I've just been reading a really interesting essay by David Foster Wallace. In Up, Simba
(available in print in his collection Consider the
) he spends a week with John McCain during the latter's 1999 campaign for the Republican nomination.
(BTW it's important that people try to get away from a party political angle here. The example is illustrative of the particular point I want to
make, but you could change the names and get the same result.)
It's a great article and insightful in all sorts of ways. And among other anecdotes is one that seemed, to me, to encapsulate what's wrong with US
politics in particular. DFW takes several pages but I'll try and summarize it quickly.
At this point in the campaign the Bush camp have been running negative ads on McCain, as you would expect. So far McCain's responses have been
stilted and not terribly effective. He's on a gruelling bus tour and every day makes more than one public meeting in a new town.
So at this particular meeting a lady gets up in the Q&A and describes how upset her son was to get a push-polling call from the Bush camp in which
McCain is branded a liar. Now this has really upset little Chris, who hitherto, if his mom is to be believed, had thought of McCain as a hero,
someone who could be believed in.
Now Wallace is travelling with all the other reporters, but he's working for Rolling Stone
so has no deadline: so he's in perfect position to
observe the press corps rushing to print the story. Nobody
in the MSM seems to have the slightest inclination to check any facts or note any of
the obvious problems with the story. Did someone really try to canvas a 14-year-old's vote?
...nobody (including Rolling Stone) ventures to point out aloud that, however unfortunate the phone call was for [the family that received
it], it turned out to be just fortunate as hell for John S. McCain... that actually the whole thing couldn't have worked out better for McCain
2000 if had been... well, like scripted, like if say Mrs Donna Duren had been a trained actress or even gifted partisan amateur who'd been
somehow secretly approached and rehearsed and paid and planted in that crowd of over 300 random unscreened questioners where her raised hand in that
sea of average voters' hands was seen and chosen and she got to tell a moving story that made all five networks last night and... now has released
McCain from this week's tactical box.
Like I say, this is not about party politics. This is about the press. They're covering the campaign and something like this pops up, clearly a
staged incident, and not ONE member of the press corps says anything about it.
No-one goes and interviews Mrs Duren to find out if she was
somehow connected to the McCain campaign... personally I'd have been trying to get phone company records to show conclusively that the Duren house
called by the Bush campaign... or not.
But the assembled representatives of the national press, covering a very high-profile story... they don't even discuss the possibility among
and the atmosphere is such that Wallace doesn't even want to voice his suspicions on the whole thing. The story is slotted neatly
into the to-and-fro of the Bush and McCain negative campaigning and its most obvious implications are simply ignored.
That, ladies and gentlemen, I submit, is an illustration of how lax and status driven the Fourth Estate is these days. And I think it's really
typical. If more people asked the obvious questions, the US might have a culture in which getting away with 9/11 would have been a great deal more
difficult. Can you imagine what would have happened if all the reporters who, on the day, said that the buildings' collapses looked like a
controlled demolition had had the stones to stand up and ask the obvious questions?
[edit on 24-6-2009 by rich23]