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Back in the old days in political campaigns there were usually three ‘voices’ talking to voters. Today there’re more voices than anyone can count.
For instance, back in 1984 when Jesse Helms ran against Jim Hunt the three ‘Voices’ voters heard were Helms,’ Hunt’s,  and the press. Twenty-six years later we’re in the middle of another campaign and with the blossoming of cable TV, News Talk Radio and the Internet no one can count how many ‘Voices’ are shouting at the top of their lungs.
The rules of political debate have changed too.
Say what you will about traditional journalism – and it had it’s critics – it also had traditions and ground rules.  If, say, the News and Observer ran a story criticizing Helms – it also asked him to comment and, generally, reported whatever he said.
Today the new ‘Voices’ have thrown out the rules.
In the old days we had traditional newspapers and in big cities, like New York, a handful of more popular (and entertaining) tabloids like the New York Post owned by Rupert Murdock.
Then in a moment of inspiration Murdoch figured out if his readers loved tabloids in print they’d love them even more on TV and Fox News was born – with the added spice of a partisan slant which has left conservatives addicted to the ‘No Spin Zone.’
MSNBC – taking the opposite political slant – followed Fox and now Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Keith Olberman and Rachael Maddow  have all become prominent ‘Voices’ of  conservative and liberal politics and tabloid TV has grown so powerful it’s redefined the  standards – and language – of political debate.
Only when the debate rolls over onto the Internet – where folks are free to say whatever strikes them and say it anonymously – the result sounds like a million Sean Hannity’s or Keith Olberman’s gone wild, shouting at the top of their lungs.
For example, the other day in Congress a grandstanding Democrat stood up on the House floor and used his 5 minutes on C-Span to throw a match on a powder keg by ripping into Rush Limbaugh – that sent a shock wave rippling through the ether followed by a roar of outrage on the Internet.  Consider these responses posted anonymously on one pro-Limbaugh blog:
‘These S*#! for brains Democratic Congressmen can’t get beyond Rush.’
“Jim Moran” – another Democratic Congressman – “is getting more and more senile every day.”
“El Rushbo is public enemy No. 1 of the leftist socialist slime.”
“The Dumbocrats hate dissent almost as much as they hate our constitutional republic.”
And that’s a snapshot of the living, breathing world of politics today: Candidates shouting.  Voices roaring on cable TV.  And the voices of a million Americans roaring on the Internet.  It’s a no holds barred freewheeling democratic symphony of free speech.
And it’s also a long way from the Lincoln-Douglas debates.


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5 comments on “Voices, Rules and Tabloids

  1. AdamLove says:

    Perhaps if the mainstream press for which you wax nostalgic hadn’t morphed into such blatant regime apologists, people wouldn’t feel compelled to seek out alternative sources of information. The complicity of the press in the runup to the Iraq War, its incessant calls for bank and auto bailouts, and the soft-pedalling of Obama’s slow response to the oil spill have all worked against traditional media. The success of new media in siphoning off market share and exposing the bumbling, corrupt leadership at all levels of government is what’s behind Joe Lieberman’s eagerness to give the president a kill switch for the Internet. Sounds almost like you think that’d be a swell idea.

  2. -1 says:

    The good ol’ days weren’t so good, if they ever existed. Somehow I don’t feel comforted that supposedly once upon a time the newspaper got both sides of a story, then proceeded to report fairly and accurately on the event. I’m not buying it. Imagine what really went on back in the day – before the dawn of the Internet – and never got reported by liberal newspapers in this state.

    Is there heated speech on online political stories? You betcha. It’s so easy to vent anonymously on web forums, so yes, it’s present but big deal. This is in part a reaction to the fact that rabidly liberal news media outfits like McClatchy mold news reporting to fit their Democrat party political agendas. Now I believe there is a lot of pent-up frustration expressed by conservatives – after all, all the alphabet networks are 100% in the tank for Obama. We have only Fox for a national cable news outlet, and of course a variety of other sites for information the left-wingers cover up.

    But is this heated speech really so different from what went on during Thomas Jefferson’s day – when political opponents hired people to dig up dirt on each other, and when pamphlets contained inflammatory rumors and grotesque cartoon renderings of political candidates? i.e., the rumors about Jefferson’s affair with his slave Sally Hemings were rampant back in his own time.

    Look what the N&O’s editor Josephus Daniels did back in 1898 – fanned the flames of racism & published horrible racist cartoons by Sampson Co. native Norman Jennette in order to make sure racist Democrat candidates got elected. Pretty hateful stuff.

    It’s just time to stop pretending that journalism is or should be non-partisan. It’s not – and never has been. And anyone who believes the N&O even attempts to live up to its published principles of “fairness” and “accuracy” – I’ve got a beach house at Gulf Shores to sell you.

  3. dap916 says:

    “It’s a no holds barred freewheeling democratic symphony of free speech”

    And, Carter, it’s as it should be, don’t ya think?

    There is FoxNews, which is decidedly right-leaning and then there’s CNN which is diceidedly left-leaning. There are all sorts of other venues…ABC, CBS, NBC..NPR (ugh!) and this is where we are at these days in the political arena.

    It’s what it is. Notice that the conservs. and their media sources both news networks and their “opinion” networks have the floor right now. FoxNews is #1..Rush is #1…Boortz is right in there…Hannity is on top in his segment…Beck is HUGE…far more than any liberal/demo/progressive voice out there.

    You know it…so does the majority of America. It’s heartening, IMO.

  4. -1 says:

    There’s news, and then there’s opinion and spin. If you want the news, watch FOX’s ‘Special Report’ at six–it’s the best, and FAIREST straight news cast on the tube. If you don’t want to hear a bunch of right-wing opinion and spin just avoid the other FOX shows (Beck, O’Rielly, etc.). If you doubt that FOX’s Special Report is giving it to you straight (you shouldn’t) then catch CNN’s Situation Room every other day, and listen to NPR on your way into work and on your way home. You’ll be getting a decidedly left-wing perspective, but at least an intelligent left-wing perspective.

    The fact is that nowadays you have to pay attention to reasonable voices all across the political spectrum if you really want to know what’s going on. No one source of news is going to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth every time. But you can discard the obvious spin miesters and ideologues, and still get a good cross-section of perspectives.

  5. -1 says:

    ERV, the press in this state is 100% liberal, the last place I go for news is the papers.

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