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Sunday, April 11, 2004

The big question: How much does it matter?

It's the question that no one can really have the answer to. The presumably soon-to-be-infamous security memo was released on Easter for no doubt thoroughly political reasons. Bush, as any good Christian would, decided to use the holiday honoring Christ's resurrection to distract from his own failings. Praise Jesus indeed.
Despite this craven dodge, the 9/11 commission and the memo were the only topics amongst my friends tonight, and we are not usually prone to talking politics at any sort of length over dinner. The anger and sense of betrayal saddened me. No one at the table liked or trusted Bush; we had never voted for him as Governor or President. No one there would trust Bush a minute with their pocketbooks, but that his administration would just allow this to happen is beyond belief. Surely there was some kind of law broken, one friend wondered. One way or another, it was thought, he will get kicked out on his ass come November. There's no way to know what sort of impact this will have.
But will people ever really get to know what is going on, what has been revealed? I doubt it. Those of us who have the time or energy or whatever to know all the details of what has been going on lately had already figured it out by what information had managed to trickle out anyway, and this is just confirming suspicions and allegations, albeit beyond what most of would have imagined. But the important thing is: how much of this will make it to the general public and what will they do about it?
My biggest fear is this: The major media have been absolutely cowed by right wing accusations of liberal bias. Even if something is quite simply true, it can't be reported on the news straightforwardly anymore if there's even a chance that the simple truth is beneficial to any liberal cause. No matter how objectively true a liberal-favoring fact may be, news organizations feel obliged to find some right-winger to cast doubt by using all sorts of distortion and lies, all in the name of "balance", which has mysteriously replaced "truth" as the standard for objective journalism.
This hobgoblin of "balance" has spread out beyond mere journalism to eat away at other institutions dedicated to expanding learning and knowledge for the betterment of everyone. Witness how magic is being forced into science classes for "balance", or the way that scientific research is weighed against a set or religo-magical beliefs before getting granted research money. While lots of people have pointed out that so-called "balance" is rarely whipped out to grant progressives a voice, the very idea that "balance" should somehow beat out "truth" is gaining currency.
So, this is what I fear will happen. The vast majority of news shows will present the facts, which are quite damning to BushCo. Then, for "balance", frothing right-wingers will be given time to start spilling emotionally laden, if nonsensical, attacks to confuse the issue. Once everyone has been thoroughly convinced that this is too complex to understand, they will be responsive to the emotional and symbolic, if factually untrue, statements by BushCo.
My friends scoffed at this, but it's not like it hasn't happened before. Think about how the confusion of 9/11 caused people to flock to Bush's simple if untrue explanation that people would kill themselves because they are simply evil and hate freedom. To get out of this tangle, they just need to replace the confusing saga of allegations and blame with a simple, appealing message. It may not work; they have been pushing Bush the Protector for so long that proving that he didn't really think to protect this country from attack could undermine him. But there's a long slog ahead. They may rescue his image yet.


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