The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Sucker!: Politics and media as a board-game
We're in the first US election of the online era . You snap your fingers - that quintessential American gesture - cf the Gallic shrug - and you've got online news and comment out the wazoo. (In more ways than one...)
It's a souk: hucksters, sideshows, touts, all kinds of odours. All the mysteries of the Orient, only its strictly occidental. The mind spins; the temptation is to play the tourist and surrender to the moment.
And - bang! - goes your credit cards.
It's as American as apple pie, of course. Phineas T Barnum didn't have to go to Nantucket, even, for his shtick.
And it's equally as American for the stiff-collared and bluestockinged goo-goos to whine away about the decadence of the Republic.
The point is that, since the start of said Republic, there have always been suckers, and those in, or seeking, high office, who have exploited them. There have always been hacks prepared to write anything that would make a newspaper that sold.
Puerile, drutherful bleating about Bush's contempt for the press , however, is at the antipode of the sort of independence of mind and resourcefulness that Europeans admire in the American character. For every lynch mob, there is a Miss Habersham . Tout et son contraire as I've mentioned before (April 14).
Only the resources a Miss Habersham can draw on - online and other - are now so vast. The smartest of us can be suckered: but we can all put some effort into avoiding the ignominy. Every man his own fact-checker, as I've suggested more than once. To quote out of context - Arbeit macht frei.
So, I think of it as a game. Americans spend billions on games - the non-betting kind - for the intellectual challenge and emotional resonance. 'The News' is also a game: a whole bunch of nasty stuff that wants to reduce us to mental servitude, and has the gamut of PR manipulation, and tons of money, with which to do it. And every one of its is our own game-hero, using cunning and knowledge to win through.
The underlying issues - war, first of all - are deadly serious, of course: I'm talking about the politics.
But there's no denying that the high stakes make the political game fizz.
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