After years of this sort of politics, from Atwater to Rove, from Willie Horton to Swift Boats, it would be nice to think the mainstream media have learned from the past and will ensure that things like this are adequately examined within the context of history and not just the heat of the moment. But that’s clearly too much to hope for.
I’ve become convinced that assuming that people will naturally veer towards the truly honorable and right perspective in dealing with our fledgling and floundering democracy isn’t in the cards. There will always be those who are willing to lie and steal in order to maintain their base of power and access to power. Money is more important to these people than democracy. And, that’s the “no shit sherlock” moment of the day.
On November 2, 2007, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced that the Commission would hold the sixth and final public hearing on media consolidation November 9, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein blasted the Chairman’s decision to give the public only five business days notice before the hearing: “With such short notice, many people will be shut out … This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made.”
The business as usual practice of placing the needs of big business before the democratic process and the role of the people should be met at every moment it occurs. Our democracy is being bought and sold to the highest bidders, as is access.
Media outlets are the extended voice of the people. There is a reason the Founding Fathers placed the right of free speech and of a free press right at the top of the Bill of Rights. What is going on now is the threat they foresaw.
A few days back, Avedon composed a nice piece about how the right wing noise machine constructs dirty tricks by manipulating unimportant information or “mistakes” in order to create a “news story” that is then spun around the right wing echo chamber to create a “scandal”. An expensive haircut is one of the most popular “mistakes” of choice, and they’ve used it with great success for fifteen years against Clinton, KerryEdwards. An expensive haircut becomes the symbol of that candidates “phoniness”. And, once it enters the echo chamber, it gets hyped and expanded upon like any big fish story, it’s size, price and effect escalating with each telling. It goes without saying that such tall tales are swallowed whole by an eager base of right wing zealots who never question anything “their side” says and believes nothing from “the other side”. Writes Avedon:
Something that a lot of people don’t seem to get is that when we hear about these “mistakes”, it isn’t because the candidate did something unusual or phony. There was nothing unusual about Edwards getting an expensive haircut – as presidential candidates’ haircuts go, it wasn’t even extravagant. But the press decided to write about it as if it was unusually extravagant, and just left enough facts out to leave that impression with you. An honest article would have told you what the other candidates spend on their haircuts, and why it’s more expensive to get professional grooming on the campaign trail. (It also would have been in the Style section rather than in the news pages.) But they didn’t, because it wasn’t just an amusing article about the little details of campaigning, nor were they trying to inform you – they were just trying to smear Edwards, and that was the sole purpose of making a big deal out of Edwards’ haircut.
If the price of Edwards’ haircuts hadn’t been inadvertently released, they would have found something else – rearranged his words so that they meant something else (as with the Love Canal story in 2000), or changed them (“invented the Internet”), or even fantasized his reasons for wearing a particular suit (“earth tones”).
As Avedon notes, if a “mistake” doesn’t exist, they’ll simply make one up, or use something to their advantage. “Clinton Fatigue” is an example of this. The term was introduced in April 1999 by the Pew Research Center in a poll they conducted entitled “Clinton Fatigue Undermines Gore Poll Standing”. The term and concept was thereafter used by GOP operatives, and regurgitated by the right wing media, in the effort to “convince” the voters that Al Gore was unelectable and would face “a defeat by landslide” because the nation was tired of hearing about and dealing with Clinton. It turned out to be a useful tool to rally the conservative base, as “Clinton Fatigue” is code for “Clinton Hatred”. And, as everyone knows, hate is a great motivator.
The “Clinton Fatigue” attack was, in terms of rallying the base and instilling doubt in the populace, a successful campaign effort against Gore. The mainstream media picked it up and ran with it. IMHO, since Gore mistakenly spent an overabundant amount of time reacting and allowing it to dictate his campaign, it probably cost him that sizable election margin in 2000 that would have secured his ascension to the presidency (even with GOP high jinks in Florida), since he believed the hype too and failed to properly deal with the perception of Clinton Fatigue. The thing was: Clinton had high approval ratings at the end of his presidency. Were people tired of him? Yes, but no more than any other two term president. Yet, the right wing used this to their advantage. Continues Avedon:
The truth about 2000 is that the media looked at a virtually unassailable candidate and a pathetic excuse for a candidate and simply switched the descriptions – you never would have known that it was Al Gore who’d been the captain of the team while George Bush had been a cheerleader, or that Al Gore had really worked (hard!) on the family farm while Bush was just a wastrel who only does fake work on his fake Crawford “ranch” (which would more honestly be called a villa), that Bush grew up rich but Gore did not, and that Gore had a reputation in Washington as a straight-arrow who – like him or not – could never be accused of dishonesty (while Bush was openly lying throughout his campaign about what his tax cuts would do to the national coffers). Twice, the press helped the GOP portray Bush as someone who had “served in uniform” while suggesting that Gore had very nearly sat out the war and Kerry faked his way into getting unearned Purple Hearts.
And, there is an attempt afoot to do this again with Hillary Clinton. How valuable a tool is the “Clinton Fatigue” approach? Consider this: Recently, right wing shill Tom Purcell wrote that he is so “worried” that the Clinton’s ” personal life may become front-page news again.” that he writes 650 words on the topic, titling it “Pre-emptive Clinton Fatigue”, wherein he does exactly what he claims to be so worried about in the first place:: he writes about the Clinton’s personal life! Telling, no?The irony is lost on the true believers. It’s part of the tactic.
Shertaugh at Is that Legal? puts it succinctly:
Clinton fatigue was about anything but policy to smear the president’s character. Hence, we get from the GOP that Gore invented the internet. Or Kerry lied about his Vietnam service. Or Edwards is a faggot. Or Obama went to an anti-American madras.
It doesn’t matter who the Democrat[ ] nominee is. For the GOP, its just about creating a storyline that changes the debate from policy to character — on the premise that voters treat character as a proxy for policy savvy and political judgment.
Clinton Fatigue is an excellent example of an essential play in the right wing noise machines dirty trick handbook of diversionary tactics meant to serve two purposes: foster the image that the candidate is “removed from the common man” (morally, financially) and to keep discussion away from the real issues. And, more often than not, Democrats fall for it. So, do many citizens. (Read the comments.) It’s all about twisting reality. “They turn the coward into a hero and the hero into a coward.” Avedon again:
It doesn’t matter how perfect a Democratic candidate is; the press will make them look pallid, phony, weak, and crazy while building up another GOP thug or Alzheimer’s sufferer to look like a bright, shiny hero to the public. The Spite Girls will call the Democrat “cute” little belittling names, Matt Drudge will post misleading headlines, and the rest of the Stepford Press will join in while ignoring much more substantive problems with the Republican.
It will happen. You have to be ready to let them have it every single time they do it. (emphasis added)
Avedon is spot on. We have call them on their lies. And, entirely on cue and predictable, the right wing noise machine marches into battle with another angle on diversionary noise and derogatory spin: a new form of “fatigue”, a resurrected form of Clinton Fatigue. A 1999 article from World Nut Daily (the most reliable wingnut propaganda tool in the land) defines the malady from the wingnut point of view in regard to Hillary Clinton:
…a phrase widely used to describe how the American people feel about Bill and Hillary. It is to say that the Clintons have finally worn out their welcome. There is a prevailing sentiment that it’s time for them to go, and to take their baggage with them. This reality is self-evident and doesn’t need to be documented, but it has been. A recent Zogby survey found that “a majority of likely American voters prefer that Bill and Hillary Clinton retire from public office and take a lower public profile after the presidential term ends rather than see Hillary serve in the U.S. Senate.”
The new form of “fatigue” is to marry the general distaste amongst the true believing conservative base for Bill Clinton’s moral foibles (and thus their mistrust of his wife Hillary) with their deep suspicion of the ability of a woman to have the strength to actually be president. Hatred blurs factual distinctions. If you hate Bill, you’ll hate Hillary by proxy, and the reason given will be that she’s “not to be trusted” and the underlying subliminal message will be that she’s weak. It’s never outwardly stated as such, but you can smell the misogyny and the hatred in the air.
Did you know that the Democratic candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, suffer from “fatigue”? It must be true, Drudge is reporting it:
The article that Drudge links to is by Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post, who has a history of invoking the “Clinton Fatigue” tactic. They’re careful not to attack Hillary Clinton directly as being weak. That would be too obvious. But, it’s there nonetheless, it is simply shrouded in pundit tricks like prediction and comparing the real world to television. Two additional tricks that shills like to play.
In a New York Times article entitled “The Ascent of a Woman”, Kornblut lays the groundwork and gives support to the idea that the American public simply isn’t ready for a woman president:
No matter how singular a figure she may be, Mrs. Clinton, if she runs for president, will do so in a country that trails behind a growing list of others in electing women to the highest office, a country that recently dumped its Hollywood version (“Commander in Chief” was suspended from the ABC lineup last fall, then canceled outright last month). Although polls show most Americans say they are willing to vote for a woman — more than 90 percent of those surveyed would do so for the right candidate — far fewer, about 55 percent, believe the country as a whole is ready for a female president. Broadly, the data suggest that there is a lingering awkwardness toward women at the tip-top of political power, both on screen and off.
The pertinent idea within that paragraph (and the article) is that since American’s reject a woman president on TV that they will do so in a real life election as well. Not only a dangerous idea, but a false one. Television is full of strong and politically powerful women. Comparing fantasy to reality as if they are one and the same is the game that is afoot here. In a county that is increasingly losing it’s grasp upon it’s ability to maintain a steady economy, a strong military, a positive world image, and a diplomatic edge, such theories damage the democratic process.
David Paul Kahn at The Politico takes a similar path in an article titled “TV provides poor signal for Hillary”, an overt attempt at shaping the perception that Hillary’s destiny in the run for president is as ordained as a failed TV show about a female president.
Did it ever occur to these shills that “Commander in Chief” wasn’t that great of a show? Or that it went head to head with both American Idol and Criminal Minds, two consistently top five shows, and that ABC reacted to muddled ratings by changing creative direction and creator (Rod Lurie for Steven Bocchc0) mid season? Or that people simply didn’t buy Geena Davis as the president? Her star had begun to wain years prior on the big screen.
The attack documented is a twofold attempt at placing a wedge between the people and the candidates as well as instilling seeds of doubt about whether she has the “strength” to be president. The new “Clinton Fatigue” trick is about defining the candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, as weak. “If the rigors of the campaign trail are too much for her, how can she be president?” Debates are the forum by which the “lofty” candidates talk about the issues of concern to the “lowly” people. And, implying that the candidates are “tired” of this process insinuates that they are slso tired of dealing with the issues, and thus tired of dealing with the people as well. It’s a well thought out dirty trick. But, it goes deeper.
Hillary Clinton has long been feared and considered as the sure shot candidate for president in 2008. But, you can’t go after her as being weak, or you open yourself up to charges of misogyny and sexual chauvinism. So, you hide behind ambiguous attacks on her ability to be elected. And, it works.
This is why the debates are so important, and why it’s important that we make sure that our elected officials
do their duty in regard to oversight. It is why we must vote and support our candidates. There are those amongst us who would insert roadblocks to our democratic process in order to ensure their own grasp on power.
It’s important that we use the media available to us to reply to these attacks and keep the truth out there.
Those who don’t want to see the truth are lost. But, there are many others who are watching, and understand that games are afoot. They look to us for answers.
…we’re introducing a new article series called Shortlist, your opportunity to learn about the films that inspire intellectual, artistic and activist leaders. Leaders like Albert Maysles, a pioneer of cinema verite whose documentaries explore issues from poverty (Lalee’s Kin) to politics (Primary). We asked Mr. Maysles to share his favorite films and his thoughts on the power of documentary to change the world. So what films make Al’s Shortlist? Keep reading to find out.