. . . Thursday November 11, 2004

The Game or the Issues?

Here’s a take from Thomas Lang over at the excellent Campaign Desk:

In a perfect world, the press would facilitate the spread of fact and block the proliferation of falsehoods. Alas, the American political system is plagued by a political media obsessed with strategy, attracted to the trivial, essentially too distracted to bother with the mundane details of fact and fiction. This year was no exception.

Well put. But I wonder what would happen if we migrated away from covering politics as sport and towards covering politics as a set of critical issues.

Would a press more squarely focused on their well-versed coverage of the truth behind the spin lead to a more informed electorate? Or would this tree falling in the woods be rendered insignificant by the failure of enough people to actually hear it?

There were, after all, examples of the press uncovering truths and sharing them (often endlessly) with the reading and cable watching public. And still, those messages ended up being blocked by some communal mental firewall.

Did the press inform us that we found no WMD program in Iraq? I think it did. But a whole lot of voters went to the polls thinking we found the program, the weapons and Saddam mounted side-saddle on a nuke headed for the amber waves of grain. Would the electorate be more likely to absorb truth telling on a more granular level?

I’m still waiting for an logical explanation for this failure to absorb the basic facts about, say, Iraq? Was it a failure of the press, the incredible messaging power of the Bush team or just intellectual laziness from those who consider the emergence of half a thought to be a sign of impending intellectual elitist damnation?

Of course we need a press that is focused more on the issues and less on the sport of politics. But when both are being covered, the sports messages seem to be getting through at a much greater rate than the issues messages.

On a somewhat related note, it’s sort of funny to compare the coverage of politics to the coverage of actual sports. Political observers are much more interested in the game than the issues. Sports watchers often tend to be a whole lot more engrossed in the issues than in the game itself.

in both cases, wearing protective head gear is strongly advised.

Concentration is important!