As a Canadian who spent some time years ago living in New York City and loving it, I can never be totally objective about US politics. Many years ago friends and I were glued to the TV and a toddler came in from the backyard hoping to get our attention and sadly went back outside muttering, “It’s just Watergate”.
So in the weeks surrounding our common Labour Day, I have surfed the channels, moving between PBS and CNN and our own networks, hanging out with familiar commentators and sometimes being surprised by their acceptance of the paucity of platform and the elevation of personality. The best of them move away slightly from this after their first visceral response.
Charles Blow writing in the New York Times today put his finger on something important – Facts. In the oral society that we have become, it seems possible to say anything no matter how preposterous, and if it is said with conviction, then it is OK and must be true. When even David Brooks of the New York Times says, “It’s just politics”, he is certainly right, but it makes me uneasy that there is no questioning of whether lies are acceptable. It’s not a matter of fact or fiction, because good fiction always has an element of truth
There are, of course lots of opportunities to have a second look and get real. The New Yorker’s article this week on teleprompters pleasantly reminds us, that rock concerts don’t have the monopoly on great staging. Conventions are really good at that and the only real gaffe was when the teleprompter wasn’t on.
But when Blow observes that Politifact says this:
“Mitt Romney’s statements have been judged Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire 46 percent of the time, versus only 29 percent for President Obama. In the Pants on Fire category alone, Romney is more than four times as likely to suffer trouser immolation than the president. Nearly 1 in 10 statements by Romney earned flaming slacks, versus 1 out of every 50 for Obama.”
Should we take comfort in the figures for either? Is there any way to return to a degree of accountability and what will it take from all of us? Will platforms mean something to stand on outside of the convention hall?