It’s Not That They’re Lying, It’s That Nobody Cares

I think Krugman’s only partly right here, actually:

Back in 2000, George W. Bush made a discovery of enormous consequence: you could base a whole political campaign on claims that were flatly untrue, like the claim that your big tax cuts for the wealthy went to the middle class, or the claim that diverting Social Security funds into private accounts would strengthen the system’s finances, and reporting would never point this out. That’s when I formulated my doctrine that if Bush said the earth was flat, headlines would read Views Differ on Shape of Planet.

The genius of George W. Bush was that he figured out that public opiniondoesn’t matter at all. It’s not about lying or not lying, it’s not about the complacent media, it’s about your political opponents being so utterly cowed by imaginary bullshit that you no longer actually have to have public approval to get anything done at all.

Let’s not just lay blame at the feet of our busted political press, which likes to call black and white just two opposing views of equal value. Let’s lay blame at the feet of those who should be on the side of white but who seem vaguely ashamed of it all and find the entire process of choosing a color distasteful, and sit in their rooms wrapped in blankets hoping the phone doesn’t ring because then they’d have to defend the side of white and they’d really rather not because gross.

So it doesn’t matter what the press calls lies and truths. It doesn’t matter that the press calls two sides equal when they are not, because if there aren’t two sides, you don’t actually have to worry about any opposition at all. And once you are in office, it is very difficult to get you out in less than your allotted time there (Wisconsin may be the one place where America does not presently suck in this way), so who the fuck cares what people with Ds after their names are blithering on about? If every newspaper in this country was using WE ARE AT WAR typefaces to tell everyone with eyesight that Bush was lying us into war, do you really think, I mean do you, that people would have listened?

I don’t know. I know it mattered terribly, at the time, to fight back in some way, in any way, because what you do is up to you, but I lack Krugman’s confidence in the power of our political media. I just don’t know if anyone’s mind changes that way anymore.


5 thoughts on “It’s Not That They’re Lying, It’s That Nobody Cares

  1. I don’t believe the political press corps is solely to blame, but neither are they blameless. Shaping public opinion (and that’s what it is — not to get all French, but the Jacques Ellul book Propaganda still makes for good reading), anyway, shaping public opinion — or, maybe it should be called “public opinion” in quotes — occurs on multiple fronts, simultaneously and incessantly. Under those circumstances, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those with the most resources (e.g., large corporations) seem to have an advantage in shaping opinion (another e.g., What’s The Matter With Kansas?).
    The press generally and the political press particularly is just another cog in the machine. On the one hand, they’re part of the corporate culture, so what should we expect? On the other hand, they are at least in theory a constitutionally protected institution/entity that you’d feel would have a certain, I don’t know, civic responsibility to do better than “Theories Differ on the Shape of the Planet.”

  2. The press’ pandering during the 2000 election forward is what has made them utterly irrelevant today. But it’s deeper than that.
    The right and its benefactors figured out how to muddy the debate with make-believe “studies” churned out by privately funded think tanks the press then placed side by side with real data because they the press weren’t good a maths. Oh, that and media consolidation, thanks Bill Clinton. When there are only a couple games in town, you kowtow to the owner and the benefits were good, all those cocktail party invites, big salaries, private schools for the kidlets who sat side by side with the children of TPTB.
    Very cozy. Once upon a time there were ethics, and not just in journalism.

  3. In the newspapers, and the tabloid news TV; but the real news is now on the internet, and I think anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet will be .. um .. left behind, bless them. 🙂

  4. Right, A. You’re right, only I get Paul’s point, too. Yes, your stance on this is, I guess, more cynical — doesn’t mean it’s not true — but Paul’s is not necessarily less cynical, just, well, ever so slightly more hopeful? I don’t know how to choose between your positions, except to say you’re both white (hat-wise).

  5. the teevee gnews created the georgee monster and were ever protective of his image. not once was the word fatigue use about him. i swear. they are holding their breath til palin swoops in in 2 weeks.

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