Every so often a beer-drunk fan will run on the field during a baseball game causing a delay while the cops chase him down. Back in the days of streaking sometimes these fans would run out on the field naked.
You’ll never see one of these scenes on TV because there’s a rule that the broadcasters are not allowed to follow the drunk baseball fan onto the field. If they were to broadcast the drunk fan, the theory goes, that would just encourage more people to do it, meaning more delayed games, annoyed players, offended fans and busted streakers.
It seems to me this very simple rule should be adopted by news networks when it comes to the most hideous attack ads.
Example. The North Carolina Republican Party has yet to spend a dime running a racist attack ad against Obama, one that McCain and the national party swear they don’t want them to run. But millions of TV viewers have seen the ad, repeatedly, run for free on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. This seems grossly unfair, and how does it not count as a campaign contribution?
We’ve seen this before, Bush swore that the swiftboat ads that questioned John Kerry’s honor and patriotism were unfair and he didn’t want them run, but they helped him anyway, and somehow I doubt his sincerity as I doubt McCain’s. But you can’t really blame them, in this age many candidates believe they must do whatever they have to do, no matter how immoral or unethical, to get elected. In the analogy, they’ll always run onto the field, naked if they have to, to get past the competition.
But why should we tolerate the news organizations giving free air time to the campaigns? Aren’t they making an illegal campaign contribution when they run a Republican attack ad without giving equal time to Democratic attack ads?
Maybe they could invoke their integrity (as they so often do when it suits them) for the good of the electoral process and force the attackers to pay for the air time? And maybe if they weren’t granted so much free air time, seemingly in proportion to their ugliness, perhaps fewer of them would even be produced.
Update: Cross-posted at Huffington.
Rev Wright was interviewed by Bill Moyers, an interview that will air tomorrow and will certainly restart the pundit-mania over all things Wright and what it supposedly means.
I’ve watched some of the sermons that are excerpted, in their entirety, and in every case the soundbites do not express his meaning. In every case I found the Wright sermons not only fair and American but compelling. As much as any Christian sermon I’ve heard, more so than most.
I also understand that black churches are different from white churches. I don’t go to either, never have, doubt I ever will. Churches are a totally foreign experience to me. If you made me choose candidates based on the sermons their preachers give I couldn’t, and I find it insulting that some people think I should. I think they have lost their way, they have lost their American-ness. At least as I understand it.
This country was founded without a national religion. You aren’t entitled to impose your religious values on anyone else. It’s right there up front in the beginning of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
If the pundits make a difference, then we have to do something about this. I think the only remedy that’s going to work is to take this out of the realm of partisanship and outside the realm of punditry. Ask a couple of widely respected Americans, one from each party, to view all the tapes of the Wright sermons, and to talk privately with members of his church and the reverend himself. Listen to both sides. Take testimony from people who object. Get a lawyer to represent the p.o.v that Wright disqualifies Obama to be President and hear him or her out. Depose witnesses. Get someone to take the other side, whatever that is. Let’s have a trial. Let’s get this out of the realm of sensationalism. We have to create our own venue because the existing ones aren’t fair.
My guess is that it won’t take ten minutes to see that this is all about race. That the supposed strangeness of the black church is the only issue. I believe this because at first I found the Wright soundbites very offensive, but over time, as they became familiar, I couldn’t remember what the fuss was about. I think the whole thing loses its power as it becomes less strange. And the best remedy is to make a huge deal about it, but outside the realm of the idiots on cable news. Dignify the whole thing and the issue evaporates.
The press likes to position itself as the referees, which implies a standard of fairness and impartiality and adherence to well-understood rules. They are only referees in a world gone mad. Let’s now create a venue for public discourse that is fair.
Fred Wilson: “At least Barack is not running away from who he is. Hillary is pretending to be a Republican man.”
Rasmussen Minnesota poll: Obama 52%, McCain 38%.
HRC: “Voters are an important part of the process.”
For the full context see Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.