No News is Good News: Part II
Ironically enough, it was almost exactly one year ago to the day that I undertook my first 30-day “news fast” (see “A 30-Day News Embargo for Mental Health: No News Is Good News”).
I wasn’t planning on another one, but all of the conditions that led me to swear off social media, newspapers, magazines, and email “news updates” a year ago not only exist today, they are exacerbated by the disinformation debacle that the 2012 presidential campaign has become.
What I’d like to say is that fundamentalist Republicans and the Tea Party Jihad have seized the opportunity this campaign season to weave a tissue of lies. I’d like to say that, but when it comes to weaving, the Republicans would give Penelope a run for her money. And it’s not a tissue. It’s more like the Bayeux Tapestry.
Yesterday, Dolce Metà came home with a copy of the “new” Newsweek (the Tina Brown Newsweek, because it wasn’t enough that she ruined The New Yorker), which someone had left in the lunch room at work. He hadn’t read Newsweek for years, he said, and was shocked by the overall decline in the quality of its journalism and by its drift to the right. I leafed through it, too, and couldn’t disagree with a word he said. Sure, Newsweek wasn’t ever going to be called a leftist rag, but it wasn’t always as ridiculously skewed and complexity-free as it is now. Plus, it didn’t look (and read) like People magazine for people with maybe one extra handful of IQ points to boast about.
Which led us to a conversation: Once the high-stakes media whoredom of the 2012 presidential elections is over, will there be a shift back to better information, to more accurate information, to journalism in which reporters actually investigate rather than simply putting Idiotic Statement 1 and Idiotic Statement 2 side by side, without comment, in the guise of “objectivity,” leaving it entirely to us, who have little or no means to sort out the lies from the complicated facts, to do their jobs for them?
Quite frankly, I don’t feel there’s the slightest reason for optimism. When candidates and elected officials can ban reporters from their press rooms for inconvenient questions, when virtually no media outlet attempts to hold candidates to even minimal standards of truth, and when the “Age of the Internet” has given information and disinformation an equal platform, rendering them substantially interchangeable, no hope for a spontaneous recovery exists.
One example of someone giving it the old college try, though, can be seen here: http://hotair.com/archives/2012/08/23/anderson-cooper-grills-debbie-wasserman-schultz-why-are-you-lying-about-romneys-position-on-abortion, in which CNN’s Anderson Cooper tries valiantly (and unsuccessfully) to get the irritating and dissembling Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ‘fess up to the falsehood about Romney contained in a recent fundraising letter, which she signed.
What’s frustrating is … well, where do I start? First, there’s the fact that the argument in the fundraising letter could easily and convincingly have been made without a blatant lie. The democrats and President Obama are light years more sensible and humane on the question of pro-choice and women’s reproductive rights than are Romney/Ryan and the rest of the “God told us to run for office” Teapublicans. You couldn’t invent an easier argument to win, and you wouldn’t have to spread b.s. around to do it.
And second, in a climate in which every word out of Paul Ryan’s mouth is a lie, including “and” and “the,” maintaining higher standards should not be difficult. Our “side” is supposed to be better than that; besides, American conservatives have set the bar so low.
But here’s what I really can’t take from democrats slash progressives slash the left: Having evidently concluded that we will not otherwise take the election seriously, they’ve pursued a relentless campaign to convince us that Romney/Ryan in specific and Republicans in general are Hitler/the Dybbuk/the Bogeyman/Lucifer all rolled into one.
I don’t know about you, but what they tell me every single day, via email and press release and fundraising appeals, is that an Obama loss will be The. End. Of. The. World.
You might as well kill yourself now.
Now, I personally believe that a Romney presidency would be a nightmare. I believe it would mean a step backward in everything from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and gay marriage to abortion rights and access to birth control, from immigration to availability of health care. I think it would mean more mindless war-mongering abroad and less security at home. I think Americans would go back to being hated again around the world. I think I’d be less likely to be able to stop working, ever, until I drop dead and that my old age would be more precarious. I believe it would mean more poverty and more uneducated people and more bad jobs that will never be sufficient to help anyone out of the hopeless financial rut of being among the “working poor.”
But I also lived through eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush I, and eight years of Bush II. That’s more than half my adult life. It wasn’t all fun and games, and I spent a lot of time hanging my head in shame.
But there wasn’t civil war and there weren’t pogroms, and no one came to my house and arrested me for no reason at all and threw me in jail. I was able to find work when I needed it. I didn’t get ahead, and I never saved much money, but then I haven’t saved much money in four years under Obama either. My raise last year was 1%, while our rent increased 5% and gas and groceries went through the roof.
What I really need to hear from LeftAction and Change.org and MoveOn.org and BoldProgressives.org and ColorOfChange.org and CREDO and the DCCC and the Obama campaign and all the other lists I’ve ended up on accidentally or on purpose is this: Things will be OK, even if Obama loses. Don’t panic. Life will go on. We’ll continue to organize. We have a plan, even if things don’t go our way.
But they aren’t going to say it. Maybe they can’t afford to say it right now.
So, once again, I’m taking a Thirty-Day Break to Restore Sanity. Because, as much as I’d like to see Barack Obama in the White House in 2013, what I definitely don’t want to see is me in the house with the bars on the windows.