Bush’s “Subliminable” Press Conferences

This Salon.Com article whines that ever since the press conference where George W. Bush’s mispronunciation of “subliminal” was widely reported, the presidential candidated seems to be avoiding the press. It’s a shame Salon doesn’t spend more time looking at just how unbalanced coverage of such gaffes is.

Last month while giving a speech on women’s health, for example, Al Gore drew a blank when trying to name the procedure used to screen women for breast cancer. He had to ask the audience to help him remember and somebody yelled out the correct answer — “mammogram.” Although there were plenty of members of the press with Gore that gaffe was reported in only a few places, usually by media critics pointing out the obvious: if Bush makes that gaffe it runs on the national news and Gore probably puts it in a commercial pointing out how out of touch Bush is with women’s health needs.

It’s this sort of unbalanced and unfair coverage that makes me laugh when I see people being concerned with how the line between editorial independence and commercial efforts is being blurred, especially thanks to the Internet. That might be a concern except for the fact that the news, especially television news, is already a heavily scripted entertainment package that rarely even comes close to trying to increase people’s understanding of complex issues.

In fact when I watch the news on the three major networks the closest analogue I can think of is to those wonderfully packaged but highly grotuesque wrestling shows. Just like the WWF, network news reduces stories down to heroes and heels, with revolving story lines that are largely made up beforehand — so a gaffe by Bush leads because the media angle is that Bush is stupid, while a Gore gaffe won’t cut it because Gore’s character is the over-intelligent policy wonk.

As far as I’m concerned network news is largely an entertainment program and should be labeled as such.

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