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.