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Hullabaloo


Friday, March 28, 2008

 
Squids and Romans

by digby

I am on the road today travelling to Philly PA to pay homage to the great Atrios and cheese steaks, not necessrily in that order. I am blessedly away from all gasbags and feeling the better for it.

to keep you all entertained, I have flagged two articles that should give you something to laugh, cry, or maybe get angry about (as if we need that...)

The first is "Generation Squeeb" by Matt Taibbi, who shows us once again, in his inimitable way, that we Americans are all a bunch of suckers:

Now, no one is suggesting that there shouldn't be some reaction to genuinely toxic ideas, or that all criticism of racist or unpatriotic comments is unfounded. But what we're getting with all of these scandals isn't a sober exchange of ideas but more of an ongoing attempt to instill in the public a sort of permanent fear of uncomfortable ideas, and to reduce public discourse to a kind of primitive biological mechanism, like the nervous system of a squid or a shellfish, one that recoils reflexively from any stimuli. And the campaign is where you really see this process at work full-time. It's something I noticed while spending so much of the last year (and, before, so much of the years 2003 and 2004) on the campaign trail talking to prospective voters, listening to their complaints and their fears and their (often fleeting) enthusiasms. During this time, I started to notice a pattern, comprised of several elements.

The first is a truly remarkable tendency of seemingly intelligent people to work themselves into genuine outrage over information they didn't even know about twenty minutes ago, until they heard it on television, or coming out of the mouths of a candidate.


(Or a blogger, perhaps?)

Along the same lines, but much less fancifully written is this from Walter Shapiro in today's Salon called "Rum, Romanism and James Carville"

If Carville, McPeak and Fischer did not exist this week, some cable-news producer would have to invent them. Fischer, for instance, is portrayed as a close advisor to Obama, even though the Iowa Democrat admitted in an interview Wednesday that he has had only three short telephone conversations with his favored candidate (including a call on his birthday) since the Jan. 3 caucuses. "I'm going to exempt myself, since I wrote something stupid," Fischer said. "But we've had two full news cycles parsing what Carville said as if it were written by Abraham Lincoln or recorded in the Bible."

Of course, it does not take a video camera or a gossip-monger with a BlackBerry to turn the incendiary comments of a campaign surrogate into a voting issue. In the waning days of the 1884 campaign, Republican nominee James Blaine listened without objection as a New York City minister at a GOP rally denounced the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism and rebellion." All it took were some handbills and newspaper stories to inform Irish Catholic voters about Blaine's silence in the face of the slur -- and Democrat Grover Cleveland carried New York state (and with it the Electoral College) by a scant 1,149 votes.

It would be nice to believe that the American electorate has grown more sophisticated in the past 124 years. But you certainly cannot prove it by the latest twists in the Democratic race. The way the news coverage is going, pretty soon we will be arguing over the cosmic meaning of some comments by an alternate delegate from Idaho immortalized on a Facebook page. And by the time we get to the potentially rambunctious Denver convention, the final week in March may be remembered as the good old days of substantive political debate on the issues.


God help us.


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