I too have been mulling all of this over for some time. I keep intending to write an article discussing the transformation of the media.
Rather than "national discourse," the new media buzzword is "the marketplace of ideas." Has that capitalistic ring doesn't it? "National discourse" they discard as being like socialism. Socialism has now taken on the context of being extreme communism. But that's been the continual course of things over the past many years. Fascism is now conservative, the right is now moderate, moderate is now ultra-liberal, and anything to the left of that is communism.
My 48th birthday is in a couple of weeks (D-day actually, also the day that Bobby Kennedy died). I began understanding politics in high school while students were demonstrating against the Vietnam war. I was opposed to the war but not, as was popular at the time among those that like to go along with the crowd (they all became Reagan Republicans by the way, but I digress...), against the government (only Nixon and his actions). So I was labeled by my friends as "a conservative". Over the years, my politics have not changed significantly. Now, among those same people, I'm a socialist/communist. These people get all of their information from television/radio or by word of mouth.
Now, I can see newspapers and publications as part of "the market place of ideas." They are products really, like any other. But the broadcast media is, and should be, something different. Broadcasters don't own the airwaves! We do. Broadcasters do not pay for the use of the airwaves. We allow broadcasters to use the airwaves under the condition that they responsibly provide a forum for all ideas. And they used to do this fairly well. Print media tried to reflect broadcast standards at the time in order to compete, because a variety of ideas is what the public preferred. But slowly and surely they have been chipping away at those mandated, ethical standards.
So, while I agree with you that there is a completely different standard for Bush I and Bush II than there was for Clinton, there was also a different standard for Carter (whose standard was closer to Clinton's). So "the Clinton exception" is not quite accurate. Lacking anything better, it will serve I suppose, but what we really have here is the "pro-people exception." Or perhaps just recognize the two separate standards. Clinton and Carter were on the "people standard," and Reagan and both Bushes were/are on the "corporate standard."
It's all just too complex for most people to have the patience to understand. (Think, Mel Brooks--Blazing Saddles here.)
Regardless, thanks for responding. Trust me on this, I've had few conversations that I've enjoyed more lately than the one with you on the 19th. I'm off to go sailing with my 82-year-old dad for the weekend, but I'd love to have more of this dialogue when I return. As I said, I want to write an article on this transformation of the press, which is going to take some research. I have so precious little time for that these days.
But first I think I'd like to write something that will kick Tony Snow right in the groin. He's so deserving that way.
Have a wonderful weekend.
[DIVA NOTE: I consider anyone who can watch/listen to/read rightwing media without having a seizure a Resistance Hero. I can't do it.]
I don't know what to say, except that I see the same problem with the broadcast spectrum as I see with the National Parks, the air we all breathe, our water, wetlands, public schools, religious freedoms, personal privacy, etc., etc. -- and that is, how do we keep the greedy bastards on the other side from auctioning off our birthright as Americans to the highest campaign contributor, or the lowest oppressor? And how do we keep them from doing that, when so many among us think their personal self-interests are served by voting their pocketbook above all else? And how do we show THEM that the modest personal dividends they will see from conservative largess -- the crumbs from the orgy of rightwing gluttony -- will be more than offset by the costs of living in an auctioned nation?
How do we accomplish this task when the average American, as Dennis Miller once observed, has the attention span of "a ferret on cappuccino"?
I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about...
A good friend of mine came for a visit one evening, all head-up over the fact that her dad was going to get screwed by Social Security. You see, he had recently received a statement from the government estimating his expected pre-retirement contributions (based on his payments so far) at $98,000. This completely freaked him out, and he passed his freaked-out-ness onto his daughter (my friend) by ranting that he would never get ALL THAT MONEY back, if his monthly check from the Social Security Administration was going to be a puny $1800. $1,800 x 12 = $21,600 per year $21,600 x 5 years = $108,000
Well, I tried my best to calm my friend down, by telling her that her father needn't worry, that he would get back what he paid in, and much more, if he only lived to the expected average age of 76 (it's 78 for women, I believe, of his generation). Here, I explained to her, is the math:
That means that if her father begins collecting at 65, and only lives to be 70, not the expected average of 76, he will have already collected $10K more than he paid in.
At first she looked skeptical, but then I explained it again, and she asked me to write everything down so that she could show her father (as if the math wasn't perfectly easy to figure out on her own). I couldn't believe that she hadn't sat down to crunch the numbers herself, before going into full freak-out mode.
That got me thinking about the Presidential Debates... about the attacks on Gore for "fuzzy math," simply because he took the time to tell the mildly complicated truth, rather than the soundbite lie... about the broadcast media's refusal to judge the veracity of policy statements, but utter obsession with plumbing the depths of burning issues like "Love Story", FEMA, The Peace Corps, and the Internet... and more importantly... it got me thinking about WHAT WE ARE UP AGAINST.
I don't want to bash the American people. I don't think they are (as a whole) lazy or stupid, just incredibly busy and trusting (especially of the undeserving). Americans think they are cynical, but they aren't. They don't cast a jaundiced eye on the media -- or at least not in the way they most need to. For me, even the most cursory comparative analysis of the media's handling of stories involving politicians on the left and the right, provides all the evidence of their unreliability that I require. I said it in my VoterWest un-speech, and I meant it: the media considered a dozen stolen interludes in 18 months a crime against the peace and security of our nation... but now considers a stolen election absolutely ho-hum (no pun intended).
Either the media is crazy, or I am, and (as the Burgermeister Meisterburger would say) "I am certainly not crazy, Grimsley."
But how to convince the American people of that, when they get their news from you-know-who? Talk about your Catch-22!
(By the way, I enjoyed our talk immensely, too, though I worry that I monopolized the conversation. I am a big-mouthed broad, and I have a tendency to keep-a-rollin' once I get goin'. If I did, my apologies.)