“When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together.”
— Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Nov 16, 2010
As I was trying to decide which one of the many, many possible topics to pontificate about this weekend, I came upon this quote of Friedman’s, and just couldn’t resist using it. Friedman’s column was on the very overblown, and widely inaccurate, reporting of the cost of President Obama’s trip to Asia that year. And how Representative Michelle Bachman ran with it when she had no basis for it other than an anonymously sourced report in an Indian newspaper.
As many of you know, my feelings on the subject of lies, distortion, and misinformation in the age of mass communication is on par with my feelings about money in politics. As is my belief that the massive political donors have a vested interest in promoting the misinformation as widely as possible before it can be corrected. Because just like with the newspapers of yore – no one widely reports on the corrections. In the internet age, it has become virtually impossible to correct any story because too many people have already seen, and reacted to, the misinformation. Corrections an clarifications are buried underneath the next big headline.
A related topic that’s been in the news this week is about the impact that the extreme right-wing media has had on the GOP, and the concerns that the party’s leadership are expressing. Much of that commentary is the result of a paper published by Jackie Calmes, a New York Times reporter and Shorenstein Fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School. The paper traces the history of conservative media over the past 70 years, and is definitely worth a read, if you have the time and inclination.
In a bit of irony, a similar topic has been getting coverage since Rupert Murdoch, known globally for his media empire’s low-key, thoughtful, fact-based style (um, yeah, that was sarcasm) decided to tweet his displeasure with Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric on July 18th. His tweet – “When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?” – met with several responses, but Mother Jones’ Washington Bureau chief David Corn had the simplest, and perhaps most obvious – “When Fox News viewers stop supporting him.” It seems that there is no way to slow the Trump apologists, and fanboys, on Murdoch’s flagship US network.
In a somewhat roundabout way, that brings me to this week’s upcoming Republican Party’s presidential debates, which are scheduled for Thursday, and should be highly entertaining, probably disturbing and more than bit scary, but definitely entertaining.
Fox News will be hosting the debates, and because of the oversized field of candidates, will only allow those polling in the top 10 slots into the debate. Theoretically, this means the lineup could change, but, the last time I checked the polling had these as the top 8:
Those leads are likely to remain secure, which leaves these 3 jockeying for the last 2 slots:
Being locked out of the debates likely means it’s nearly the end of the road for the rest of the pack. Sorry, but as amusing as it would have been to listen to Jindal, Florina, Graham, Santorum, or Pataki, and some of those more than others, the lackluster polling is effectively preventing them from ever polling better (unless the others do so badly in the debates that the polling swings – but what are the odds?). Miss this debate, miss them all, is my guess.
With the debate so close, it is interesting to note that Donald Trump has already set expectations by pointing out that he’s not a debater and that’s a good thing – “I don’t debate. I build.”. This while the other, more polished, and better-handled, politicians in the list are likely spending their time making sure that they can keep Trump at bay. Oh, and possibly sound like they know something.
Yes, it should be entertaining. I should pick up some popcorn.
Image is of an etching of the original design for the White House taken from the White House Museum website – http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/overview.htm.