How The Media Enables And Amplifies The Crazy

On Friday at Netroots Nation, Digby, Marcy and I had lunch at a restaurant near the convention center. At one point, we were laughing so loudly at our table that I was certain we’d end up as someone’s "drunken bloggers" tweet from the restaurant (although we were having iced tea and water to drink because we had panels to contend with later).

What set off the laughter? 

We were reminiscing about the media freak show absurdities the last time around during the Clinton years.  And talking about the current circus side show atmosphere of the moment.

Digby had us howling about the Clinton years, when the media obsessed about whether Bill Clinton’s penis really did hook to the left as Paula Jones averred, and then had endless "guests" on to hold up pictures of what the Presidential penis might look like.   But when Marcy says "blowjob" on television?  The whole world as we know it was coming to an end in medialand.

It’s the titillation/pearl clutching media paradox.

And now?  We have a Schiavo redux going on in the worst sense of the words on healthcare, and the media is happily playing right along.  Again.  Via Digby:

…these right wing neanderthals want to make sure that doesn’t change. These hysterics don’t care what the elderly actually want — if these poor people have to spend weeks hooked up to machines in sterile hospitals, in misery and horrible suffering, alive only in the most expansive definition of the term, it’s worth it because Obama is a Kenyan Hitler and they have to "break him."

We just went through a lot of this with Mr. ReddHedd’s parents in the last year during their lengthy hospital and rehab stays. It’s a difficult maze of paperwork and care protocols to navigate, and we’re both lawyers. I cannot imagine having to go through all the contract and legal considerations on power of attorney, medical care, etc., when you aren’t familiar with the terminology. Because at the same time you are trying to deal with all of this paperwork? You are also facing the emotional nightmare of potentially losing a very ill and beloved parent.

To gin this up into a political issue is unconscionable, especially as a scare tactic for the elderly.

But, as Rick Pearlstein explains, it’s not exactly new for the right wing to sink into the orchestrated outrage gutter:

So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers — these are "either" the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president — too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs — too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests. . . .

That provides an opening for vultures such as Richard Nixon, who, the Watergate investigation discovered, had his aides make sure that seed blossomed for his own purposes. "To the Editor . . . Who in the hell elected these people to stand up and read off their insults to the President of the United States?" read one proposed "grass-roots" letter manufactured by the White House. "When will you people realize that he was elected President and he is entitled to the respect of that office no matter what you people think of him?" went another.

Liberals are right to be vigilant about manufactured outrage, and particularly about how the mainstream media can too easily become that outrage’s entry into the political debate. For the tactic represented by those fake Nixon letters was a long-term success. Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people’s voices means they should treat Obama’s creation of "death panels" as just another justiciable political claim. If 1963 were 2009, the woman who assaulted Adlai Stevenson would be getting time on cable news to explain herself. That, not the paranoia itself, makes our present moment uniquely disturbing.

Read Rick’s entire piece. History’s lessons are sobering. None more so than the ones that teach us that we fail to learn from our never-ending mistakes because the folks who control the airwaves don’t consider them to be mistakes at all.

Bill Moyers Journal had a particularly on point discussion of this on Friday.

It needs to be more than just us liberals talking about this. But I’m stumped as to how to move that conversation forward in a meaningful way. Thoughts?

How The Media Enables And Amplifies The Crazy

On Friday at Netroots Nation, Digby, Marcy and I had lunch at a restaurant near the convention center. At one point, we were laughing so loudly at our table that I was certain we’d end up as someone’s "drunken bloggers" tweet from the restaurant (although we were having iced tea and water to drink because we had panels to contend with later).

What set off the laughter? 

We were reminiscing about the media freak show absurdities the last time around during the Clinton years.  And talking about the current circus side show atmosphere of the moment.

Digby had us howling about the Clinton years, when the media obsessed about whether Bill Clinton’s penis really did hook to the left as Paula Jones averred, and then had endless "guests" on to hold up pictures of what the Presidential penis might look like.   But when Marcy says "blowjob" on television?  The whole world as we know it was coming to an end in medialand.

It’s the titillation/pearl clutching media paradox.

And now?  We have a Schiavo redux going on in the worst sense of the words on healthcare, and the media is happily playing right along.  Again.  Via Digby:

…these right wing neanderthals want to make sure that doesn’t change. These hysterics don’t care what the elderly actually want — if these poor people have to spend weeks hooked up to machines in sterile hospitals, in misery and horrible suffering, alive only in the most expansive definition of the term, it’s worth it because Obama is a Kenyan Hitler and they have to "break him."

We just went through a lot of this with Mr. ReddHedd’s parents in the last year during their lengthy hospital and rehab stays. It’s a difficult maze of paperwork and care protocols to navigate, and we’re both lawyers. I cannot imagine having to go through all the contract and legal considerations on power of attorney, medical care, etc., when you aren’t familiar with the terminology. Because at the same time you are trying to deal with all of this paperwork? You are also facing the emotional nightmare of potentially losing a very ill and beloved parent.

To gin this up into a political issue is unconscionable, especially as a scare tactic for the elderly.

But, as Rick Pearlstein explains, it’s not exactly new for the right wing to sink into the orchestrated outrage gutter:

So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers — these are "either" the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president — too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs — too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests. . . . (more…)

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