October 12, 2003

Demosophia on When Good News Happens to Bad People

I must admit that Demosophia has a much greater tolerance for endlessly repeated nonsense than I have. Perhaps it is because, being younger, he simply hasn't seen the news repeat itself often enough. But it is more likely that, being smarter, he possesses the ability to make some sort of sense of it. I started to watch the MSNBC Chris Matthews' Grindhouse episode he writes about, but after about ten seconds I decided that things would be more enlightening over on the Home Shopping Network. (Scored another zirconium spatula!)

Still, I should have stuck it out just in order to see what one could make of the Nth recycling of the same old mindset: Iraq = Vietnam.

Alas, poor MSNBC. Two famous parents and it is still an intellectual basket case. You'd think that Bill Gates could put a little of his millions in educational grants into wising up the marks at this shabby excuse for a news channel.

At any rate, Demosophia sums up the commentators' major malfunction with:

But what really perplexes me is how the sort of disinformation campaign that Klein and O'Donnell are promoting can continue without eventually losing readership for their employers, especially if the responsible press keeps reporting things as they are, spurred by direct dispatches from the men at the front. Which reminds me: Isn't a situation where the frontline troops correct the press about being too pessimistic about as different from Vietnam as it's possible to conceive? Why isn't this a lead story somewhere? Or at least the subject of a well written editorial? It's a delicious and instructive sort of irony.

What's going on with the press has become a matter for social psychologists. I think what's happening is that the Vietnam generation is traumatized by the fact that we are rapidly leaving that era behind, and moving into an entirely different historical landscape. I think this is really about a sort of group or cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience. And it will finally come to a head in the election of 2004.[Emphasis added]

Those last two sentences I find really striking. Mostly because people like Joe Klein et. al. who prate about the Vietnam era are, in a very real sense, my people. They are all about my age. They've all been in and around the news and the media for three or more decades. They were all involved in or the victims of the kind of thinking that was fashionable in the late 60s and early 70s. And, at the time, I admit, that sort of thinking made a kind of sense.

But here they are, over thirty years on, and they are still ruled by it. It is as if nothing that has happened since has made a dent in their thinking, has changed their point of view about the world. They've been in some sort of universe that didn't branch with events but ground on in a steady state so that by now the deviation of their universe from the reality of this one gives their pronouncements and prognostications the same flavor as the back story for Carnevale -- a lot of boom and bluster, endless portents, shaken shibboleths and symbols all adding up to nothing other than a confused muddle. More and more the opinions of these "media masters," these go-to-for-meaning" Golums of cable news, seem to be phoning in descriptions of conditions on the Planet Mongo. People like Klein and Dowd and their ilk more and more seem like billboards for the concept: "A mind is a terrible thing to petrify." But at the same time I know that, at this point, they're all in it for the main chance. They're known to have a certain schtick and sticking to it. How else would the producers of cable talk shows know who to book for a predictable series of responses?

It is sad, really. I look at these commentators, some of whom I've known over the years, and I think about how quaintly historical they've become. I don't think, "God, what happened to you?" I think, "God, what didn't happen to you?"

And as for joining these representatives of my generation in their "cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience" ... well, include me out.

Update: Demosophia rightly takes me to task for assuming that he is younger than I am. I am properly chastened and will endeavor to make no more unwarrented assumptions.

Posted by Vanderleun at October 12, 2003 2:45 PM
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