FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Year of Unreliable Witnesses

by JAMES McENTEER

Joe The Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, has become a kind of bellwether for the 2008 presidential campaign, though it is clear that he has his own (semi-hidden) agenda, his own (semi-hidden) secrets and his own (semi-hidden) reserves of ignorance. This “average guy” from Ohio is now stumping for John McCain, claiming that an Obama presidency would turn this country socialist and mean “death to Israel.”

Such transparently poisonous nonsense would seem ludicrous on its face to all but the most deluded partisan right-wing warriors. But McCain – who surely knows better – is courting and grooming “Joe” as an attack dog, to say things the candidate himself prefers not to utter.
By accosting Obama on a public street, thus making it into the news cycle, and then becoming a point of contention in a presidential debate, Wurzelbacher ascended from a well-deserved obscurity to fifteen minutes at the pinnacle of presidential politics as an apparent arbiter of common taste: the Average Joe. But his inflammatory views make him more pox than vox populi.

Joe is but the latest and least vetted of many incredible opinionators who commandeer media platforms in this campaign from which to bestow their “wisdom.” Media outlets pay big bucks to individuals who have disgraced themselves or disgraced the system or simply failed upwards from unsuccessful political careers to paid punditry.

We have a minor tradition of convicted felons turning to media for a living. Oliver North and Gordon Liddy are examples of political abusers, crooks and liars who now offer their opinions as talk-show hosts. As long as they have an audience their employers will keep paying them.

But who in the world listens to those clowns?

Karl Rove has probably done more to demean and subvert the democratic processes in the United States than anyone in recent memory. He has slandered opponents, politicized government and promoted war as a campaign tactic. He has flaunted Congressional subpoenas with apparent impunity. Some hail his political “genius” for getting George W. Bush into office twice. But Rove has no moral credibility.

We don’t need to ask Rove the question Joseph Welch put to Senator Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” We already know he does not. But instead of answering for his many crimes in Congress or in courts of law, Rove pontificates about Obama’s fitness for office or McCain’s campaign strategies for megabucks on the Fox network and in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. Why would anyone trust anything this scumbag has to say?

Unlike Karl Rove, Robert Shrum has not undermined the democratic system with illegal or mean-spirited tactics. But neither has he won any of the various Democratic presidential campaigns he has advised over the years. Yet here he still is, after publishing his memoir entitled No Excuses, offering advice to candidates and voters alike through The Huffington Post and various op-ed pages. Why should anyone listen?
And why should anyone pay attention to William Kristol, the neo-con sage whose track record on issues makes Shrum look Solomonic?

Kristol has wrought more than enough destruction as a cheerleader for the misbegotten Bush-Cheney junta wars in the Middle East. He apparently pushed for Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential candidate. Do we really need to hear more from this discredited bozo in the pages of The New York Times? Enough already.

Assessing the veracity and gravitas of most radio and television commentators, we are confronted by an appalling paucity of perceptive political observation. Fox offers nothing but white noise, in the racial and the aural sense. Talk radio whips ditto heads into emotional frenzies that the “hosts” themselves don’t really share. Their humongous salaries put them in another, higher economic class than the listeners they stir up. Theirs is an exercise in populist cynicism and professional expediency.

We tend to gravitate toward mainstream media and internet sites whose opinions we already share. But the myth of the uncommitted, undecided voter provides a rationale for shrill, outrageous stories and charges that bid to change our minds and our votes. Along with the unreliable mainstream media commentators, the marginal mumbles of Joe the Plumber only add to the uncivil, uninformed babble drowning out any meaningful discussion of urgent issues we can no longer afford to ignore.

JAMES McENTEER is the author of Shooting the Truth: the Rise of American Political Documentaries (Praeger 2006). He lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

 

 

 

 

 

James McEnteer’s most recent book is Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentHe lives in Quito, Ecuador.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail