I find myself both captivated by and grossed out by the way the news media cover Presidential elections. I watched MSNBC three nights in the last week. I expect to be flipping between the channels tonight, for the posturing both before and after the results of the New Hampshire primary come in.
There's no question they report accurately on history of elections, I remember many of them, vaguely, as if I were being manipulated into accepting a certain outcome. McCain, Obama, Carter, Gore, Bush I and II, Clinton I and II, etc. Some of them did end up winning the title, others didn't. Were the decisions made on such superficial and highly manipulatable ways as they are now? Yes, I think so.
So while all the horse race stuff is fiction, in some ways it's fact. It is how we make decisions, and it is highly manipulatable by the press.
The Dean Scream fiasco was the biggest most clear warning of how we are being controlled.
My friend Jay Rosen has remained critical of the horse race coverage, but I wonder, if he were Lord Master of the Universe and everyone had to obey his command, what would he have Chuck Todd and Megyn Kelly do differently from what they do now? Or could they do anything, would there be a whole different flow of information?
I'm just wondering, given the scale of the country and the world, is there any other way to make a collective decision other than looking at the most superficial differences policy-wise, and only voting on how we feel about the candidates as people?
Jay, via email: "I've been trying to write something that would answer your question, until then, the short answer is the only way out of horse race coverage is to have a goal for your coverage, something you are trying to accomplish with it. But it's hard to have a goal and maintain the view from nowhere, so the pattern is to default to 'who's gonna win.'"
Book recommendation: A Brief History of the Future by Jacques Attali. Not the best translation from the French.. you need to constantly remind yourself that it IS translated from French.. but your post today made me think of this book.