Tuesday, February 19, 2008

'Merchants of trivia'

Matt Taibbi is a terrible writer. From Hunter S. Thompson to William Grieder, Rolling Stone magazine has a long tradition of good political journalism. How these folks think that a hack like Taibbi is a worthy heir to these men is beyond me.

I accept that advocacy journalism has a point of view. But a decent advocacy journalist can present the facts in a way in which any reasonable person will draw the appropriate outrage.

Not Taibbi. He thinks that shoving it down your throat mercilessly and tossing in a few fucks and bullshits into the text makes for quality journalism. His non-stop over-the-top ranting is tiresome.

But while Taibbi couldn't write his way out of a paper bag, he can observe.

In one of the January issues of the magazine, he has a fantastic piece entitled Merchants of Trivia.

Well, the writing is his usual crap. But if you can suffer through his hackery, the points he makes are excellent. It's an up close look at how the insufferably trivial way in which the corporate media covers the presidential race (and by extension, politics in general).

Taibbi writes: Give an army of proud professionals nothing but a silly horse race to cover, and inevitably they'll elevate even the most meaningless details of that horse race to cosmic importance.

This is how you end up getting candidates bludgeoned to death on the altar of such trivialities as "rookie mistakes" and "lack of warmth"; it's how you end up getting elections decided because candidates like John Kerry are unable to overcome adjectives like "looks French" and "long-faced Easter Island statue."

Iowa and New Hampshire are the worst for the avalanche of media trivia, simply because the candidates and the media are there for so long. But it hardly stops there.

Horse race 'journalism' has completely sapped any meaning out of political coverage. Alternet has a good piece on that as well.

Instead of talking about the candidates' positions on health care or Iraq, the media's yapping heads obsess about meaninglessness like who tough enough, who cried or who has momentum.

I suppose it never occurred to the lemmings to talk about why we should actually care that so-and-so has momentum. It doesn't occur to the lemmings because they don't care. They are too self-referential.

Their only concern is themselves. They were embarrssed when they declared Obama the next big thing and then Hillary won New Hampshire. And then two minutes later, they declared Hillary a virtual shoe-in and then Obama wins a bunch of primaries. Now Obama's back to being one step away from 1600 PA Ave., so I suppose he'd better watch out.

Does any of this help you cast a more informed vote?

Didn't think so.

But at the end of the day, the corporate media doesn't care about this. Reporters are lazy and horse race 'journalism' is an easy template to follow. Explaining the nuances of McCain's and Huckabee's social security plans is hard. Talking about McCain's 51-37 percent lead amongst left-handed, near-sighted albino dwarfs with a stuttering problem is a lot simpler.

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

During the Vietnam War, I have memories of real debates. Every election since has been fluff and more fluff.

The journalists have been lazy, combined with the panderings of the two main parties.

You demolished the rightists at my blog, with your Kenya comments.