Corporate Media Spin Before Third Debate Needs Challenge
I promise to return to writing about local and state issues as soon as the last “debate” Monday between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but I think it’s important the president’s supporters continue their efforts to counter media spin with reality-based arguments in the last days of the campaign.
We only elect a president every four years, and, in these changing times of information dissemination, it’s always necessary to carefully look at the election process itself. But why write about the presidential race in a state that will certainly give its electoral votes to Romney? That’s easy. It all matters, and it’s really simple math. What might trickle up from the blogosphere and social media, even from here in the outback?
I put “debate” in quotes in the first paragraph because these exchanges between Obama and Romney are really not debates in the technical sense of the word. They are political events or maybe even political spectacles, but they are not debates, which are judged on the criteria of logical arguments backed by clear evidence. One can argue these political events are important to democracy, but when we talk about who “won” a presidential debate it’s really about who “won” the media spin.
Under the winning and losing criteria of the corporate media, Obama won the second debate. Obama’s supporters helped with this win through good use of social media noise and memes, such as the “binders of women” echo. Let me repeat: Presidential candidates cannot “win” a debate these days without an enthusiastic base challenging formulaic journalism techniques and labeling. Even now Republicans are arguing Romney “won” the debate. It’s not an ideal situation, and it can lead to perfunctory, robotic political responses, but the corporate media—and this is really a neutral and obvious statement—should only be trusted to present “news” in ways that make profits. Truth is a huge business expense; it’s always the first thing to go.
As I wrote in a previous post before the debate, no matter what happened Tuesday, the immediate media narrative would go something like this: “After a poor first debate performance, President Barack Obama came out swinging Tuesday night, but . . .” That proved to be exactly right, and, in a quick Google search, I quickly found three media outlets, the Los Angeles Times, Slate.com and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that used the actual “came out swinging” language. Virtually every major media outlet led with similar language about Obama’s “aggressive” performance compared to his “listless” previous performance.
The ellipsis of my predicated media narrative was filled in with all the typical clichéd tripe: but maybe he was too aggressive, but maybe it wasn’t enough to stop Romney’s momentum, but maybe voters are still worried about the economy. Still, media poll after poll showed Obama had “won” the debate. Now we move on to Obama’s “bounce” or lack thereof and the pre-debate noise and posturing before Monday. It’s predictable, and Obama’s supporters should be ready.
It’s important to disseminate the binders’ meme and Obama’s last comment in Monday’s debate referring to Romney’s disdain for the 47 percent of Americans because they clearly delineate Romney’s position on women and the middle and lower classes. If there are truly swing voters still out there, and I think there are very few, these two items from the debate can be useful. But they can also create enthusiasm with Obama’s base, and, at this point, voter turnout for the president is probably the key to his election.
However, Obama’s supporters should also devote the next few days to working on challenging the media spin for Monday’s debate, which will supposedly be focused on foreign policy. (I bet both candidates refer to domestic issues as well. Romney: The best national defense is to have a sound economy. Obama: These two Republican wars have contribute to the deficit and hurt the economy.) The prevailing media narrative right now, a few days before the debate, pits Romney’s craven claims about the recent tragedy in Libya against Obama’s entire foreign policy experience and successes. Consequently, barring a major gaffe, here are some media spins that could result from the debate:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney scored major points in Monday debate when he criticized the President Barack Obama administration’s handling of embassy security in Libya, but . . .
A defensive President Barack Obama responded to criticisms over his administration’s handling of security of the Libya embassy, but . . .
President Barack Obama deflected criticism over his handling of security at the Libyan embassy and touted the death of Osama bin Laden at Monday’s debate, but . . .
The point here is that the GOP has made one event—the recent killing of four Americans at the Libyan embassy in Benghazi—the cornerstone of their foreign policy with only days to go before the elections. It’s an obvious and craven political ploy designed to take attention away from Obama’s clear strength in foreign policy. Both Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, lack foreign policy depth and experience. None of this will matter much to the media because they smell another easy “conflict” in the ongoing presidential “horse race.”
Romney will argue that Obama’s “appeasement and apology” polices led to the tragedy, a fictional construct that the corporate media will not challenge. Romney might be hampered by his supposed gaffe in the second debate when he arrogantly claimed Obama had never referred to the killings as a terrorist attacks. Of course, Obama did immediately refer to the event as an “act of terror.” But this gaffe will not deter Romney on Monday.
Romney’s other main point will be that the president isn’t tough enough about Iran and its uranium enrichment program, but he will be hard pressed to say just exactly what he would do differently than Obama. Will he say as president he will take the United States directly into a war against Iran? That’s not likely. It would risk his chances considerably in the election. It would be a desperate move.
What all this means is that Obama’s supporters need to get out front of both the Libya and Iran issues before the debate, and especially Libya. Using social media, blogs and other web-based platforms, Obama’s supporters need to make much of Romney’s Libyan gaffe in the second debate and, perhaps more importantly, compare his foreign policies to those of former President George W. Bush. For example, if one is going to blame the Libyan attack on Obama, then by logical extension one has to blame the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on Bush. Here’s another point to make: Seven American embassies and consulates were attacked during Bush’s presidency. Where was the GOP concern then?
Unfortunately, Romney and the Republicans are reducing the country’s foreign policy to political nonsense right now, but the corporate media will only applaud this as Serious Political Debate and part of the Important Political Horse Race. Liberals gain nothing by sniffing their noses at it all and refusing to get involved in the fray. Let’s get busy.