Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bachmann and the press: when will the standard script emerge?

Glenn Greenwald provides us a timely caution about getting caught up in the Presidential campaign spectacle that our collapsed media culture treats as "reality-TV" entertainment to the exclusion of substantive reporting: The misery of the protracted presidential campaign season 08/16/2011.

The article also contains some fairly non-critical praise of Old Right isolationist Ron "Papa Doc" Paul, good friend of the Patriot Militia movement. Ron Paul is against crony capitalism? Please. Papa Doc wants to do away with pretty much all government regulations on business. It would be more accurate to call him an advocate for unimpeded crony capitalism. And, in his fondness for the idea of third party candidacies, Greenwald manages to engage in some superficial "both sides do it" griping about Democrats and Republicans.

This clip from CNN reporter Don Lemon also got me thinking about how our broken media cover Presidential candidates: Don Lemon Calls Out Michele Bachmann, Thanks Sarah Palin. Lemon has apparently made it a regular schtick of his to show politicians repeating the same talking points over and over. In this case Michelle Bachmann. The clip shows her repeating the same phrases on various Sunday morning talks shows. And it winds up praising non-candidate Sarah Palin who wasn't on all the Sunday morning shows for being oh-so-much more responsive than Bachmann. (?!?)

Not having seen any of the original segments, I can't say whether Lemon is taking a cheap shot or not here. But it reminds me of the way pool reporters on the Presidential campaign trail have acted in the past. As Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby documented repeatedly in the days before he fell in love with the Tea Party and decided that liberal bloggers were the bane of the media universe, the pool reporters behave a lot like a group of fraternity and sorority party animals on a trip to see an out-of-state football game. They fell in love with the great Maverick McCain and his honor and moderation after spending time on his press bus in 2000 drinking with him and listening to his stories about war and sex. It's not an environment conducive to critical thinking and careful reflection.This is one important source of the groupthink campaign reporters use to develop their handy and often indelible scripts about the candidates.

And part of what following a candidate on the campaign trail means is that they hear the candidate speak over and over, week after week, often several times a day. And candidates tend to say a lot of the same things and work from a basic stump speech, to the point that the reporters along for the ride get to the point they can recite their own version of it. So what sounds mindlessly repetitive to one of the pool reporters may be fresh and original to large parts of the candidates' audiences.

Don't get me wrong. I certainly done mind the press highlighting Bachmann's s glazed-eyed zombie habits. Jesus' General describes that Charles Manson stare of hers as "the "Eyes of the Anointed," the eyes God employs to mark His chosen." (It's a satire site, people!) "They are the eyes Mrs Bachmann uses when she rebukes sorcerers, witches, and teachers." Joan Walsh uses a phrase from a geezer rock song to describe that look, writing that Rick Perry went "to Iowa to save the GOP from the little Christian lady with the faraway eyes."

Laura Clawson at Daily Kos sees a standard script for Bachmann congealing already: Emerging media narrative: Bachmann is running a 'celebrity' campaign 08/15/2011.

Will any of those scripts come to include serious questions about her Christian Right theocratic ideas and allegiances? Don't bet on it.

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