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Superficial Campaign Coverage


In the course of researching a book on U.S. political culture, the 2008 presidential campaign, and the Obama phenomenon, I have been sady unsurprised at the stunning superficiality of the way the Democratic primary campaign has been portrayed in "mainstream" (dominant/corporate) media.  Consistent with the left thesis that campaign coverage is (like much of the corporate-crafted mass "popular culture") about marginalizing and infantilizing the U.S. populace ( so as to better monopolize policymaking in the hands of the privileged few), the battle between "fighting John Edwards ("I had to to fight to survive growing up, literally"….but quit the campaign even before Super Tuesday),  War Hawk Hillary, and His Holiness The Dali Obama (sponsored by Exelon and Goldman Sachs and a host of elite "bundlers," many of whom also underwrite Hillary and Mad Bomber McCain)  has developed across numerous media  soap operas heavily overlaid with questions of racial, ethnic and gender identity. The leading episodes – many directly fanned by dominant media – included melodramas over:

* The Edwards campaign’s payment of a  $400 for a candidate haircut.

* The illness of Edwards’ wife and its alleged impact on his capacity to be president.

* Obama coldly telling Hillary that she was "likeable enough," during a New Hampshire debate.

* Hollywood mogul and campaign financier David Greffen saying that the Clinton’s were chronic liars (or words to theat effect) and the Clinton campaign’s subsequent call for Obama to return money from Greffen

* Obama linking up with white-friendly mega-celebrity and mass marketer Oprah Winfrey on the caucasian campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

* Hillary "tearing up" and thereby successfully showing something of her hidden female vulnerability just before her New Hampshire victory.

*The Obama campaign’s suggestion that Hillary had been racist when she said that it took the presidential leadership of Lyndon Baines Johnson, not just the inspiring rhetoric of Martin Luther King, to sign the Voting Rights Act into law.

* The Clinton campaign’s charge (accurate) that Obama had lifted a number of key campaign phrases from his good friend and fellow post-Civil Rights black politician the Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval ("that’s not change you can believe in, it’s change you can zerox." said Hillary).

* Obama advisor and imperial humanitarian Samantha Power’s resignation from the campaign after being quoted calling Hillary "a monster" in a Scottish newspaper.

* The Clinton’s campaign officer Geraldine Ferraro’s resignation after claiming that Obama would not have been in a position to win the Democratic nomination if he wasn’t a black man.

* Obama’s longstanding close personal relationship with the fiery AfroCentric and at times "provocatively"(unacceptably) anti-imperialist and anti-racist pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

* Claims that Hillary lied when she claimed to have come under sniper fire in Bosnia ("Bosniagate") .

* Claims that Hillary misrepresented the details of the tragic Trina Bachtel health insurance case.

* High-profile endorsements of Obama by such political notables as Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, and Bill Richardson.

* Michelle Obama’s comment to the effect that she’d never been "proud of her country" until her country started showing a willingess to possibly make her husband president.

* Recurrent reports of dissension within the Clinton campaign.

* Recurrent claims that Bill Clinton was upstaging his wife on the campaign trail.

* Claims that Obama had wanted to be president since he’d been five years old.

* Allegations about Obama’s friendship with a racketeeer named Tony Rezko

* Discussion of Obama’s admitted youthful use of illegal drugs.

* The last week of intense news-grabbing sniping (the first story on the NBC Nightly News at least once) over Obama’s San Francisco comments on white working class religion and gunplay.

Meanwhile those who care to look beneath the personalized, candidate-centered coverage and soap opera and the related question of candidate race/geneder identity can observe that Hillary and Obama are joined at the moral-ideological hip in essential defense of (1) the American Empire Project and (2) the intimately related domestic reign of the rich and powerful.  They’re both, by definition on the wrong, authoritarian  side of Dr. Martin Luther King’s "triple evils that are interrelated" (racism, economic exploitation, and militarism…and other evils too), raising the interesting question of what else  primary voters are supposed to base their decisions on other than candidate  image, identity, "likeability," "character," and so on. 

Dont ask me for all the conservative policy convergence specifics. I’ve written 20-plus articles on the subject.  The book comes late next summer.  

As Noam Chomsky noted in a speech in Boston in early February of 2008, the corporate, government, and academic elites who have crafted "modern democracy" since the rise of the American corporate and imperial eras have long believed that "the important work of the world is the domain of the ‘responsible men,’ who must ‘live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd,’ the general public, ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders’ whose ‘function’ is to be ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants..’ And spectators are not supposed to bother their heads with issues."

That’s what this campaign coverage is about, to no small extent.

Chomsky’s comment here is consistent with his observations on a "public" radio story he heard in September of 2006, by which time Obama’s candidacy for the presidency was an open secret:: 

"When I was driving home the other day and listening to NPR – my masochist streak – they happened to have a long segment on Barack Obama. It was very favorable, really enthusiastic. Here is a new star in the political firmament. I was listening to see if the report would say anything about his position on the issues – any issue. Nothing. It was just about his image. I think they may have had a couple words about him being in favor of doing something about the climate. What are his positions on the issues? It just doesn’t matter. You read the articles. It’s the same. He gives hope. He looks right into your eyes when you talk to him. That’s what’s considered significant. Not "should we control our own resources? Should we nationalize our resources? Should we have water for people? Should we have health care systems? Should we stop carrying our aggression? No. That’s not mentioned. Because our electoral system, our political system has been driven to such a low level that issues are completely marginalized. You’re not supposed to know the information about the candidates" ( Chomsky, What We Say Goes [2007]. p.54).

And no I didn’t watch the "debate" last night. There was a White sox game (nice start to the season for them) on.  Besides, all I have to do is read the transcript, looking for the standard keywords written in advance for the candidates by the narrow-spectum corporate-imperial Winner Take All American Exceptionalist political culture. There’s nothing going in those corporate-staged candidate "debates" that is half as interesting as a nicely turned major league double play or hit and run.

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