entertainer. I’m inclined to believe him. But it isn’t just him. It is most TV news people. Hell, it is most newspaper people.

Taibbi ends:

Reporters should have instantly pelted Romney with bags of dogshit for insulting the American people with this ridiculous non-answer, but he was instead praised for the canny “strategy” hidden in the response. Despite the fact that Romney is running as a budget hawk and yet has refused to name any actual programs (except Obamacare and PBS) he will cut, reporters gave him credit in the debate for being willing to be the bearer of bad budgetary news, because he essentially advance-fired Jim Lehrer on TV. Many also complimented the “humor” of the line about Big Bird.

Of course they did. You know why? Because there’s no business like their business:


[1] I’ve always wondered about this. Isn’t it likely that the in 1960, the radio-listening public skewed conservative? I don’t know, but it’s a reasonable question.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Problem With Debate Coverage

  1. [quote]Reporters should have instantly pelted Romney with bags of dogshit for insulting the American people with this ridiculous non-answer[/quote]

    That line made my day. I can think of a few other reasons for people to pelt Romney with dog shit. It would be especially great if they pelted him with Seamus’s excrement. That would be poetic justice.

  2. Bill O’Reilly might be an entertainer, but the problem is that there are millions of people that take him, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and all the others in the Echo Chamber seriously. They help force feed the public whatever agenda the Right is pushing, and they’re one hell of an effective propaganda machine. That goes beyond entertainment in my book.

    I remember Alex Bennett defending (sort of) Rush Limbaugh during that whole fiasco with Ms. Fluke (I can’t remember her first name). It wasn’t so much Limbaugh’s words that he was defending, but he was saying that Limbaugh was just an entertainer, and a skillful one at that. He was making a case that everyone was making too big of a deal about it, and that people shouldn’t take him seriously. But people [i]do[/i] take him seriously. They use him, like any other bullhorn for the Right, to justify and validate their fucked up views. It’s dangerous, especially when you consider just how swiftly and throughly the media can inject a meme or view or concept into the American zeitgeist. It’s scary.

  3. @Mack – That’s why we love Taibbi!

    I agree with you. I have compared my reading socialist writers with people watching Fox News. The difference is that I [i]know[/i] that what I’m reading is extreme; they think what’s on Fox is what all real Americans think. The really sad thing is if you allow these people to decompress from Fox, in general what Fox has on offer is not even what [i]they[/i] believe.

    Conservatives love to compare Rush with Bill Maher. Well, Bill Maher is explicitly a comedian who talks about politics. Rush, on the other hand, is a political commentator who also entertains. (I don’t find him entertaining but the dittoheads think he’s hysterical.) There is a big difference.

    If you aren’t scared, you aren’t paying attention.

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