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Citizen Voices

Information Manipulation: Through the Media Fog

Matthew Dowd, who led President Bush's campaign for reelection in 2004, recently told the New York Times that "The only things that are going to change the equation of the election are the four debates." This is due to the plethora of partisan and biased media sources that the public is confronted with every day. As Dowd pointed out , "The average person has 90 channels. They get all the dot-coms. They all get a newspaper. There is so much flow of information that they just begin to discount it all."

And for that, we can breathe a sigh of relief, although I fear that Dowd might give the average person too much credit in saying the media will be depreciated. But if the most influential factor in this election will be the candidates' own voices - through debates and interviews - then I hope the moderators and interviewers will break with the improprieties of the past several months and truly give both sides an even playing field.

Matthew C. Scallon
September 17, 2008 at 06:29 PM
Since the issue of Palin's performance has come up on a different blog , it would be informative to see ABC's rough cuts, assuming they still exist.

Chris
September 18, 2008 at 07:21 PM
I think it's a stretch to blame the media for Palin's performance. This was not a hardball interview. If Palin had given any one of the apparaent four definitions of the Bush doctrine I could have believed she was at least moderately well informed. She clearly had no idea what it meant in any sense. More disturbing is the manner in which she is being shielded from press - why can't she field open questions? Is she so fragile that she can't handle unfair/ out of line questions? Because the press is not deferential enough? How long should the American public be asked to maintain an open mind when all we get are provacative, image boosting stump speech zingers? A sit down with Charlie Gibson and a two parter with Fox - that's what we get so far. The pro and anti Palin media alike have treated the Palin story in a tabloid fashion - issues have been knocked off the table -and this was the cynical intention in McCain naming her a VP nominee.

Jessica Jondle
September 18, 2008 at 08:43 PM
I wholeheartedly agree that the media should not be blamed for Palin's performance. My argument is two-fold: one, that media should not misrepresent Palin's performance by cutting key elements of an interview; and two, that candidates should be treated equally. Palin asked Gibson for clarification on the Bush doctrine; it was Gibson who at first refused to clarify his own ambiguous statement and then gave her a condenscending reply. If someone asked me, "Do you like ice cream?" surely I am allowed to ask, "What kind of ice cream?" and assume that my questioner would give me a polite reply. Again, the Bush doctrine (notice the lowercase "d") is not a policy term clearly defined like the Monroe Doctrine. Perhaps Palin was aware there were multiple definitions (I tend to think she's aware that the focus of the Bush adminstration has changed) and was waiting for Gibson to clarify or perhaps she wasn't - but how can we assume either way? I would hardly say Palin is being "shielded" from the press given what you yourself admit - that "the pro and anti Palin media alike have treated her in a tabloid fashion." What I would also like to point out is that it is nothing new for candidates to be selective in their choice of media forums in which to present themselves; McCain has repeatedly requested town hall-style debates with Obama, which Obama has turned down. Surely, given Obama's verbal blunders and lacking speaking skills, this is his attempt to "shield" himself. What is he afraid of? He is so fragile that he can't handle a debate with potentially difficult/unfair/open questions? Perhaps we can say McCain had a "cynical intention" only in that all politians are out to win. I am of course jaded enough to see that. But if all's fair in love and politics, all McCain proved was that he had guts, whereas Obama selected an old white man as his running mate. Maybe Obama's "cynical intention" was to choose someone to make up for the experience he lacks so as to (presumably) create a more marketable, winning team - but wait, how is that cynical?

Chris
September 18, 2008 at 11:01 PM
Jessica - Being written about in an op/ed tabloid fashion is a separate issue from not allowing access - Palin just answered her first open forum question yesterday - from a voter. The McCain campaign has trumpeted the idea that this campaign is not about issues - hiding from the press is a manner of hiding from serious debate. McCain's gracious offer to work town hall meetings with Obama was no gesture toward openness - the town hall is a better fit for McCain's wooden, rambling podium style. It was a clever political ploy - but Obama is under no obligation to follow McCain's playbook. The fact of the matter is Obama and Biden answer questions daily without handlers arranging things. McCain has shielded himself in recent weeks - probably to avoid newsworthy blunders like today's comments that put Spain down as a semi-hostile country. Nobody is asking Palin to play by Obama's rules - just to make herself available to the American people - my sense is that the bloom is coming of the rose and Sarah is going to have to face the music soon. I agree much of politics is cynical - Biden might have been chosen because of his old and white credentials - but Biden was also a respected two time primary candidate for President and a long time Senator with a track record. There can be no straight faced defense of the Palin pick as anything but reactionary. What about Palin do you find impressive? Are the steady stream of facts about her record and her own misrepresentations of that record biased? The depth of McCain's cynicism jeopardizes the country.

aaryn b. from My couch
September 22, 2008 at 04:19 AM
This is a very well written, eloquent piece of ridiculousness. First, Charlie Gibson was no less disrespectful toward Palin than Bill O'Reilly was toward Obama during his three-part interview so the news-media-is-picking-on-Palin should just stop. I thought Gibson held it together really well, considering Palin's answers were worthy of outright laughter. Then again, it's a very serious election that McCain & Co. are turning into a high school-esque popularity contest and that, in itself, is worthy of sobs. Next, Charlie Gibson asked a wholly reasonable question of the person who is running for the second highest office in the land, and for conservatives to pretend otherwise is simply further evidence of how little regard they have for democracy. The Bush Doctrine (notice the capital "D") may have undergone an evolution (!) of meaning but that is on par with all the history-rewriting that's been done by his administration. I'm confident that one day, when my child studies history---if she the school she attends will even have up-to-date textbooks---the many variations of this Doctrine will be written. Probably in all caps with a few expletives thrown in as well. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, you give Palin credit that she has not earned: "I tend to think she’s aware that the focus of the Bush adminstration has changed." If Palin does in fact have such a nuanced awareness, it has surely been acquired since the question was posed by Gibson. For at the time, she was clueless. Had she had the knowledge necessary to answer the question (and dare I say, a requirement for the job description) she would have been extremely effective in shutting down the skeptics with one laser-guided answer. Something like..."Charlie, you may or may not be aware of this, but the Bush Doctrine has had four different definitions, so which definition are you asking me to take a position on?" But Palin *didn't* do this because she *didn't* know what in the world Gibson was talking about; it was written on her face as it twitched from the discomfort. She's a prolific liar but apparently not so adept at doing so on the fly. No, her lies apparently require practice and coaching, they require media training, the kind that takes place in an undisclosed bunker while being shrouded from a media that hasn't been deferential enough. Why so many Republicans are defending the indefensible is disturbing. It's understandable that the sheep-like masses are doing it; Palin and her folksy way of speakin' and laughin' and winkin' has caused some involuntary firing of neurons in the reptilian part of the brain in a certain demographic. She's easy on the eyes and we here in America will forgive practically anything if it's presented to us in a pretty package. Or, apparently, if it's wearing cowboy boots and has a swagger. But you are clearly an intelligent person who is giving Palin an undeserved pass. I would argue that you would not be so generous if a candidate with her exact credentials were on the Democratic ticket. Imagine if Obama chose a running mate who attempted to validate his/her foreign policy experience because Tijuana was visible from his/her office window! But no, instead he chose an "old white man" (he might have chosen an old black senator if there were any, but there have only ever been five in US history) with thirty years of foreign policy experience to bolster his ticket. Which is what Americans should want. The choice of Palin as a running mate is, in fact, a cynical pick by McCain and should serve as the proverbial canary in the gold mine as to what kind of leadership he represents. His disdain for the American people is laid bare for all to see (and Palin is just the tip of the cynical pick iceberg: check out the oil-lobbyist who he's chosen to lead his transition team), if only they wouldn't so stubbornly refuse to see it. You say that the media should sit back and let the candidates talk. I agree, let them talk. Because the more Palin talks, the more transparent the Republican ticket becomes. Sarah Palin---who stands before thousands of people and refers to her audience as "guys and gals" while at the same time screaming of sexist attacks; who says her children are off limits but then uses two of the un-pregnant ones to ingratiate herself with the American public; who sneers at the value of community organizing while waving signs with "country first" on one side and "service" on the other; who claims to be of the people but who refuses to talk to the people---should offend you as a thinking person and as a thinking woman.

Candace Suerstedt
September 22, 2008 at 10:18 PM
Jessica, To characterize Biden as "an old white man" is to ignore the wealth of credentials he brings to the ticket. He was a credible presidential contender before he was asked by Obama to be his running mate. I would suggest that "old" is relative; in any case. In regard to others in Congress, he is enviably young. I am still trying to understand why some people are willing to risk putting the welfare of our country, and our children's future in her hands. Even John McCain, in their first public speech, post convention, called her "magnificent". This adjective means " impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking" or "excellent". This strikes me as an unusual way to describe "one's running mate for such a serious position.

Jessica Jondle
September 23, 2008 at 03:21 PM
A sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek comment regarding Obama's lack of risk-taking (for strategic reasons) seems to have been interpreted as me either dismissing Biden as only an "old white man" (and nothing else!) or having some sort of disdain for old white men. Must choose words very carefully...my apologies, indeed...

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