DO CAMPAIGN FACTS MATTER?
A shout out to Soledad O’Brien for exposing John Sununu’s truth-laundering.
A new journalistic meme? Reporters actually fact-checking statements made by campaign proxies (and principals), and challenging them on their “inaccuracies” aka dishonesty. Hmm, defending campaign statements on their own merits – that may stretch some unused political muscles. I’m inspired to single-out Soledad O’Brien for standing up to John Sununu’s bullying bluster during a recent scintillating exchange about a supposed $700 million Medicaid budget discrepancy. Sununu’s a practiced Republican hatchet man and it’s not easy to stay unflustered:
Steve Benen has a rather despairing (and great) piece on the Maddow Blog about the pernicious effect of Romney’s “post-truth” campaigning. Analyzing the topic of Military voting the right wing’s code phrase for their voter suppression cover-up in Ohio, as an example of Romney’s completely casual and constant lies about things small and large, Benen posits that the ubiquity of Romney’s lies are narcotizing the press corp. Benen argues “it’s as if words no longer have any meaning, and Americans politics has become so blisteringly stupid, candidates believe they can say literally anything and get away with it.” I would add that it’s as if the press and public are so bored by egregious lying – whether by political candidates, financial institutions, or newspapers, that they have relinquished responsibility for paying attention to the actual issues.
On the subject of voter suppression in Ohio, you might want to see Rachel Maddow’s stunningly thorough coverage of the last 10 years of voter suppression in Ohio – for anyone with patience enough to absorb the WHOLE issue (Sorry about the obligatory opening commercial)
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In a thoughtful piece “What To Do with Political Lies” in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Garance Franke-Ruta also addresses the potency of a great political lie, and why current reporting methods are ineffective in checking their proliferation.
She quotes Alec MacGillis’ self-lacerating critique of his fellow journalists’ refusal to call Romney out on his dishonest rhetoric on Obama’s Welfare Reform position. MacGillis observes that “one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie … Romney just keeps using it at stop after stop, ad after ad.” Asks MacGillis, “How can this be possible? Well, maybe because very few of my colleagues in the press seem all that troubled by it.”
Rather than relying on fact-checking “in a news environment where every story lives an independent life on the social Web,” Franke-Ruta argues instead for equally repetitive truth-telling. Or as she puts it, “basic, simple, factual, boiler-plate” which is inserted into every related story.
Dull, perhaps, but then the truth so often is. Unless Soledad O’Brian is doing the story.