[Mb-civic]      Dumbest. Election. Ever

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Fri Sep 10 17:39:36 PDT 2004

    Dumbest. Election. Ever.
    By William Rivers Pitt
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

     Friday 10 September 2004
 "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating
- Orson Welles

    The clearest indication that the country is coming out from under the
massive psychological concussion of September 11 is the fact that we are all
enduring the stupidest Presidential election season in recent memory. If we
were all still walking around in the cat-like state of readiness we operated
under for at least a year after the attacks, we wouldn't put up with this

     Swift Boats? 527s? Who served or didn't serve, and how and why and when
and where? They're talking about a war that ended 29 years ago. Bush v.
Dukakis was close - a mythically stupid race, to be sure - but this current
crapgasm is pinning the needle on the Dumb-O-Meter. It is no small thing
that the guys who ran Bush's race against the Duke are the same guys running
Bush's race against Kerry today. In '88, the thing turned on flag-burning,
Dukakis in a tank and the racist meta-message of Willie Horton.

     This entire election, thus far, has been about television. All the
issues widely discussed stem from television advertisements. For the
television news media, this is like free money falling from the sky. They
cover to the hilt any story stemming from a television advertisement - which
they can show, and then talk about, and then show, and then talk about,
lather, rinse, repeat - and so the campaigns make this garbage the focus of
their whole act. It's like a Mobius Loop for really dumb computers.

     The entire Presidential debate thus far, performed in 30 seconds:

     The Swifties! Denounce the ad! I denounce all ads! But denounce that
ad! I denounce all ads! He didn't denounce the ad! I like eggs! 527s!
Response ads! The ad said you lied in Vietnam! How dare that ad say such
things! You must react more strongly to the ads! He's not responding
strongly to the ads! Shakeup because of the response to the ads! Guard duty
scandal revived to respond to the Vietnam angle in the ads! The documents
are forged! No they aren't! Yes they are! Vote Bush or die! We need another

     Not to make this too personal, but I blame the Boomers. The fact that
the Baby Boomer generation is the most important demographic in the country
right now - both economically and politically - is really the only way to
explain this. Think about it. The first generation raised by television is
slogging, along with the rest of us, through a campaign where the only
issues discussed have to do with television advertisements. Let's not
forget, as well, the fact that the two main candidates spring from that
particular demographic, as well.

     I'm kidding. I think.

     Marvin Minsky once said, "Imagine what it would be like if TV actually
were good. It would be the end of everything we know." Let's spool that
thought out a bit. If TV was good, three of the major news networks (NBC,
CNBC, MSNBC) wouldn't be owned by a defense contractor that profits from
war. If TV was good, another major news network (CNN) wouldn't be wedded to
the outsourcing of technological workers to cheap-labor nations because its
parent company lives and dies by paying pennies on the dollar for geeks. If
TV was good, another major news network (Fox) would require its anchors to
say, "We are an auxiliary wing of the Republican Party, deal with it" every
fifteen minutes.

     In other words, if TV was good, that would mean TV news would actually
be informative, and not a commercial platform for the handful of
corporations that own and distribute all the information we the people need
to intelligently run the show. If such a thing were to exist, it would
indeed be the end of everything we know. It would be the end of non-issues.
It would certainly be the end of this amazingly stupid election.

     Issues we are not hearing about because we have spent so much time
talking about television advertisements:
    €      Millions of jobs lost in the last four years;

    €      Unbearably expensive health care;

    €      A total loss of confidence within the international community in
our moral leadership;

    €      The underfunded farce that is the Department of Homeland

    €      The underfunded farce that is the No Child Left Behind bill;

    €      The fact that military assault weapons will soon be making a
perfectly legal return to a neighborhood near you;

    €      The deeply illegal outing of a deep-cover CIA agent by Bush
administration officials, who did it because they wanted to silence a

    €      The rape and torture of men, women and children in the Abu Ghraib
prison, horrors that were sanctioned in writing by Bush's own lawyer and the
Secretary of Defense;

    €      The allegation by Senator Bob Graham of Florida that Bush
torpedoed any aspect of the 9/11 investigation that came within spitting
distance of his friends in the Saudi royal family;

    €      The allegations by several generals that Bush's people started
stripping necessary troops and resources from Afghanistan to bolster their
ill-conceived charge into Iraq;

    €      The myriad accusations by a dozen insiders that Bush and his
people ignored the terror threat until the Towers fell, and then used the
attacks to scare the American people into an unnecessary war in Iraq and a
mammoth payday for their friends in the weapons and oil business;

    €      The fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in

    €      The fact that no connections between Hussein, bin Laden and 9/11
have been established beyond the bloviating hyperbole of a few senior Bush
officials who haven't yet gotten the memo;

    €      Does anyone even remember Enron?

     Tomorrow is the third anniversary of September 11th. We deserve better
than this.

     Yesterday, we ran a feature article that carried a photograph of every
soldier who has died in Iraq. The article read, "The men and women whose
faces fill the page below were not told this. They were, in fact, told the
exact opposite. They raised their hands and took the oath, they donned their
uniform and picked up their weapon, they boarded a plane and flew far from
home, and they died. They were doing their duty, and they believed their

     Look into the eyes of those 1,000 lost faces and tell me they don't
deserve better than this stupid election and its stupid public debate.



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