Monday, September 08, 2008

In politics, "It's the media and us, stupid"

Note: In order to return life to normal here at The Red Electric, I am no longer adding to "Sarah Palin" the tags "glasses" or "sex" just to see what might happen. If you are interested in Palin's relationship to those topics, you will not find comment about them here.

I know that the hundreds of you who have visited because of those tags in the last few days will find satisfaction elsewhere on the Web.

So Sara Palin made it through last week without excusing herself to deal with her “personal problems.”

It remains to be seen whether the other shoe will drop in the next eight weeks. Drug use? Alcoholism (there seems to have been a touch of that)? Black sheep (remember the former brother-in-law? Phony college transcripts? Christian values hypocrisy (where to begin?)?

Or maybe “The Base” is so enamored with Sarah and her “just-like us” family values that nothing would matter. Whatever is under the carpet, once exposed, would just add to her “just-like-us” credentials. “Let him who is without sin etc.”

So far the tabloid readers and the God, Guts and Guns groups are loving the minutiae of Sarah’s “just a hockey mom” story.

And, of course, the Christian Right, whom we can thank for two Rovian elections of George W. Bush, are back in the hunt. “Energized” as they say.

McCain’s strategists are clever (some prominent of their colleagues have called them “cynical”) to join Palin and McCain at the hip. They are appearing in tandem on the hustings and attracting throngs.

McCain basks in the media stardom of his tundra “Cinderella.” Walled off from probing questions (does she know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites? Does she know where Iran is?), Palin projects personality and a contrived maverick image.

The ticket conflates opposites in ways that only the influential visual media can accentuate. Old/Young, Male/Female, Doughy/Attractive. Mix in the non-visual but very much proclaimed heroic vet/Military mom-to-be. Unspoken but palpable are insider/outsider, wishy-washy religious/red-meat fundamentalist, obscenely rich/just-folks working class.

Never mind what they believe or would do about the environment (whatever happened to global warming?), the economy (meltdown anyone?), Iraq (it’s still about oil).

Never mind that The Old One may not be around for four years.

For now, it is all about story and its telling — the plot, the setting, the arch of the story, pacing, the characters.

McCain, Palin and the True Believers are right: It’s the media, stupid — but not in the ways they would have us believe.

It’s the media AND the voting public’s relationship with it. The media have so dumbed down political discourse in this country and we have so bought into it that we are in mortal danger.

As noted before, politics is all about entertainment. We, the People, have complacently embraced the fun. It consumes our time and our lives. It’s so easy to be entertained. Attractive candidates. Compelling story lines. Stage sets. Neck-and-neck horse races.

Republican media manipulators have chosen a candidate/actor to fit the desired plot line. Palin has been cast not to be vice president, but to fill the role of a running mate who can offset the stiff persona of old what’s-his-name.

Media moguls know that successful casting creates “para-social” relationships between members of the audience and the character. This is the staple of soap operas. Viewers often identify more with the travails of media-concocted characters than they do with members of their own families. When candidates forge the same relationships with voters, the voters end up caring more about the candidates than they do about the state of their nation or the world.

We will never see real change in this country until this media manipulation and a complacent public’s surrender to it end.

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