Thursday, April 28, 2011

Damn you and your awesomeness, Rick Perlstein.

So I've been puttering around with a blog post this week regarding the alternate reality that the Republicans seem to live in these days. Felt this one was important, did a shit-ton of research on it, was preparing to publish it to all five of my readers this weekend. Even thought about throwing it up on Newsvine, just for funsies (and because lately, I just feel like a fight).

Basically my main point was regarding the failure of our current news outlets to keep the public informed on relevant issues, which I chalk up to this bizarre obsession with being "objective", which inevitably leads to a failure to report facts, as they increasingly have a liberal bias and the potential to hurt feelings. Ever since Richard Nixon decided that the media was (a) liberal and (b) elitist, there's been a strong pattern of media-folks choosing to run from the truth if it benefits a liberal mindset. And from this we get this idea that "both" sides need to be presented, even it one side is working off of nothing but fumes.

It is under this sort of media climate that moronic conspiracies are allowed to flourish, every crank has some sort of legitimacy now, in the name of fairness, and America has become stupider for it (and sweet flying spaghetti monster, given the signs we already have, is this summer of stupid going to be painful to watch or what?). Although people may argue otherwise, partisanship in of itself isn't the problem (partisan publications have always thrived here in America, and I'd argue the phenomenon was worse in the past). No, the problem began when we decided that partisanship and "bias" was polluting our media, and that an effort must be made to counteract it. Not that it isn't a noble goal - just that, and this is an echo here; the ideal of it cannot possibly exist (even choosing what stories to run with will show bias). We cannot possibly hope to fully eradicate this from our reporting, so why not be honest about it?

But instead, we have partisanship masking itself as objectivity, facts are not facts anymore, we exist in a realm where the only thing that matters is how convincing the opinion you present is. And all opinions, no matter what, need to be given the same gravitas. Which is why we now have "debates" on global warming pitting a climate scientist against the local leader of the Tea Party with little to no fact-checking involved - we "report", you decide.

People, it was going to be awesome. And seriously, the thing was pretty much a novel at this point (I was in the final stages of narrowing the typical rambling down). But guess what? Rick Perlstein, whose works I relied on heavily for my research, decided to beat me to it. So DAMN YOU RICK PERLSTEIN GET OUT OF MY HEAD

I kid, I kid. He's a hell of a lot smarter and well-researched in this area then I could ever hope to be. So seriously, go. Read. Like all things Perlstein, it's a little long, but well worth it.

I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the internet plays into the phenomenon today (these days any crank can raise an army of followers, and the way the media plays it now, the amount of truth in a statement is based in the amount of people that believe it). But Perlstein has always had a gift for looking at the past for answers, this insane idea that history is relevant in how we understand our society today, and he lays out a strong case for how things got to be as bad as they are.

Everything in our current political discourse traces back to Nixon. Did you know that?

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