How the “View From Nowhere” Is Destroying Political Discourse
May 17, 2012 1 Comment
Over the last few years our political discourse has completely deteriorated. Articles and TV appearances are now filled with nothing more than snide remarks and repackaged talking points. And you can’t blame the political parties. Why attempt to give a nuanced policy explanation when grandiose doomsday predictions about your opponent’s agenda will receive just as much coverage?
The sorry state of political discourse rests firmly on the shoulders of the media, largely because news organizations refuse to place any kind of filter on what they print. For example, here is the Des Moines Register’s printed Romney campaign response to an Obama speech in Iowa a few weeks ago:
David Kochel, Romney’s Iowa strategist, joined in criticism of the visit, saying, “Obviously, the president has decided to hold pep rallies on college campuses as a way to distract from his administration’s failures on the economy. But when these students graduate, they are going to face the stark truth of the Obama economy — it simply isn’t working for young people.”
Kochel added: “It’s no surprise that a growing number of young people are turning away from his campaign.”
Did the statement specifically address anything in Obamas speech? No. Did it provide any evidence for the bevy of vague, questionable claims it made? Of course not.
In my fantasy world, the writer would replace those two paragraphs with this:
When reached for comment, the Romney campaign provided a set of dubious statements and talking points that did not specifically address the claims made in Obama’s speech.
Would that ever happen? Has that ever happened? Why is the above statement doomed to never see the light of day?
The answer is the “View From Nowhere” philosophy the dominates the media. The article about Obama’s speech has to tell Romney’s side of the story. To not do so would commit the ultimate sin of leaving the article open to accusations of bias. The problem is that the Romney campaign knows this. They know the journalist writing the article essentially has to print whatever the campaign says. At that point the journalist is no longer filtering out what is and isn’t important, they’re simply having a piece of their article written by a political campaign. Once a campaign is given that courtesy why would it choose to print anything but the most scathing, misleading attack it can come up with.
The result is that you can go weeks without reading a campaign article that contains any sort of nuanced policy argument. And nothing will change until journalists start saying “no, I will not print that.” Nothing will change until journalists start demanding that campaigns supply real responses instead of “official statements.” Nothing will change until journalists are willing to risk printing an article that appears to have a “view from somewhere” because one side didn’t bother to chime in with anything substantive.