November 12, 2001
Gore Wins, Media Spins and Dimpled Chads Walk Among Us Again
By Warren Pease
Burying the lead
One of journalism's cardinal sins is hiding the point of the story behind a bunch of less critical information, then conveying the key idea in an oh-by-the-way clause somewhere in the guts of the article. Kind of like this:
American forces today began dropping food parcels on famine-stricken Afghanistan as international relief agencies stepped up their demands for more US civilian aid to the war-torn country. According to a Red Cross spokesperson, without food and medical supplies, more than a million Afghans could perish this coming winter.
Meanwhile, domestic terrorists detonated a powerful nuclear device in the San Francisco Bay Area, killing millions and leaving an area from San Jose to Santa Rosa uninhabitable for the next 50,000 years.
It's called burying the lead and, in an admittedly random and incomplete survey of major media coverage of the National Opinion Resource Council Florida recount, every paper I checked was guilty of it. So either they put their lousiest writers and editors on this story, or they did their customary "Bush for Czar" number. I'll take GOP Czars for a thousand, Alex.
The lead, and therefore the thrust of the story, is that Gore won. Not "might have won" or "could have won" or even "should have won" - he won, pure and simple, because he got the most votes in Florida and, as a result, would have won a majority in the Electoral College.
Not, as the New York Times tiptoed delicately around the issue - "The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to 'count all the votes.'" Mighta, coulda, shoulda, blah, blah, blah.
Gore won, fair and square, and the only question legitimate media outlets should be asking is "Yo, Ari, how does it feel to be out of a job? And when's the moving van get here"?
But if you read the headlines and leads on the NORC recount in the Times, Washington Post, Portland Oregonian, CNN Online, the San Francisco Chronicle, et al you'll probably come away with a far different interpretation. For a thorough discussion of today's desperate efforts by mainstream media to confer legitimacy on the Usurper in Chief, go here: http://www.mediawhoresonline.com/.
Dumb luck trumps NORC
But naturally, the trollops need not have bothered because another airliner went down the same day as the NORC report hit the wires, thereby guaranteeing that the recount story would sift slowly toward the bottom of the day's news menu, read only by members of the Gore Won choir and reduced to near-universal irrelevance by the emergency du jour.
So is Bush the luckiest bastard ever to practice national politics, or is there some order to the chaos? I seriously doubt this pack of amoral vampires would balk at sacrificing 260 or so lives to deflect focus from the NORC story. They seem to have no real qualms about contributing to the likely death of millions of Afghani civilians this winter who will have no food or shelter, in part because of the US bombing campaign.
Or maybe it's divine intercession. I'll believe almost anything at this point, so maybe the vengeful, pissed off, mass-murderer God of the Old Testament decided to take political matters into his own hands. This assumes quite a lot, including the possibility that Mark Twain was wrong when he wrote that God is simply a bored, petulant, albeit omnipotent, two-year-old screw-up who visits untold carnage and grief on the human race just for the pure malicious fun of it.
I've always felt Twain's interpretation explains so much, while the God of goodness and love and compassion espoused by conventional Christianity is, at best, capricious and quite possibly schizophrenic. In any case, he has one hell of a lot to answer for.
But let's just say God is his usual apathetic self and Bush is as lucky as he is dumb. Certainly, the Sept. 11 carnage pushed his regressive agenda far beyond its fondest dreams. And so what if "America Strikes Back - The Movie" is a complete flop? There's still plenty of really cool stuff going on.
We may not have caught a single terrorist, but we've put the mechanisms firmly in place to dismantle the Bill of Rights - all except the Second Amendment, of course, since the NRA has been a major hard and soft money contributor to GOP causes and candidates across the country over the last decade. And because Bush promised Heston that he'd get to be an honorary Ubersturmbahnfuhrer in the Office of Homeland Security, complete with really bitchin full-length black leather great coat and a Nubian slave to keep the knee-length boots polished. Vintage gray Mercedes convertible, too. Charlton got so excited he probably had to re-enter rehab.
We may never find Osama bin Laden, according to Donald Rumsfeld, who really should be selling aluminum siding somewhere in the rust belt. But that's OK because DOD and its suppliers in private industry got their wallets fattened at the further expense of all those passe programs that benefit actual American citizens rather than the investor class. And this war will last for years and require ever more exotic and expensive hardware. Loud huzzahs and hoorays resound from the canyons of Wall Street.
We may be entering a 1929-class depression, but at least the poor, long-suffering corporate titans of America can again write off their three-hour lunches. The workers, as usual, get zippo from our compassionate conservative leaders, except the pride that only grinding poverty and constant sacrifice in the service of one's country can bring. Or possibly not.
And of utmost importance, we get to continue as the world champ of fossil fuel use, secure in the knowledge that we'll never have to reduce our petroleum addiction by a single gallon - at least until the oil really begins running out in about 10 years or so. And then, thanks to the munificent foresight of our Oilman in Chief, the US will have to care even more intensely about an endless series of border skirmishes, religious wars, and tribal food fights in a part of the world bristling with fundamentalist zealotry and nuclear weapons. Another highly attractive strategy from the Enron board of directors and delivered as public policy by our Malefactor in Chief.
Or maybe we'll just shift our trade deficit from OPEC to the European Community, which just announced a huge push to promote use of alternative fuels and subsidize development of clean energy sources. They'll become net exporters of clean energy technology and the jerkwater US will continue to void its treasury, and the wallets of its citizens, to keep the lights on. Another fine Bushean legacy.
In summary, then, George W. Bush is, in my opinion, the most appallingly, dangerously stupid man ever to hold high office in this country during my lifetime. And that's a pretty rarified list, including as it does some pretty loopy senators and one of the all-time wing nuts.
I mean, Ronald Reagan pretty much defined cognitive dissonance throughout his entire presidency. He saw the world with the same familiar black and white, good-versus-evil polarity that Bush and other partly formed personalities exhibit. The Evil Empire was, after all, a Gipper production. Perhaps weirdest of all, Reagan was fond of dwelling in a past that existed only on film, and he would constantly refer to things that had happened in movies as if they were historical events.
But the main difference between the two, I've come to believe, is that Reagan probably wasn't all that bad a guy - inept, bewildered, incapable of understanding the policies put forth in his name or their effects - but fairly decent nonetheless. This may just be revisionist history, the Reagan years seeming less nauseating now than they actually were. It's not easy to turn the Reagan regime into the golden years of American politics, but nostalgia comes easy in the Bush era.
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