Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pants on Fire

One of the overarching questions of this campaign is how our nation's national political press, not exactly known for in-depth explorations of actual national issues, and certainly not known for their skills at reporting the actual facts of those issues, as opposed to which politicians are making which claims on which days about those issues, would react to it. This may be the first modern campaign to be premised quite so explicitly on truthiness, the Colbertian notion that what sounds true is an absolutely more valid political sentiment than what actually is true; that, in turn, would seem to render the entire point of the national press obsolete.
Why bother reporting at all, if each person can simply make up their own reality at will, assert it to be true, believe it to be true, and act upon it as if it were true? If the entire premise of informed democracy be separated from reality and rendered into a contest of pure propaganda, it seems a thin democracy indeed; if the point of the press is not to prevent such an outcome, but assist it, then they are not much more than an outlet for free-of-charge campaign advertisement.
The superlative example (at least so far: God help us, I am certain there will be more) would be the entire premise of the Republican National Convention: We built that. That this soundbite is manufactured from a doctored quote is not in dispute. The same doctored quote—a ragged, James O'Keefe style editing of a presidential speech crafted explicitly to mislead listeners into thinking something was said that was not actually said—was played multiple times during the convention itself. It was known to be false; the origins of the edits were known as well; the media had already pointed out, albeit to little effect, that the quote was doctored; it was made the central talking point of a national political convention anyway, and with staff assertions that the campaign was not going to be "dictated to" by fact-checkers, ergo, by the actual facts.