Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Media Herd

Krugman had a post the other day regarding Marc Ambinder's claim that reflexive anti-Bushism was the only reason liberals were right in seeing political motives for all the 2004 Terror alerts. And I found the whole thing to be in-line with what all the "liberal" dopes in the media claimed as their excuse for believing Bush's lies.

Essentially, the Bushies made a bankshot off their egos, by persuading them that it was their duty to liberalism to attack the anti-Bush libs in order to prove that there were, in fact, "good" liberals still around. Only by removing all of Bush's knee-jerk critics could these "liberals" finally start doing their job by thinking critically of Bush; or so they were assured. If only those damn dirty hippies would just shut the fuck up and let them do their jobs, we could have prevented a war.

I think this was best summed up by Richard "Only a Fool or a Frenchman" Cohen, when he wrote in his rant against Fahrenheit 9/11:
I found that happening to me in the run-up to the war, when I spent more time and energy arguing with those who said the war was about oil (no!) or Israel (no!) or something just as silly than I did questioning the stated reasons for invading Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction and Hussein's links to Osama bin Laden. This was stupid of me, but human nature nonetheless.

Some of that old feeling returned while watching Moore's assault on the documentary form. It is so juvenile in its approach, so awful in its journalism, such an inside joke for people who already hate Bush, that I found myself feeling a bit sorry for a president who is depicted mostly as a befuddled dope. I fear how it will play to the undecided.
And in Cohen's mind, Moore's movie was so anti-Bush that he feared it would offend undecideds and make them vote for Bush. And so his entire critique of the film was designed to prove that there are good liberals like Cohen who needed to convince undecideds to not watch a film that most normal folks found powerful and moving.

And it all comes down to the programing he received within the beltway, in which the Bushies brainwashed him and his ilk into believing that they'd all be tarnished if they didn't spend all their time denouncing the anti-Bushies. He even admits that it was stupid of him to focus all his energies before the war in criticizing war critics, yet he spends an entire column doing it again.

And please note: Even a full year after the war, with no WMD's in sight, he had to insist that oil (no!) and Israel (no!) weren't the reasons we went to war. He just couldn't let this shit go.

Cocktail Weenies

And the way it worked is that their pals on the right would tell them over cocktails "Look at those raving loons. You don't want to be like them, do you?" And the good "liberals" in the media would say "Of course not, I'm not with them at all." And the Bushie would smile and suggest that they had to push back against their fellow liberals who were still upset about the election, to put a more positive face on liberalism, for the good of liberalism and the Democratic Party. And they fell for it completely and did the dirty work that the Bushies couldn't do themselves.

And let's not forget in all this that Cohen actually wrote during the 2000 recount that Bush was better suited at "healing the nation" than Gore. "Liberals" like Cohen had been their marks the whole time, and it's obvious from their reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11 that they still burned from the recount and still couldn't critically analyze what happened; which is why Cohen couldn't watch the rest of that movie without his head hurting. Crazy Republicans need to be consoled. Crazy libs just need to STFU. And for Cohen and the other self-described liberal journalists, this was their job.

And in a way, this makes sense. I mean, the rightwing really HAS gone completely bonkers over Obama, and many liberals and moderates are urging moderate Republicans to stand up and denounce what these loons are saying, in order to prove that not all Republicans are crazy. And that's exactly what the "liberals" in the media were doing, and what they're still using as their defense. And for as much as we can argue that we had good reason to oppose Bush; wingnuts say the same thing about Obama. Hell, all we had were Bush's lies to go on. They know Obama's a Muslim who pals with terrorists, hates America, and isn't even a real American. This isn't Bush derangement; this is patriotism!

And so this isn't an easy situation at all, and requires a keen eye to sort through the competing claims and determine if they're legitimate or not. And unfortunately, the media is really just a big social club and "truth" is ultimately determined by what the club says it is. For our modern media, it's better to agree with the pack than to stand alone and tell the truth. And most of the ones in a position to make a difference attained that position because they were most adept at repeating the pack lies while sounding original, and wouldn't know the truth if it bit them on the butt. Fortunately, guys like Krugman still get through every now and again.

Be Original, Buy My Product

And one final thing I'd like to note: This herd instinct is far from limited to the D.C. Beltway. In fact, you'll find it in sub-cultures around the globe. Even tribal goatherders feel pressured to go with the flow instead of thinking for themselves. Why else would they be fricking goatherders otherwise?

Groupthink is so pervasive that marketers have worked miracles in convincing millions that they're being "original" if they obey a commercial and act in the same "original" manner that millions of others are doing to be "original." And they all buy it. They dress alike, eat alike, and think alike; and it makes them all feel better to be part of a giant subculture which imagines that they're all alone and nobody understands them. I actually have more respect for the "popular" kids, as they're at least honest about wanting to copy everyone else.

But the difference is that most other people don't have so much on the line when they obey groupthink. When millions of disaffected teens all wear the same mass-produced ragged clothes to show how rebellious they are, nobody gets hurt. But journalists are supposed to be better than that. And while the glorious days of the investigative journalist fighting against the system is largely a myth, our modern media really is in a position to expose the truth. It's not even difficult. Blogs do it all the time...well, some of them do; while the rest engage in groupthink by repeating what the others already said.

But all the same, the problem of the Golden Rule remains: He who has the gold rules. And as long as journalists are rewarded for finding original ways of writing the same pro-establishment tripe as everyone else, this isn't going to change. Nobody ever got fired for doing what everyone else was doing.

1 comment:

Doctor Biobrain said...

As a disclaimer on that last line: That doesn't apply to situations like Enron, where illegal activities were the norm. I was going to mention that in the post, but I just liked that line too much to screw it up with an exception; and I just didn't want anyone to call me on it.

So just consider this your extra reward for clicking on the comments to see what it said.