Rarely have there been bigger or more urgent issues to talk about in a presidential campaign. But John McCain wants us to talk about Barack Obama‘s acquaintances. He and Sarah Palin are going to try their best to make us talk about anything but the big issues facing our country, because most Americans think Obama’s solutions are better than McCain’s.
Knowing that, are we in the media going to aid and abet the McCain campaign’s obvious ploy?
We journalists like to think we’re too smart to be used by one side or the other in a political campaign. In a sense, we’re followers of Adam Smith: We believe in an omniscient free marketplace of news in which myriad individual decisions by reporters, editors, photographers, columnists, commentators and media barons — decisions about what to cover and how to cover it — somehow miraculously end up maximizing the truth. We claim not to be ideological, but this is our ideology…
We also know that no matter how skeptical we are when we write about bogus allegations, writing about them at all gives them wider circulation. So when Palin questions Obama’s love of country because Obama knows somebody who did something unpatriotic when Obama was 8, our free-market ethos makes us rush to cover her every ridiculous word. We also find ways to convey that this is pure mudslinging and nothing but a cynical campaign tactic, but that doesn’t matter to the McCain campaign. What matters is that we’re writing and talking about this extraneous stuff — and not about the issues that polls say voters really care about.
Read the whole column. It’s important we understand how our 24/7 media culture is actually making us more uninformed.