Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The media maketh the President

Vanity Fair reminds us why Al Gore isn't the President of the US:

As he was running for president, Al Gore said he'd invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal's best-selling novel Love Story (made into a hit movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal). He also invented the dog, joked David Letterman, and gave mankind fire.

Could such an obviously intelligent man have been so megalomaniacal and self-deluded to have actually said such things? Well, that's what the news media told us, anyway....

Eight years ago, in the bastions of the "liberal media" that were supposed to love Gore—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN—he was variously described as "repellent," "delusional," a vote-rigger, a man who "lies like a rug," "Pinocchio." Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, "He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy."....

One obstacle course the press set up was which candidate would lure voters to have a beer with them at the local bar. "Journalists made it seem like that was a legitimate way of choosing a president," says Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter. "They also wrongly presumed, based on nothing, that somehow Bush was more likable."....

[New York Times columnist] Maureen Dowd boiled the choice between Gore and Bush down to that between the "pious smarty-pants" and the "amiable idler," and made it perfectly clear which of the presidential candidates had a better chance of getting a date. "Al Gore is desperate to get chicks," she said in her column. "Married chicks. Single chicks. Old chicks. Young chicks. If he doesn't stop turning off women, he'll never be president."

Yes, thanks so much, "liberal media". Half a million dead Iraqis are grateful to you.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure why as Indians, we should care...but anyway, the matter is surely more complicated. While the initiative for the Iraq war rests with Bush and his cohort, why let off the hook all those senators/representatives who voted for the war (including Hillary Clinton)? If there was a substantial consensus within American society against the war, it could have been stopped, Bush notwithstanding. (From what I understand of American politics, President Bush did need senate/house approval. If I am wrong, please do correct me.)

Secondly, you overestimate the power of the "liberal media" whatever that means. Close to home, the "liberal media" was almost unanimously against Narendra Modi, and yet he got elected. Media can influence but I think its influence is more indirect and complex. I don't think it's as direct as what you make out...Note that "media influence" notwithstanding, Gore got more votes than Bush. Indeed, if not for the way votes are translated into "electoral votes" in the American system (and a little help from the Supreme Court), Gore could well be President.

Thirdly, yes, half-million Iraqis dead. But in making this reckoning, you should also take into account what would have happened in the absence of the intervention. Was Iraq under Saddam some sort of a utopia? By all accounts, it was a brutal regime. I am not justifying the intervention here but when you make statements like "half-million Iraqis dead", you also have to take into account that millions of Iraqis - Kurds, for instance - are very happy with the intervention. So how does one set off "half-million dead" against the "happiness of millions of other Iraqis"? Is there a scale to do this arithmetic?

If I were you and arguing against the intervention, I would use things like violation of international law to make my case, lying etc. rather than looking at the number of dead. Just my opinion, though.


km said...

The Transformation of Al Gore (in the media) is nothing short of a miracle.

It's also an important reminder that no one is what they seem on TV and in newspapers.

//half a million dead at anyone's hands is wrong - Saddam or the Chimpman.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Suresh -- the "half a million" estimate is the excess estimate thanks to the war. Actually, the quoted number is 655000, and dates from nearly a year ago.

I agree, H. Clinton and friends are equally to blame. As the Vanity Fair article points out, when Gore had the guts to speak up back in 2002, he was vilified in the "liberal" press. (I was in America in 2002, at the height of the "freedom fries" madness, and had some sense of what the country is like. In 2000 I had no idea.)

Why should we care as Indians? Why is there such a political ruckus over the nuclear deal at the moment? The US, and the Chimp-in-Chief, matter, like it or not. Besides, all indications are that Iran will be next. Then perhaps Pakistan. It's getting closer to home.

Anonymous said...

Rahul - notwithstanding the fact that 655000 is an estimate [how believable, depends on the assumptions] of the excess deaths that have occurred since the invasion, you still have take into consideration that some groups have benefited from the invasion. Would you deny that the Kurds - now enjoying significant autonomy - are more or less happy with the consequences of the invasion? Or that some Shias are happy at least with the taking down of Saddam and the fact that they have a larger say in the new dispensation? If you take an instrumental view of the invasion - which seems to be the case - then you do have to set off the losses (excess deaths etc.) against the "gains." If your case is a legal or moral one, then of course, the excess deaths are not relevant - and that is all I was trying to say. And to be clear, I am not supporting the invasion.

Regarding the US, of course, we should - indeed have to care about it - it simply matters given its size and power. But the issue you brought up is about the behavior of the "liberal media" in the US - about that, I am not so sure. Also, I don't think the "liberal media" behaves very differently across countries - how about our own when it comes to reporting on Kashmir or Pakistan? I have seen accusations from Pakistanis [justified, IMO] that on such issues, our media, for the most part, simply "toes the party line." I think one can make a similar case for the UK [check the stridency of papers like The Sun - The Guardian, I think, is not really "representative"], and indeed, many other countries.

In any case, here's an example of the lack of "liberal media" influence for you: almost all of them - NYT etc. seem to be against the 123 agreement. The NYT which I do follow was and is stridently against it - and yet, the agreement is on track, at least so far.


Abi said...

Here's another one on the man: Citizen Gore.