Political theater rides the wave of our obsession for entertainment

We've made mistakes...more are on the way.

We’ve made mistakes…more are on the way.

In 2012 Eric Alterman, a Senior Fellow at American Progress, wrote an article entitled: “Think Again: How to Be a Political Journalist in America.” His observations bear repeating since we are witnessing what could be the greatest presidential campaign debacle in recorded history. Or is it? In the midst of our current political theater we opine the good ole’ days when presidential campaigns were all about the issues and candidates focused on substantive discourse as opposed to attacking the wives of their opponents. But look a bit closer and you’ll find that “The Donald” is only one of long line of egregious candidates in our political canon. Some of them made it to the White House. Far from being a cynic, Alterman defines our political landscape to a T.

We are a culture driven by obsession and consumptive fury. It began when big banks seized control of our economy in the early part of the century and gave us one market crisis after another. Since then, all rules have gone out the window. People can only be manipulated by theatrics since the reality is so abhorrent

In one section, Alterman gives us “Rules for covering a political campaign” – a slam at sensationalized journalism and a condemnation of the less than substantive reporting he has become all too familiar with. On the surface the article is funny but in truth, Alterman presents a scary assessment of how our culture processes “news” and politics. We keep repeating the cycle: spin, delude, rinse, spin, delude again.

I could swear that Alterman was writing about our current presidential campaign but he wrote this article in 2012… Alas, history does repeat itself. Alterman’s sarcastic dig at journalist’s fervor to report the frivolous and nonessential brings to mind the copious CNN “debates” that show no signs of abating.

Below are just a few of Alterman’s “rules”.

For Alterman’s entire article – head over to AmericanProgress.org.


How to be a successful American mainstream political reporter—the big ones never to be forgotten

• Politics is all theater—never probe about policy unless it enhances the performance.
• Personality always trumps policy—see above.

What to remember when covering a major political event, such as a debate

• The candidate who appears more “energetic” wins, period.
• How a candidate makes you “feel” is more important than what he or she actually says.

General rules for survival regarding attacks

• If conservatives consistently complain about “bias” in the media, then the “perception” is just as important (if not more so) than the reality. Grant the legitimacy of the argument and promise to try to do better in the future.
• If a liberal complains, he or she is “whining” and can be safely ignored.
• Fox News is a “news” channel.

Underlying ideological assumptions about politics and economics are not to be questioned

• America was built exclusively by businessmen. There is no such thing as “labor.”
• All wealth is deserved. So, too, is poverty, homelessness, and hunger, especially among children.
• Taxes depress incentives, which depress incomes, which depress tax revenue, so it’s best not to tax people except those without lobbyists.” [1]

[1] Eric Alterman, AmericanProgress.org Think Again: How to Be a Political Journalist in America

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