I have this pet theory. We are often attracted to the media’s handling of a story not because we’re particularly interested in the story itself, but to see how the media handles the story.
When the media is often congratulating itself for terrific coverage of an event, pointing to viewer statistics, what they aren’t factoring in is that, as often as not, it’s the excess and spinning of the coverage that fascinates us more than the story itself. The obvious example is the train-wreck of the O.J. Simpson case. The Palin story is emerging as another.
Fact: Sarah Palin is not remotely competent to be president of the US. Everyone knows that. But not everyone can admit it. Thus, our fascination with the story. The GOP talking heads trotted out to make a case for Gov. Palin, knowing full well there is no honest case to be made, have one task at hand when the spot light shines: their bullshit must baffle our brains.
Sometimes they misstep, as with the line that Russian geographical proximity to Alaska is foreign policy experience. Many times they (sort of) succeed: Commander in Chief of the National Guard; governor of a $xx billion state budget. But in our heart of hearts we know it’s all bullshit, because the pundits are trying to prove the unprovable.
So we watch, fascinated. And we’re impressed. The pundits appear knowledgeable and sincere and seem well-informed (the same talking points) and well-meaning. They’re good. And they are lying to us. Because we all know two things: their task in impossible and if the positions were reversed and these set of pundits were attacking the other party for the very same thing, they would be equally adept.
So the story really isn’t Ms Palin’s suitability as (vice-) president of the United States. The real story is who is making the best case for proving the unprovable. That’s why we tune in: for the theatre.
The media has become a caricature of its former self. It has become an in-joke that they’re not in on. Great fun but terribly sad and, obviously, very, very dangerous.