by Steve Young and a Bevy of Beautiful...Minds.
The right wing echo chamber (right wing radio and Fox News) is a junkyard dog. It grabs on to an issue, a soundbite, a rumor, sometimes (oh, my) even a fib - anything that might damage the image of an opponent - and doesn't let go until it rips it - and the Democrat intended to smear - into unrecognizable shreds.
I give you Jeremiah Wright. Actually, it is the ALL the media that has given the story to us. And has regifted it to us, over and over, and if I may, over.
The real question is not Wright, but why has that junkyard dog become a credible source of news for, what used to considered, credible news outlets? The so-called mainstream media.
I reached out a few friends, as well as some who have no desire to associate with me at all, fairly well-versed in media doings and who are, for the most part, sane.
Elliot Curson, who single-handedly turned around ran Reagan's 1980 advertising campaign says, "Rev. Wright is made for television. He looks good, he's charming, intelligent and has a sense of humor. He cuts through. That's why he's dominating Obama. In 1988 George Bush looked weak compared to Reagan. So he had to pick a VP (where have you gone Dan Quayle) who didn't outshine him. And it worked. Till the VP pick started acting...silly. Wright looks stronger than Obama. That's the underlying effect."
Bob Young, a television showrunner, said that it may not just be the right who is devouring the Wright minutia. His wife is a very bright, Obama-fan. "This past week MSNBC ran a one hour special on the Wright scandal with good chunks of all the crucial speeches," said Young, "as well as numerous comments from news people, ministers and everyone else who had an extra two cents to toss in. She was riveted by it, watching the entire hour."
Was she watching because its the mountain you climb only because its there? Or do we all pay attention because it's a captivating story (which deserves the repetitive nature of the coverage).
"The psychodrama - Shakespearean perhaps - being that Obama lost his father early on. Wright took him into his congregation, married him, advised him, baptized his children. There is a very real surrogate father/son relationship there. When the father was attacked and the son made his speech about the father, the father felt that the son had not properly defended him, had not fully taken his side, had not shown proper respect. So the father lashed out at the son, slapping him down, sort of. Then the son disowned the father. It's classic drama -- like the first two acts of a Greek tragedy. And we sense that it almost could end with one of them putting a sword through the other's chest. It's very human and it's fascinating. Another issue - for white people - is the look-see behind the curtain of the black church. It's the same thing as men wondering exactly what it is that goes on in with women when they talk to each other in women's bathrooms, or baseball fans wondering what the infielders gathered at the mound are whispering about. Are the black people in the black churches saying bad things about white people and America when they think we're not listening?"
Shankar Vedantam took Young's thought one frightening step further, writing in today's Washington Post that it might have come down the American media wrapping its arms around the well-worn fear of the angry black man. "Wright might well be the 2008 version of Willie Horton," wrote Vedantam, "the black Massachusetts inmate whose case was used against Democratic candidate Michael S. Dukakis in 1988. Talking up the controversy, moreover, gives Obama's opponents a potent weapon: They can hook into voters' hidden fears and racial attitudes without ever saying a word about the radioactive subject of race."
"Of course there's the always fascinating aspect of watching a formerly powerful, crazy and charismatic guy self-destruct right before your eyes," said Young. "And you're watching it play out, wondering if he's going to pull Obama down with him. Or, it could be that this is the first thing we've really found out about Obama, the man....and what we found we don't like? We ruminate...is there more we won't like? The Right doesn't need to keep the story alive. It has a life of its own."
Rick Overton, brilliant standup comic that he is, doesn't give anyone much of a pass. "The Right Wing Smear Machine is loud and shiny, like an American hot rod. Made to be noticed, and coveted by morons. Designed by bitter, morally weak people FOR bitter, morally weak people. It gives them infantile and easy targets to deflect their own shortcomings onto. Why should we believe one single word from an entity that is wrong about everything else? Only a dull witted coward would think that Howard Dean's scream is why he should not be President. The same applies to the treatment they give any high profile threat. The other kind of assassination, by a thousand paper cuts. There's a reason they call a think-tank the 'Skunk-works'. These are not humans in that room, regardless of how clever they are. The corporate media is an enemy to the human species. A cancer to man. They take the lowest form of us and lower them even more, making them into something not unlike the Orcs in LORD OF THE RINGS. A biped that cannot be reasoned with. Incapable of being taught, they can only be trained like a dog. An attack dog. But fox (No CAPS for them, they have lost the right to it) and the others are part of the machine that crushes good. It eats honesty and shits out vicious lies in it's place. It hates love and loves hate. It is our TV and radio. It is funded by killers. They believe the worst news first. I pity them for the day when they see what they have helped to make so. I can almost forgive a conservative for buying this garbage, but for a Democrat, a Liberal, a Progressive to buy the corporate line is to me, inexcusable. I have nothing but contempt for their betrayal. One side is not supposed to know, but the other is. Of the two groups, only one is the traitor - the morally lazy 'Progressive.' The other is the Enemy Combatant, in full uniform. Bottom line - Some people want Hillary, simply to put McCain in office. Others want her because they're female as well (Hey, I'm bald, but I don't want McCain in office). These are adolescent reasons for putting someone at the wheel of a nation. It says that we file our lax standards for our leadership under the convenient heading of 'Pragmatism.' I hate this process and what the Cancervatives have done to it with the Digressive's help - (A classic bully and weakling scenario). We are social abuse victims, raped by our symbolic parents. The memory of it is slowly coming back to us. Too slowly for my taste."
Subtle, but that's Rick.
Right in the middle is B. M. (face and name pixeled out so as to keep him employed as a TV talk show producer and gifted writer.
"Some inflammatory videotaped remarks from the pastor who was a decades-long friend and associate of the Obamas, who married the Obamas, and who baptized the Obama children were dug up and spliced together out of context. Initially, it was the 'right wing echo chamber' that ran this story up the flagpole to see if anyone would salute. But Obama responded gracefully and appropriately and this all but went away. We moved on to Hillary and sniper fire in Bosnia, McCain not knowing the difference between a Shiite and A Sunni, bowling in Pennsylvania and whether some frustrated rural voters 'cling' to their guns and their religion. This story was one of many, like the picture of Obama in a turban or the picture of Obama not putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem, that was destined to flare up (probably with some stoking by right wing media) and all but die out (despite some harping by right wing media). The problem was REV. WRIGHT CAME BACK. He threw gasoline on the extinguished embers of this fire. Because the right never completely let this story go, you may have the impression that they somehow kept this story alive or revived it. No, it was fading like so many other of their distraction stories. There is the fallacy of logic that if one thing follows another then the first thing must have caused the second. In this case, Fox News et al, harping on this story didn't cause it to 'stick.' The story spiked and receded like all do until the good Reverend and his ego sought out a bank of microphones and said, 'Hey, remember me? I'm even more batshit than was advertised!'"
Psychologist, and all-round lefty intellect, Howie Dansky, goes the lefty intellect route...
"In terms of actual concrete steps taken along the way -- that the debates devolved into the shameful SNL bizarro group tabloid x-ray from the League of Women Voters-sponsored occasion that people watched with the usually-- fulfilled expectation of learning something. It reflects the same faults in the viewership/voters and the media and the relationship between them. Capitalism has a lot to do with it, because what gets an audience is what makes money, and the right-wing approach has succeeded, framing the argument through very intentional, intensive, extensive, persistent investment of resources over decades, which has created a political culture that was originally receptive to the anti-government, angry white man perspective. Of course there's the intentional and strategic for corporate gain, some of it pivoting on personalities and on the changing nature of journalism in the electronic information age. The government-military-industrial complex -- look at that recent story about the (ab)use of Pentagon staff to disseminate propaganda -- is a part of the story. It's pushed by a combination of the same sensationalism as drives the overhype of any Britney story and the attraction to a story that hurts a progressive candidate that they have now labeled as an elitist and attacked for a lapel pin and a bunch of other petty sh*t (while McCain's gaffes fall off the cliff into oblivion in about 36 hours max).
A. Colmes (partially pixeled for his protection from his partner), a TV/Radio host who has been known to sit next to a conservative talk show host of some note, put it succinctly. "The longer they can focus the story on personalities rather than issues, the better it is for Republicans."
There ya go. A number of opinions, all a bit different. Not exactly what I was hoping for. All I was asking was that it would all come down to the right's noise machine being dirty rotten scoundrels and we keep falling for it. Damn this investigative reporting.
Perhaps Arianna Huffington can clear it all up for you (and me). She addresses the larger media issue, writing that "...the media remains hopelessly addicted to the false belief that in order to be fair and balanced every story needs to be given the 'on the one hand... and on the other' treatment. But not every story has two sides -- and the truth is often to be found not in the middle but solidly on one side or the other. What is behind the media's lapdog devotion to the messages and framing of the Right? It's a combination of self-loathing and abject fear. The media wear their dread like a cheap aftershave. The broadcast networks and the cable news channels live in mortal fear of a dip in the ratings, and newspapers are constantly checking their pulse -- convinced by their deteriorating profits and market share that the end is near. So they continue to offer the views of the newly marooned Right more than equal time. Fear -- specifically the right wing's masterful manipulation of it -- has also come to dominate our politics."
Ah, that's much better. Maybe that's why she wrote what just might be the preeminent book on the subject.
So it seems that the mainstream media is tapping into a right-winded machine that is running on all cylinders. Hopefully, this at least puts to rest the myth of a "liberal, mainstream media." And if it can't be stopped, you can only try to deliver your own media message machine.
But what is on the left that equates to that?
MSNBC? Have you caught the last month of Chris Matthews? Hardball has become Hard-on for Jeremiah Wright. Olbermann? Stewart? Maher? Fine, funny, furious but still quite short of the network and right wing Lords of Loud pandering. Liberal radio? Really? Try finding Stephanie Miller without satellite in Philly.
The fact is, the Wright story has not gone away, and if the right has anything to do with it, it will continue to ride with the fury of a runaway swift boat through November 4. And unless the left starts rocking soon, they will be rolled right into four more years of George W. Bush...in the guise of John "Thank You Jeremiah, S.H., Rush, BillO, Fox" McCain.
Which if we let it, we deserve it.