Monday, October 6, 2008
Catapulting the propaganda
There are times when it gets hard to recall just how different things were only a short time ago. For example, Fox News Channel started broadcasting in October 1996, and so had nearly no effect on the 1996 elections. But since then, we have had a station that has been little more than a right wing/Republican propaganda organ on cable 24/7, and it definitely had an effect on both the 2000 and 2004 elections. In the past few years, MSNBC has made efforts to produce counter programming to Fox News, most notably giving Keith Olbermann an hour long show where he gets to talk about the news he wants to talk about, and following his success, they have given the hour after his show to radio talk show host Rachel Maddow, who also has an unabashedly liberal slant. Olbermann and Maddow are not clones. Olbermann almost never brings people on that he disagrees with, while Maddow talks to Pat Buchanan on a regular basis, and also had a lot of congresspeople both Republican and Democrat who voted against the bailout at least once last week.
Regardless of the station, bringing on spokespeople from parties or campaigns is little more than letting people recite talking points. The idea of a "debate" nowadays is little better, where the candidates are still reciting talking points, with the small proviso that they have to fit the questions asked to some extent. Sarah Palin's open admission that she wouldn't be answering the questions asked in last week's "debate" removed even that last pretense.
What this reminded me of was the 1992 campaign of Ross Perot. Not being from a major party, the press followed his campaign only sporadically and treated it as a sideshow. Until some third party can win elections regularly at the congressional level, the press has a point in not taking that party seriously, but can a party win without serious press coverage? It's an interesting chicken and egg problem.
Perot's solution was to buy half hour spots and run an infomercial, which was him talking directly to the camera, using charts and graphs to explain his view on the economy and why neither George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton could be trusted running the thing. I remember flipping channels and running into one of these, and actually being mesmerized by it. It certainly didn't change my vote, but it certainly was something new.
Given the McCain campaign's reluctance to put Sarah Palin anywhere near a person asking questions, maybe it's time for them to make Sarah Palin infomercials and run them on the minor league broadcast channels, like the WB or an independent channel like KRON in San Francisco. Right now, all they can do is put her in front of relatively small audiences on the campaign trail where the media can decide what sound bite they want to emphasize. It's so last century.
It's clear that if the Republican ticket has anything newsworthy to it, it's Sarah Palin. McCain himself has run a campaign somewhere around the competence level of Michael Dukakis or Bob Dole, with irritability and unpredictable acts undercutting his message on a weekly if not daily basis. But a Sarah Palin infomercial! She could be perky and patriotic and plucky and most of all mavericky, and people would watch, and those who missed it would watch on YouTube. It would be water cooler topic around the nation.
Personally, while I think she could be a hit as an infomercial star, she and her family are letter perfect candidates for a reality TV show. If some network can negotiate that, I swear I'd watch, and I openly detest reality TV.
As long as their double wide trailer isn't parked on the South Lawn of the White House, and that's getting to be a very unlikely scenario, I'd definitely tune in every week to see what was up with Sarah Barracuda and Fun in the Tundra.