Saturday, October 11, 2014

This Week In "Duh"

From the WaPo (h/t Shoq):
How the media has helped normalize GOP crazy

By Paul Waldman October 10 at 11:55 AM

And in the last few years, there’s a baseline of crazy from the right that the press has simply come to expect and accept, so the latest conspiracy theorizing or far-out idea from a candidate no longer strikes them as exceptional. Sure, there are exceptions: For instance, Republicans Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell both saw their candidacies derailed by their crazy or outsized statements. But their utterances were truly, deeply bizarre or comical, so they broke through.

But during this cycle, Republican crazy just hasn’t broken through at all. It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right. At this point so many prominent Republicans have said insane things that after a while they go by with barely a notice. This is an era when a prominent Republican governor who wants to be president can muse about the possibility that his state might secede from the union, when the most popular radio host in the country suggests that liberals like Barack Obama want Ebola to come to America to punish us for slavery, and when the President of the United States had to show his birth certificate to prove that he isn’t a foreigner.

So ideological extremism and insane conspiracy theories from the right have been normalized. Which means that when another Republican candidate says something deranged, as long as it doesn’t offend a key swing constituency, reporters don’t think it’s disqualifying. And so it isn’t.
Having written about this phenomenon literally thousands of times practically since the day I started blogging and having talked and thought and read about it since long before that, let me say that this "looking with alarm" recognition that the media routinely enables Conservative madness and depravity is so far too little and so far too late as to be darkly amusing.

Yes, I appreciate Mr. Waldeman's work in The American Prospect.  And, yes, on one level  I get a tiny, childish surge of satisfaction at seeing this in a Major Murrica Newspaper .  But the sad upshot is this: in 2014, one person in one column has caught up to what Liberal bloggers have been writing about for over a decade and what pre-blogging Dirty Hippies have been screaming about all during the political metastasization of the Moral Majority...and death of the Fairness Doctrine...the rise of Hate Radio and Fox News...the relentless Right Wing conspiracies against the Clintons...the impeachment of Bill Clinton over trivia...and so forth.

So it is indeed a fine thing to read "It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right" in the Washington Post.   But to read it in 2014 feels a lot like reading a headline asking "Is American Facing An Economic  Depression?" in a major American 1938.  

So far too little and so far too late as to be bleakly hilarious.


Green Eagle said...

We just ignore it because there is so much of it."

That's their argument? How about "we get paid to freak out over everything Democrats have to say, true or not, while treating Republican lunacy and viciousness as utterly reasonable?"

When is this pretense that the press is just trying to sell newspapers or get hits online going to run up against the reality that their behavior has favored one party- the party of their owners- consistently for decades? You need no psychological or political explanation to understand this phenomenon; all you have to do is ask who signs their paychecks.

dinthebeast said...

The article is OK as far as it goes, but in leaving out a critical part of the cycle, it denies its own role in the problem. Now that the right is just expected by the media to say crazy things, they have to say far crazier things to get the same amount of publicity that the original crazy once bought them. Nobody will write a story about a candidate who believes that tax cuts increase revenue, that's not news at all. If you want free publicity, you have to say something exciting, like, say, lynch a liberal for Jesus. Then they'll write about you. Maybe.

-Doug in Oakland

Kathleen said...

@Green Eagle

You and Mr. Glass have nailed it.

Plus, I suspect there is an agenda over and above profit and page clicks.

bowtiejack said...

Gee, how long has this been going on?

A J Liebling died in 1963, so these two quotes obviously pre-date that:

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

"People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news."

Redhand said...

The batshit crazy fear-mongering is what gets me, everything from Ebola African/Kenyan Usurper fantasies to Duncan Hunter channeling Sen. Butch-me-up Buttercup with his horseshit about 10 ISIS terrorists crossing the Mexican border to kill us in our beds,

All disseminated by the establishment media in their, "We just report what's being said, never mind that it's insane" mode.

I think much of the current Repub playbook is taken from Bush and Cheney's fearmongering and lies in the runup to the Iraq War, and here, one step removed, I think the Repubs are actually channeling Herman Goering about getting a civilian population to go for war:

Anonymous said...

The GOP says batshit crazy things?

- Myrtle June

steeve said...

If the media is actually in the process of learning something, then this is great. Being decades behind and giving themselves awards for their prescience is what the media does.

But of course they aren't learning something. When push comes to shove and they're picking the people they want to win elections and talking to them, they'll magically forget that the person sitting across from them is insane.

It's just like when they finally acknowledged in 2006 that Bush is a screwup (without taking time to report that fact as breaking news, of course). Then 2008 came, and they went right back to worshipping him on his way out.

The only way to know if change has really come is if everyone on TV is perpetually baffled by what's going on.

Batocchio said...

How far do you want to go back?

This is really just Mann and Ornstein again, or some of Rachel Maddow's segments. They and Waldman know better, but they're soft-pedaling the situation because a key part of their audience – the dim-witted, cowardly, "both sides" establishment "centrists," – only might admit the truth if it's presented this way – that the insanity and recklessness of American conservatism is a recent development, and a distortion of some earlier, purer, nondestructive brand of conservatism. (In this sense, they present the same fantasies as Andrew Sullivan.)

But hell, this has been going on since Nixon and Reagan. This critique has been made – and has been well-founded – long before there was an Internet. The "sensible centrists" aren't going to admit they were wrong. Ideally, they could be convinced by Waldman and similar voices to oppose actual extremism in the short term (even though they'd go back to their reliable "both sides" bullshit later on). I don't have high hopes for that occurring in any great numbers, but the odds for it are better than the odds of them honestly seeing and describing American politics and political history.

Kathleen said...

Just one example of the perfidy of the Mainslime Media (Robert Parry reviews mainslimers' handling of Gary Webb):

Habitat Vic said...


Let's go back further. The (primarily owned by a handful of individuals) press cheerleaded the US into wars & military actions in the late 1800s, along with providing cover/distraction so that the populace accepted getting screwed over by the robber barons of the Gilded Age. Hell, the Roberts Supreme Court is a rerun of the Lochner (and earlier) courts about a century ago - initially striking down child labor laws, income tax, and prety much anything that wasn't in favor of the rich/corporations. However, just becasue this has happened before does not make me confident that- sooner or later- things will get better and the pendulum will swing towards the bottom 90%.

It took a Great Depression (as in middle class white people going hungry and/or broke) to get anything changed, along with the elite's fear of Communism taking over. Given how little changed after the 2008 meltdown, I have little hope that we are in any type of "awakening" - in the media nor the populace.

Anonymous said...

A variant of the Gish Gallop. Pure crazy coming out of so many Republican orifices that it's impossible for the media to report them all. Unless, y'know, they just report them all.