|September 25, 2004|
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
No, it won’t be a debate.
It will be a performance.
That should come as no surprise. Since the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, when legend has it that listeners to the radio thought Nixon won and viewers thought Kennedy won (the old Nixon afternoon stubble did him in), image has overpowered content.
We are a nation of predominantly television watchers. Our number one pastime is visual entertainment. We are creatures of perception molded by image, not information.
And in the 44 years since 1960, it has only gotten worse. Reagan epitomized the triumph of television visual image over content. What could you say about Reagan except that there was NO content, except for a stomach full of jelly beans.
Reagan gained his foothold into the presidency when he seized a moment in a 1980 New Hampshire Republican primary debate and defiantly declared that he had paid for his microphone and no one was going to keep him from using it. Yes, that was what passed for a defining moment.
And then in 1992, when the press was still somewhat balanced, Poppy Bush took a shellacking when he stared impatiently at his watch for a few moments, as if the debate were all some annoyance that he couldn’t wait to flee.
In 2004, the Thursday debate on foreign policy won’t really be a debate at all. It will be a scripted performance in which both candidates state answers to questions that they already know about. It is designed to maximize Bush’s ability to be packaged and unchallenged. The boy in the bubble will be judged on his “performance,” not the truthfulness of his remarks. And the pro-Bush corporate mainstream press is readying its White House message points that will emphasize how confident and resolute Bush appears, how he defied expectations and laid out a clear case for the war in Iraq.
They will say that Kerry was stiff and stand-offish, that he didn’t appeal to the men and women in the street.
The press will say everything in their pre-packaged “performance reviews” about appearance and demeanor, while ignoring the truth that contradicts Bush’s brazen lies about national security.
We have entered a parallel universe, one in which media coverage of a so-called debate has nothing to do with the reality of what the candidates are discussing. Any cub reporter could debunk Bush’s statements as lies, mistruths and deceptions with a minimum of Internet research. Any debate viewer can just go on Google and assemble long lists of articles that make Bush appear a liar or a fool when he declares that everything is going just fine in Iraq, as he did last week.
In a non-corporate controlled television media universe, where “air talent” were actually practitioners of journalism, they would compare the statements of the candidates to the truth. But with Bush, who articulates a worldview that is the political version of fantasy island, the corporate-controlled “commentators” will almost completely focus on style versus substance.
We were lied into a war, given an array of ever-shifting reasons for that war, we were told it was won and hundreds of American soldiers have died since then; thousands upon thousands of Iraqis. Our intelligence agencies indicate that the war is probably lost. Iraq is split into areas where the U.S. military won’t even venture. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has degenerated from near peace under Clinton to daily bloodshed. Terrorism is on the rise. Former Bush administration members have offered up truth after truth that expose the two-faced Bush lies, only to personally be the subjects of character assassination by the Bush Cartel and ridicule by the pro-Bush corporate press.
For the faux television pundit celebrities, politics now is just another form of entertainment. War, with its “shock and awe,” is broadcast like a fireworks display, in which there are only colorful explosions and loud booms and no dead bodies.
The number one rule of entertainment is that you don’t want reality to intrude. It might upset the viewers, and that might cause them to switch the channel to watch World Federation Wrestling.
So, don’t expect any post-debate spin that might shed light on how Bush has created a parallel universe for political marketing purposes that has nothing to do with the terrorist threat that he has egregiously and purposefully mishandled and abetted.
No, we’ll hear about John Kerry’s suntan.
That’s what passes for substance nowadays among America’s television political entertainment reporters.
Our nation and our democracy is at grave risk – and we have a television media composed of corporate shills who think that they are covering a theatrical performance, for which they have written the reviews in advance.
Meanwhile, outside the “theater,” reality and the truth are kept at bay. This is entertainment after all. Why let the facts get in the way?
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL