Thursday, May 29, 2008

Equal time for comments taken out of context: Obama's turn

There was so much furor and uproar over Hillary Clinton's recent comment including Bobby Kennedy's assassination recently, that I thought I'd give equal time to highlight the ridiculousness of the media rush to judge Barack Obama over his harmless mistake in telling a family history.

In the past, I've written about my concern with Obama's tendency to be more concerned with telling a good story than with getting all the facts right. This is different. This is a harmless mistake: wrong camp. From Crooks and Liars:

Speaking in New Mexico on Memorial Day, Obama said a great-uncle had helped to liberate the Auschwitz death camp at the end of World War II. “I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps,” Obama said (a YouTube clip of the remarks quickly went viral online).

He continued: “And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months. All right? Now, obviously something had affected him deeply, but at the time, there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.”

That may be a fact, the RNC noted gleefully — but only if Obama’s uncle had served in the Red Army of Joseph Stalin, which liberated Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945.

Obama’s campaign said yesterday that he had erred in naming the camp but not in describing the role of his great-uncle, who partook in the liberation of Buchenwald.

C&L rightly describes this as "one of the dumber outrages of the 2008 presidential campaign this week."

In case you missed it, please read the Politico defense for promoting such trivial, un-newsworthy stories such as this, un- self-consciously entitled "How small stories become big news."

It's all about the traffic, baby.


Mary Ellen said...

I was going to say, "Ahhh...I'd love to get back to the days of real journalism again." But then I remembered, was there ever such a time? Politics will always be dirty and the media will always choose sides.

Sue J said...

I think that's true, Mary Ellen, but I also think that the widespread sensationalism we see now is a result of the way we communicate as a society today.

I mean, "sound bites" are all that we get for "news" anymore. I think when news had to be put into words for either broadcast or newspaper, there was more thought put into what constitutes real news.

Now, all the media available have turned us into National Enquirer readers. I half expect to see a story like "Hillary's Two-Headed Love Child" on MSNBC. Or "Aliens Running McCain Campaign."

Well, that one I might believe ....

Mary Ellen said...

I agree..the age of the sound byte has been the final nail in the coffin of real journalism. I had great hope with the Internet when Bush and his propaganda machine were being snuffed out because the facts were able to travel fast, we didn't have to depend on the MSM. But now, I see that the Internet has also become nothing more than an extension of the MSM propaganda machine.

Personally, I wasn't concerned about Obama's gaffe about his family's history. Although, you would think that before he starts talking about family history on the campaign trail, he should be sure he gets his facts straight. Family history can be tricky, I have a hard time getting my own kids straight. Hell, I've even been known to call one by the dog's name from time to time. That's human nature, we make mistakes.

I also don't think Obama would have been hit so hard on this if he and his campaign hadn't worked so hard to label Hillary as a liar when she made her Bosnia gaffe. Let's not forget all the special comments of Keith Olbermann who is in the tank for Obama. He will spend 15 minutes just ripping into Hillary, not caring about the facts--and his Obama supporters love it and tune in.

If this had been Hillary who mistakenly erred on family history, he would be doing a "special comment" that would look something like this: "How dare she use something like the HOLOCAUST and make up a LIE about a family member, just to score points with the JEWISH COMMUNITY!!! No TRUE AMERICAN would use the horrible death and misery of a people in order to score political points. HILLARY, YOU NEED TO DROP OUT OF THIS RACE---NOT THE ELECTION, THE HUMAN RACE!"

And then he would dramatically throw his papers from his desk with a look of disgust.

And then you would see his rant on YouTubes, all over the blogosphere.

This is horrible, but it is the new reality, I'm afraid.

Sue J said...

Mary Ellen, I don't know -- I think you miss your blog! But I'm so glad you come here! ("The Divine Dem II"?, or how about "Divine Dem, Part Deux"?)

It seems with the media now, all we do is wait for the Clinton AND Obama to make an error, and then we pounce on them. And then all errors are given equal weight.

It keeps us from focusing on the important truths. And we, as a nation, are too lazy to demand more form our media outlets.

Mauigirl said...

I agree with both of you - there is no "news" anymore. Even the NY Times' articles are mostly what used to be labeled "news analysis" but now are not labeled as such; but even though they masquerade as a news story, they are not objectively written.

And of course every little thing that either of them say is blown out of proportion. While I was not crazy about Hillary mentioning RFK's assassination, I do give her the benefit of the doubt that she certainly didn't mean anything by it.

The Politico article was an interesting take on the whole thing.

The other thing is with the instantaneous transmission of whatever is said, anywhere, there is nowhere to hide when anyone does say something a bit "off." Someone, somewhere, got it on video, and it goes everywhere.