From a recent installment of the Bill Moyers Journal, we finally get some serious questions into why there are no serious questions about our candidates. Here’s Bill Moyers’ intro to “Campaign Media Analysis: Brooke Gladstone and Les Payne“:
The novelist Russell Banks, in his first book of non-fiction, just published, explains the Sarah Palin phenomenon even before it happened. In “Dreaming Up America,” he writes that we choose our presidents not on the basis of their experience or even their political views, but on how well they tap into our basic beliefs, our deepest communal desires, including our religious or spiritual beliefs. Our presidents, he writes, represent in some very personal way the imagination and the mythology of the people who elect them.
This helps us understand why the facts about Sarah Palin meant nothing when she suddenly materialized on the public stage, like Cinderella at the ball. You could see the convention delegates awed by the magical moment when the small-town girl, church-going hockey mom, mentored by her pastor to think upon the story of the biblical Queen Esther, became an overnight star. Leaping past “go” to the pinnacle of politics and the ultimate goal the cover of “People” magazine.
No wonder reality-based journalists are having a hard time with this story. Mythology is not their beat. But in the imagination of her tribe, Sarah Palin achieved an almost immaculate conception. Her lack of experience matters not to them. Nor do they care that her past is filled with contradictions, and nothing the press reports, no matter how grounded in fact, can shake their faith.
Furthermore, news cycles once measured in hours, are now measured in minutes and second. We live inside a media hurricane, an unrelenting force of attacks and counterattacks hatched in partisan quarters and hurled into cyberspace with such velocity the poor little truth is blown away like signposts on the gulf coast. Try getting a false or misleading charge retracted once it’s made. You cannot un-ring a bell. Try and you’ll find yourself an “enemy of the people.” One Republican official told journalists in St. Paul, “We will get with you if you keep messing with us.” And as John McCain and Sarah Palin barnstormed the nation this week, crowds that came out to see them booed members of the press.
What’s a journalist to do? . . .
Don’t get me wrong. Sarah Palin is the most egregious example, but Barack Obama and John McCain have also benefitted from the media looking the other way.