Sunday Morning News

Today I was checking the channels I actually look at sometimes and on one of the network channels there was Karl Rove, giving his expert analysis. He said that Obama was going to make a political choice in his running mate, rather than one based on fitness for the Presidency. This from the party which gave us Spiro Agnew, Tomatoe, and is floating Tom Ridge as a way to maybe carry Pennsylvania, and Eric Cantor as a sop to the extreme right base. The vice-presidential choice is by definition political. What we have is collaboration by the media in Rove's specialty: When you're going to do something that leaves you vulnerable, accuse your opponent of it before you do it. If you're going to subvert the Bill of Rights, announce that you're spreading democracy around the world.

By saying that Obama is going to make a political choice instead of a leadership choice, what Rove says becomes news and the media outlets proclaim: "Rove says Obama's choice will be based on politics and not on ability to lead," or similar "news" leads. In this way Rove is allowed to frame Obama on the leadership issue which is central to the Republican offense, and he is simultaneously allowed to pre-define Obama's pick for vice-president. And he is allowed to do this on a network news broadcast as if he is merely doing a overview of the political situation.

He is the political situation.

We certainly could use a Socrates instead of more sophists. Like the sophists, the news analysts started out as wise in their craft of providing an objective overview, and like the sophists, they gradually became corrupted as they learned to sell arguments which could prove anything, so that they began with what was to be proved, and served it at the expense of a truth derived from an objective overview. They are the whores in the temple and a man with a whip would make a good change of pace. But as (Kazantzakis') Pilate said to Christ, "We don't care how you want to change things, we don't want them changed." Some political situations are so common they have a template, and only the dates and names need to be changed.

Networks were once expected to separate the news departments from the entertainment and advertising departments. That was because the price of their being allowed to use what was owned by the public, the airwaves, required that they provide a public service. But because they were allowed to make money on news, it devolved into an investment rather than a public service. An investment requires predictability, which means that it runs along like a train on a track, on time. When the emphasis becomes the profit instead of the quality of the news, it devolves into gossip.

And of course the more salacious the gossip the better it sells. Sex always sells so long as it's not between people married to each other. That we can take as read.

Suddenly this week the entire focus of the news was on John Edwards having an affair, and it had the added salacious elements of his wife's being ill and his having the gothic tendency of southerners to revel in their fall and redemption, insisting that their depravity is especially hideous. They even turn down invitations to appear on the Jerry Springer Show, where they might find a support group and unexpected news from the women involved. Like those before him, Edwards played the role of a Japanese bringing shame on the family, and dutifully eviscerated himself in a public lancing of the offending boil his heart became under the whip of vanity.

The observation that conservatives have power scandals and liberals have sex scandals generally holds true. That's why conservatives get so outraged by sex that's not in its cage. Sexual freedom is viewed as a failing, because sexual freedom for women will be the end of the patriarchy as all powerful, and of the family as we know it. But there are different kinds of families.

There will have to be a new mythology.

The solution as always is the balance point, in the middle, where something new comes from the tension of the opposites. The development of the individual ego is described in myth as a new hero, who separates earth from sky by bracing his feet against the earth and his hands against the sky, and pushing them apart. Only by doing this can space be made for a new individual who separates from the parents. It's no different in the society. To break the deadlock between the matriarchal power and the patriarchal power, a new hero has to come who can create space in the middle.

The solution to this problem in mythology was the introduction of Eros, who mediates between the male and female power polarities. Eros is the intermediary, who doesn't prefer one power polarity to the other, but rather relates them together through their shared attraction. Eros could not achieve this by allowing equal time to the extreme patriarch and then the extreme matriarch. It is accomplished through preventing their direct confrontation, not employing it.

It's comfortable for a producer of a news segment to take care of the ratings by using well known names, and to draw political analysis as a substitute for cultural examination. Cultural examination needs the same discipline as anthropology. Just a quick example of the incompatibility of anthropology and political analysis: Every time a hallucinogenic drug demonstrates itself as a catalyst for an altered state of consciousness, its use is made punishable by high fines and imprisonment. Yet anthropologists who investigate the roots of western civilization have discovered -- and this is pretty agreed on science now -- that the "muse" which inspired all this great works on which western civilization is founded, was, literally, hallucinogenic drugs.

So we have managed to have a war against the source of western civilization's great literary and artistic foundations, as we have managed to have a war against people who target civilians, when we have targeted huge numbers of civilians, from Dresden to Hiroshima to Korea to Vietnam. Right now the verifiable civilian death count in Iraq as a result of our invasion and occupation is around a hundred thousand. Estimated civilian deaths are much higher.

There are countless examples of the assault on history through conformity to the proclamations of authority. Anybody who travels a lot knows how bad it is because they know how different the United States and the Iraq War looks from outside the United States, now, than from inside the country. That means they know how one-sided the information is that's available to people who don't get outside of the country, or don't ever get past Fox News or conservative talk radio. We can't even see pictures of our dead being buried. The society has been squeezed down into a painful paranoia, and it is fueled by the illusion that there are just two choices in any situation: the right wing choice or the left wing choice.

There are two choices because it is economically expedient to have two choices. All that the producer needs to do to make it journalism is get "both sides" of the story. So he or she has a play list of available talking heads to balance the artist formerly known as news either on the right or the left. This provides no news at all. It just provides a lot of noise by people too ignorant or too vain to tolerate ambiguity.

The idea of multi-sourcing was derived from standard practice in print journalism, where it would be stupid to interview somebody and not check around for opposing viewpoints. The difference was that you didn't just vomit the undigested seeds of the story onto the printed page. The print reporter got the opposing views to make sure he, or she, wasn't being used as a public relations asset by somebody with an axe to grind or a financial stake in the story. Facts didn't have to be balanced with opinions from somebody hired to do spin.

If a good reporter had interviewed Karl Rove and was told that Obama's choice would be political, he would have said, "Like every other choice in politics. Is that all you've got?" And if the expansion on the idea was that there is an alternative more noble, which consists in choosing somebody who is ready to be President, the reporter would say, "That's good, Karl. You're trying to assassinate the character of somebody you haven't even identified yet by pre-defining Obama's pick as unqualified. Do you have holes in your teeth where the venom squirts out?"

The television media hasn't learned its lesson, which means that it is ignoring the lesson. Dick Cheney demonstrated how easily the press is used when he planted a story (as I recall in the New York Times) and then went on Meet the Press and quoted from the story, essentially serving as his own source. In street parlance, he pulled it out of his ass right in front of them, yet the media moved with the story as if it was independently sourced.

Thank God for the only two men in news with the integrity of a Cronkite or Murrow.

What else is new? Obama and Michelle are in Hawaii with the girls, getting in some beach time. As is the family custom they sunbathe nude. McCain is furious, claiming it's just a cheap celebrity trick to dominate the news cycle. To counter the ploy he has entered his wife in a biker chick beauty contest. Here is a video of the Miss Buffalo Chip competition in which he wanted to enter his wife.

Finally, The Dark Knight, a metaphorical story of America under the Cheney administration, continues to dominate the cinema box office. Plans for a sequel, "The Dark and Stormy Night," are in the works. The ambitious second chapter will add planetary climate crisis as a subplot, to provide more apocalyptic appeal for the fundamentalist audience.

Posted: Sun - August 10, 2008 at 12:32 PM