Bret Stephens points it out. Michael Gerson declares its inadequacy. Jim Geraghty says its old hat with this president. They are all talking about Obama’s tendency to trash talk his opposition, particularly in the absence of a solid solution on his own part. I am with Geraghty in the sense that it is not really news. It requires response because of the bully pulpit, but it is not news. What concerns me, gravely, is that it sells. This guy got elected – twice. His approval rating is near 50% and on the rise in recent weeks.
Clearly the nation has an appetite for trash talk. It is ubiquitous in sports any more, and the more martial the sport, the more prevalent it is. The pretend martial sport of pro wrestling is an entire entertainment industry unto itself built on trash talk. As Gerson points out it is the stock-and-trade of MSNBC. Much of reality TV, tracing its roots to Jerry Springer and his ilk, thrives on it. It is par-for-the-course in social media. People seem to like it. It is entertaining, but it should not be the stuff of serious politics – of presidential statements after mass killings and foreign policy debates.
But increasingly it seems like the nation cannot tell the difference between its entertainments and its serious politics. This has a lot to do with the coin of media. On the one side of the coin there is an entire media/entertainment industry built around politics – starting with talk radio and moving into some of the news channels. There are, of course, exceptions to this (Hugh being prime example #1) but largely political media is far more entertaining than it is informative. On the other side of the coin is the fact that politicians must use media to communicate. Since people expect entertainment from their media, it forces the politician to be more entertaining in their media presentation. The lines start to get really blurry. Continue Reading