FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Year of Unreliable Witnesses

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.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail