Archive for September 2008

Levi Johnston for President

September 8, 2008

A Language Boon, if Nothing Else September 1, 2008

It’s Labor Day, a time for kicking back, but people in the news – and those who report it – are hard at work showing their fellow Americans what suckers they take us for.

This morning, I woke to read on CBSNews.com that at least three Republicans, starting with Cindy McCain, have credited Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin with foreign policy credentials because of her state’s proximity to Russia.

One of them, John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, added Alaska’s border with Canada as a second qualification.

But my favorite rationale was this one by a US News writer, Michael Barone: “… it (Alaska) is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II.”

All of them hoping, of course, that we’ll buy their fractured logic. Anything to influence a vote, no matter how insulting to our intelligence.

A little farther south, meanwhile, President Bush seized the opportunity given him by Hurricane Gustav to pretend, at least, that, this time, he’s on top of events down New Orleans way. Cancelling his speech planned for opening night of the Republican National Convention (big, collective exhale from GOP’ers everywhere), he opted instead to be where the meteorological action is, or in the general vicinity. That the general vicinity was near his home in Texas should not be held against him.

It’s not often a political party’s convention would prefer its President not speak to them.

Not to be upstaged by the president’s redemption trip, Gov. Palin revealed today that her 17-year-old is pregnant, though unmarried. The latter condition will be rectified, says the governor, though not in those words. A staunch supporter of the religious right, she can’t afford politically for it not to be.

I smell a golden opportunity for the father, a young man named Levi (which means “You think the Exxon Valdez was a mess?” in Hebrew), to leverage this to his advantage. Between now and November 4th, his position will never be stronger. A snowmobile dealership, maybe? Or, if his mother-in-law and McCain win, season tickets to the Redskins? For life?

After these past eight years, I’m no big fan of the Republicans for what they’ve done, and it’s appropriate that they’re holding their convention in Minnesota, home of the fictional Lake Wobegon. But vying for my animosity these days is the media.

In the thick of the Obama-Clinton race, it was pointed out that the media’s job is to create the next news cycle. Sure, it’s also to report and to ferret out the facts we can’t get on our own, and thank God for them for that. But in their job description is the mandate to stir the pot for something we can gossip about at the water cooler while the talking heads on cable have carrion to feast on for days, weeks or even months.

Meanwhile, we are left with the scraps: spin and vacuous discourse. Look at the headlines online – and I mean from reputable news organizations. They often read like the come-ons you see on magazine covers at the supermarket checkout. Like these from this morning’s Google News:

Four Things McCain Needs to Accomplish This Week

Stephanopoulos: Three Questions Republicans Are Asking Themselves

Obama: Here Comes the Bounce?

You’re familiar with palindromes? A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sentence, even, whose letters read the same way backward or forward (“Madam, I’m Adam” being a classic example). I fear that’s how it’s become with our news coverage: It doesn’t matter which way you read it; it’s all the same.

As coverage of our latest media star(-let?) grows increasingly predictable and tabloidish, Susan Palin may find her true claim to fame as the source of a new word in the English language:

Palindrone |ʹpāilin drōn| n. the repetitive, low sound the media and politicians make when they hope we’re … looking? Not looking?

©2008 John Shields

Advertisements