As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shiny Object

At a time where all the policy focus is on reforming health care for the first time in a generation, white reporters everywhere are obsessed with the story of a black man arrested in his own home for daring to be angry about it, and how terrible it was for the President to speak on behalf of those in such a circumstance. Similarly, while health care and urgent domestic issues demand attention, the wingnuts want to talk about Obama's birth certificate and some grand conspiracy to plant certificates of live birth in Hawaii and articles in the local paper 47 years ago in the hopes that later on a biracial kid growing up on the islands in the 1960s would fulfill the obvious goal of becoming President. G. Gordon Liddy was absurd and doddering last night on Hardball. He lied about a deposition from Obama's grandmother that the President was born in Kenya, a result of mistranslation. But you know what he did? He ate up five and a half minutes on prime time cable TV. I know that Chris Matthews was basically beating up on Liddy and the Birther movement in general. But that old saying about how there's no such thing as bad publicity? It's especially true when time is finite.

Bill Scher sees a linkage between those willing to believe the Birther nonsense and those willing to believe in the myth of socialized medicine in the Obama health care plan.

The Birther movement has received renewed attention in recent days, after video of a Birther-dominated congressional town hall surfaced, and CNN's Lou Dobbs attempted to legitimize the conspiracy theory.

Less noticed is the propensity of Birthers to also believe the other conservative conspiracy theory: President Obama's health care plan is a socialist takeover of our medical system.

The long-standing high-traffic conservative website World Net Daily regularly leads its front page with the latest Birther news, but that is directly followed by the latest "socialized medicine" news. (Well actually, sandwiched between the two sets of conspiracies are the all important "Special Offers!" -- such as "Turn $200 investment into $1 million. Sound impossible?")

Beneath its Birther fever swamp, World Net Daily offers the "Breaking News" that Congress plans mandatory "counseling" for seniors that will "attempt to convince seniors to die," (the latest smear job from the discredited Betsy McCaughey) and the "Exclusive" that congressional members have exempted themselves from the public plan option (it's so "exclusive" to WND because the opposite is true.)

And at that infamous town hall for (non-Birther) Rep. Michael Castle, the loud Birther crowd also gave cheers and applause to an audience member who ranted: "if we let the government bring in socialized medicine, it will destroy this thing faster than the twin towers came down.”

I just think it's about distraction. The Birther movement exists to rally a certain group of people and get the media chasing after them. It's a sideshow, and it makes for good TV. In the 1990s it was the murder of Vince Foster and a whole other lot of insane conspiracy theories. It made the more plausible but just as wrong conspiracy theories easier for the media to swallow. It's Overton Window stuff to the extreme. But in the short term, it just kicks the debate away from the focus sought by the White House and the majority of the country. The same with the Gates comments.

The media fail to see their role in all of this. They are not bystanders. They make editorial decisions to follow one story over another. They can devote resources wherever they choose. They could convene panels of health care policy experts and go over the issue that affects everyone's life in a visceral way. Or they could focus on the sideshow. They choose the latter, and that choice is not "driven by events," or whatever they would say to cover themselves.

...Howard Fineman, of all people, saying the same thing on Countdown. Of course, then he'll go on another MSNBC show and participate in the scrum.

Labels: , , , , , , ,