Media Scripts

It’s pretty tough to add much to Bob Somerby’s incomparable TM media criticism, but I occasionally try (most recently here). Salon’s Eric Boehlert, who often cites Somerby, is another great source for criticism and analysis of the political press corps. Both ask the big question: how could the press mercilessly hound Al Gore for alleged exaggerations over trivial matters and sit idly by while Bush lies on substantive matters? In the 2000 campaign, Bush lied about the size of his tax cut and the size of his spending proposals. He made up his “trifecta” line out of bee’s wax and shoestring lint. In ways intentionally deceptive, though technically accurate, the Administration consistently distorts the distribution of tax benefits by incessantly using average savings (an amount very far from what you are likely to save) rather than median savings (a much better approximation of what a randomly drawn member of the population would save). I feel like I’m missing something…

Meanwhile the discredited allegations against Gore are legion: no less than Newt Gingrich defended Gore’s crucial role in developing the internet (Gingrich: “Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is—and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a ‘futures group'”). Gore, of course, never said that he was the “Father of the Internet”, nor even that he “invented the internet”. Gore was 1/2 of the inspiration for Erich Segal’s (based on an inaccurate newspaper quote, Gore incorrectly said that he and Tipper were the inspiration). Gore did in fact start Congressional hearings over the Love Canal toxic waste, and never claimed that he “discovered” it in the sense of Magellan’s voyage. Instead, he said that after learning of a toxic site in Tennessee, he looked around the country for other sites and found one in New York–Love Canal. You have to be an idiot to, in context, read that as Gore claiming he was wandering the backwoods of the nation with a toxicity detector. What else? The Florida student without a desk that Gore cited in one of the debates (I think it was the first one) did have a desk by the time of the debate, though the school remained overcrowded. Chemically identical drugs to cost less when prescribed to pets than to people, and Gore’s dog and grandmother did in fact take the same drug, but Gore cited wholesale, not retail, prices for the two, and so is clearly a liar! There’s more, but you get the point.

Now I remember the additional Bush deception from the end of the first paragraph: exaggeration and selective use of facts designed to create the impression of an imminent threat from Iraq and thereby drum up public support for a war. But hey, that’s too trivial to create a press furor–it was just an exaggeration and all presidents do it (the emerging conventional wisdom). Besides, there were mass graves, mass graves I tell you! And anyway, let’s all trash Hillary Rodham’s book and debate the exact date she learned about Lewinsky.

In any event, Eric Boehlert has a lot more in Salon today. Watch an ad or subscribe and give it a read.