I’ve begun reading Al Gore’s book The Assault On Reason, and I highly recommend it. This passage jumped out at me:
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess – an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
As I was reading this, one event immediately sprung to mind – the teapot tapes “scandal” that engulfed the final weeks of the 2011 campaign.
People on all sides have acknowledged that it was something of a non-event. It was no Watergate. But still, it took up almost all of the political coverage during the most critical part of the election campaign. Was it simply easier for the media to latch onto a hard and fast “event” like this? Either way, the political discourse in our country suffers when things like this take disproportionate coverage.
It is a long standing bugbear of the beltway to bemoan the lack of quality news. Personally, I think that avenues such as the internet are going to have to play an increasing role. I’m looking forward to reading what Al Gore has to say at it.