Stanley Fish Puts the Media in Its Place

If you’ve grown weary of the media and it’s attempt to force candidates to denounce and renounce what other people have said, then you need to read the latest opinion piece by professor Stanley Fish:

This denouncing and renouncing game is simply not serious. It is a media-staged theater, produced not in response to genuine concerns – no one thinks that Obama is unpatriotic or that Clinton is a racist or that McCain is a right-wing bigot – but in response to the needs of a news cycle. First you do the outrage (did you see what X said?), then you put the question to the candidate (do you hereby denounce and renounce?), then you have a debate on the answer (Did he go far enough? Has she shut her husband up?), and then you do endless polls that quickly become the basis of a new round.

He goes in for the kill by praising Obama for his speech and gutting the media:

He [Obama] rejected Reverend Wright’s rants against the United States and against the white power-structure, but he refused to reject the man to whom he had looked for spiritual guidance. And he deplored the tendency “to pounce” on every “gaffe,” because, he said, if we continue to do that, we’ll just be “talking about some other distraction, and then another one, and then another one.”

The odd thing is that the press that produces these distractions and the populace that consumes them really believe they are discussing issues and participating in genuine political dialogue. But in fact they have abandoned genuine political dialogue and have committed themselves to a conversation that differs only in subject matter from conversations about Eliot Spitzer’s and David Paterson’s sex lives. It’s not politics; it’s titillation clothed in political garb.

It makes me glad that I generally skipped all of the coverage and analysis save for Obama’s speech itself. It’s like gossip on a national scale surrounding a high stakes “vote” for the class president.

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