Monday, October 11, 2004

Convention Wisdom/Recieved Opinion/Common Consensus

Often it's horseshit, sometimes it's not. But its paid dispensers are full of it in general, and when they start throwing around the charge of "conspiracy theory", full of it in profound particular.

Howard Kurtz has been taken to the cleaners today by the usual suspects, but not even TBOGG has included Kurtz's most egregious statement:

Toronto, Canada: Thanks for taking our questions. The Washington Post carried a story, over the weekend, about a site devoted to exploring whether President Bush may have been using an ear-piece, allowing him to be coached by, by his advisers. The site implies that some reporters have been aware that a linguistically and fact challenged Bush routinely needs, and makes use of an ear-piece. It compared the journalistic silence over Bush's rumoured ear-piece to the silence over JFK's adulteries. Here are my questions: If this rumour were true, how much coverage do you feel it would deserve? How far should responsible journalists go to determine if there is any truth to the rumours? While it remains just a rumour how much coverage does it deserve?

Howard Kurtz: It is nothing but a rumor at the moment and deserves very little, if any, coverage. I'm not sure I would have run a story at all without some shred of proof (beyond a photograph that appeared to show a bulge in Bush's suit) or at least someone making an on-the-record charge. If it turned out to be true, that would be a huge story. The idea that journalists have known about this and haven't said anything is both ludicrous and untrue.


Chicago, Ill.: Love your chat Howard. I'm astonished at how little attention the so called liberal media has paid to the mysterious bump under W's coat during the first debate. Can you imagine the uproar if it were Kerry? You guys have been cowed by the right.

Howard Kurtz: You seem to be suggesting that the press is covering up something here. There is, I repeat, nothing to back up this rumor. Besides, if Bush's handlers were feeding him answers, wouldn't he have done better in the first debate?

Now for the penultimate..

McLean, Va.: Is this chat just for conspiracy theorists or can anyone join?...

Howard Kurtz: A positive note. What a welcome development. But we welcome all views on the chat, even those that should be set to Twilight Zone music.
(My emphases.)

There you have it. If you have seen these photos:
(Der Speigel)
and believe your eyes, then Howie thinks you are in pure tinfoil hat territory, along with those people who believe in Bigfoot and think they've been anally probed by Martians (though I admit that Ann Coulter has to be getting the rod from somewhere, and only so many gun barrels can be corroded into green blobs).

Howie thinks it's a "conspiracy theory" when, really, the outrage is that he and his kind instantly dismiss the idea that Bush had something on underneath his jacket. Now I don't know if it's a wire and neither does Howie. But it is something, and it's Howie's job to find out what, not to dismiss the very notion out of hand. Howie's own paper reported the issue, though only, it seems, to air Bushies' denials. Does Howie object to that, too, or was it suffieciently dismissive for his tastes?

Sorry, Hacktastic Howie, but in American Politics the stakes are so high (admitted euphemism for "there's so much money at stake") and, yes, the candidates and parties are so ambitious and cutthroat, that only a fool can afford to not be cynical. One must assume that any candidate, of any party, is pretty much capable of anything. But Howie can't, and neither can the majority of his fellow media whores, because politicians are just swell guys doing a job; forget what you know about power, absolute power, and all that sorry lot. This is the mentality that, had it been so pervasive then as it is now, would have said "Watergate? Burglary? No President would be so sleazy!"

It's the mentality, stupid. Knee-jerk Conventional Wisdom. Anything that deviates from this, no matter how likely or in character, is to be consigned to the Area 51 School.

Thus, we have National Myths -- which Howie and Co. are paid to protect -- some which include:

George Washington was a great general, even a military genius.
Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War as an Abolitionist Crusade.
The election of 1876 was disputed, not corrupted and/or stolen.
Harry Truman incinerated Japanese civilians only to save American lives.
JFK-MLK-RFK were killed by a lone assassins who never conspired with any organisations.
Richard Nixon was the only very corrupt President.
Ronald Reagan's military spending destroyed the Soviet Union.
The election of 2000 was disputed, not corrupted and/or stolen.

The veracity of these statements is not the issue (for instance, I do believe that RFK was indeed killed by a lone nut), but, rather, the mentality that considers these things indisputable facts, argued only by cranks and X-Files junkies. Again, this is Kevin Drumification at work -- at least in a way -- because it assumes that the mushy-middle's conclusions are the Gospel and only True Believers in the fringe (abducted by Elvis and a Yeti and flown in a UFO to Altair-4) could think otherwise. Sorry, but the "center" is chock-full of its True Believers too, and Howie's mentality illustrates why that is.

**Update on the wiring story: Here's a new Salon article on it.