A good friend of mine; a conservative, a Republican and a very successful Bluffton business owner suggested the other day that “if we could just get rid of our President, our Congress and our Media, we’d have quite a country.”
Clearly he was expressing disappointment in the President he’d helped to elect, twice; disdain for the least respected Congress in the history of this remarkable American enterprise and angry frustration with what I’ll call “Media Gone Wild” (there is no risqué video available).
And, in the midst of all this, here are we, the people; trying to exercise our hard-won freedoms and responsibilities in this strange, wacky and marginally insane primary season.
Arrayed against the exquisite simplicity of the democratic act of voting in a primary election, so that delegates can be sent to a convention where they are supposed to then select the presidential nominee of their party, is this multitude of media mavens at their “decision desks;” feigning intellectual superiority over the rest of us, as they blather away for hours about who said what and what it really meant and who’s already lost and what’s the point of having Super Tuesday since this one’s already been anointed and that one’s going to endorse this one and this one could win if that one dropped out but that one won’t because he believes in the “process” (translates to maybe I could be the VP nominee) and that one could win if her husband shuts up and, then, thankfully, a commercial comes on for some eye wrinkle cream and we can all take a breath from the madness (and from the longest sentence I believe I have ever written).
Ah, but respite comes at a heavy price, because it’s tomorrow and we have before us the 439th Democratic Candidates Debate and the 511th Republican Candidates Debate.
The former is hosted by the Committee for the Preservation of Overburdening the American Mind and will include emailed questions from three year olds with grave concerns for their future. The latter is hosted by the Committee for the Return of Decency to our Street Corners, which has decided to exclude Ron Paul because he believes street corners should decide for themselves; free of American intervention. The confusion mounts.
Should I support Shrill Hil, thus ensuring the future of audiologists across America? Is the McCain train so far down the track that it can’t be stopped and, will he bomb Hanoi if elected? Is Huckabee just a Wannabee or is he already a Usedtabee? Will his speeches remain so lengthy that we all become Romney insomniacs? Will the Obama drama continue to unfold to the point that we go for the most appealing style with the least experience? In media terms, they call that “refreshing”.
Maybe we could have a ticket of O’Reilly and Blitzer as write-ins. Then they could interview themselves and tell us what we think.
OK, here’s the (semi) serious part: We live in a world of instant information. Stunning technological change has made virtually anything possible. But, it has also tended to make us all just a little bit speedy. We listen to so many sound bites each day; we’ve actually learned to speak in them ourselves. We used to read and think and analyze on our own. Now, just maybe, we rely on too many $20 million-a-year media “stars” to evaluate for us. No wonder contests are decided before we’ve spoken. No wonder we think we know what we think about a war in a faraway place, even though we actually know very little about that war. No wonder we’re more interested in what a candidate’s husband is saying than in whether or not the candidate has the goods. No wonder we love the comeback of the little counter puncher from Arizona. His demise and his phoenix-like rise from the flames were both creations of the media. He was going to lose; now he could win; what a story!
We know more about Romney’s hair than his ideas and we know everything about Obama’s Moslem schooling, but virtually nothing about his platform and his plan for the country. That might tarnish the momentary media stardom; might challenge the “appeal”.
In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, a great idea man and mighty fine President wrote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
But, by 1807, he countered: “I deplore the putrid state, into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity and the mendacious spirit of those who write them.”
In the French that Mr. Jefferson understood so well, the expression is “Plus ca change”. It is that language’s creation for our “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.