Media Follies 2012: National!
2012′s Most Over-Hyped National Stories
Mitt Romney might win! All year, elite national media persisted in perpetuating the myth that Romney and Obama were running neck-and-neck. The idiocy reached a fever pitch in October. But it was never even close. While media focused on national polls, which are irrelevant to how we elect presidents, adding up the winners of state-by-state polls – which is how electoral votes add up – never had Obama with fewer than 295 electoral votes, 25 more than he needed to win, at any point in 2012. For most of the year, the president was well over 300. But close races draw viewers and readers, and covering “horse race” stories on how the candidates might do on election day, and how one or another trivial development might affect that, is a whole lot easier than covering what either candidate might do if they actually, you know, wield power. The entire corporate media universe embarrassed itself in its election coverage this year. Given that they rarely paid attention to anything else all year long, that’s pretty bad. But there were plenty of subsets, such as:
Anything involving Donald Trump, or the notion that any actual 2012 Republican presidential candidate was even remotely qualified and credible as a candidate for the world’s most powerful job. The entire Republican Party presidential clown car deserved to be ridiculed into oblivion, or perhaps encased in concrete and used to help fortify some endangered coral reef in the South Pacific.
The notion that anything that any of the Republican presidential candidates actually said was credible also suffused 2012′s election coverage. It’s as though because they said it, nobody dared point out (with a few rare exceptions) that the statement was ridiculous, alarming, physically impossible, and/or a flat-out lie. There were no other categories. From Romney’s serial lying to the wickedness of contraception to legitimate rape and faux-”scandals” like Benghazi and the horror of Susan Rice appearing on TV and repeating CIA-approved talking points, the entire year was a media-enabled immersion in an alternate, funhouse universe bearing no relationship to the one sane people live in.
Americans Elect!: Corporate media reflexively assumed the credibility of anyone who lives on the East Coast and wears expensive suits. That enabled the Republicans, but it also was responsible for the promotion of a bizarre effort, financed by a few hedge-fund managers and championed by the usual elite pundits that fetishize “bipartisanship,” to use an online voting gimmick to elect a “centrist” who can “bring the country together.” (News flash: We did that in 2008. It didn’t work.) The reporters who lapped this stuff up never stopped to consider that nobody else wanted it. Nobody donated, nobody joined, and nobody of note would run under the AE banner. After all the elite media hype, Americans Elect quietly died over the summer.
The budget deficit: When reporters did address an actual issue during the campaign, they invariably focused most on one of the most asinine. Cry as they might, Republicans have never made a good case for why the budget deficit is a problem. Yes, Greece’s is. But we’re not a small European country, we control our own currency, and our economic situation is not remotely comparable. Can we move on and talk about the real issues now?
The Fiscal Cliff was really a fiscal bluff: Er, guess that’s a “no,” we can’t talk about real issues yet. Sorry. Instead, we got stuck with a wholly artificial year-end governing “crisis.” The Bush-era tax cuts were mostly tax cuts for the rich. Their end would mean a tax hike mostly for the rich. If we want to eventually balance the budget, everyone will have to pay more taxes anyway, especially the people who now have most of America’s money. You know, like we did when Bill Clinton was president, which was the last time we had a balanced federal budget.
The government is after your guns! This Wingnuttistan myth, pushed hardest by the National Rifle Association in its endless fundraising campaigns, managed to flourish all year despite the Scary Black Kenyan Socialist ™ behind the alleged plot never once broaching any sort of gun control at any point in his entire first term – until the tragedy of Newtown, after which the sales of weapons of mass murder skyrocketed due to fears that the gummint was cummin. Another news flash: It’s not, but if it did, it’d use armed drones that don’t give a fuck about your silly assault weapons. Waco and Ruby Ridge were in the last millenium, dumbfucks.
The David Petraeus email scandal, which was about…uh…some not-very-incriminating but very dull personal e-mails.
And, last but not least – and likely a winner in 2013 as well – the idea that Republicans will become more accommodating and sane after their big defeat this past November. Among many other things, paranoid people don’t become less paranoid when growing numbers of people are pointing at them and laughing.
2012′s Most Underreported National Stories:
Climate change keeps accelerating, Nero fiddles: This is, of course, also an international story (see underreported items in that section), but despite another year of record heat, more unprecedented extreme weather events, and endless scientific announcements that climate change is going to be worse than we thought and is proceeding at rates faster than our previous worst-case scenarios, the United States government is still doing close to nothing about it, internationally or at home. And incredibly, America’s biggest economic threat, biggest domestic policy threat, and biggest foreign policy threat was never mentioned at all in the interminable presidential campaign – or in the four media-run debates that were supposed to give voters a comprehensive look at what the candidates would do in office. What the United States government, which governs the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, isn’t doing to respond to this crisis isn’t just a crime against humanity. It’s a crime against the entire biosphere, one of unprecedented scope and depravity. If our country in this era isn’t remembered with universal revulsion in the future, it will only be because humanity is extinct.
The Republican Party has lost touch with reality: The unprecedented use of bald-faced, easily refuted, and endlessly repeated lies by the Romney campaign was only the highest-profile manifestation of a party-wide phenomenon. The inmates are now running the asylum that is now the modern Republican Party. The party’s continued existence in its current form is quite literally a threat to sentient life on Earth, if not through the mass extinction event it’s helping to enable, then because of the risk of its driving the rest of us insane, too.
State-level Republican gerrymandering of the redrawn 2010 Census congressional districts is the only reason why Republicans continue to have a House of Representatives majority in 2013. Democratic candidates actually got more overall House votes in 2012 than Republican candidates did, but given how the districts were drawn in states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures, more Republicans won, standing our “winner take all” system on its head. Moreover, the way the districts are drawn, it’s likely the Republicans have enough safe districts that they can keep their House majority until the next census-driven redistricting, in 2022. Welcome to federal government paralysis for as long as it takes for Republicans to sober up or Americans to throw them out en masse. There isn’t much historical precedent for either.
The US government’s domestic security state, supported by both parties, keeps expanding: Numerous underreported stories this year have a common thread: our government considering us The Enemy. From expansion of domestic, warrantless spying powers (did anyone notice that the freakin’ head of the CIA was taken down by FBI surveillance of his e-mails when he’d been accused of no crime?), to the widespread law enforcement deployment of domestic drones, to the explosion of law enforcement misuse of “non-lethal” weapons (police tasers alone have killed 500 people since 2001), to the legal harassment of nonviolent citizen activists who’s broken very minor or no laws, to the continuing expansion of prison systems, to the nationwide Muslim spying scandal run through the NYPD, to the epidemic in many large US cities of police violence and racism against minorities, it was not a good year for the “FREEEDDUUUMMM!!” idiotic Tea Partiers keep yelling about. But mostly they did little to notice or respond to these issues. Corporate media didn’t, either.
Similarly, The Obama administration’s unprecedented prosecution of government whistleblowers – including as many capital prosecutions under the Espionage Act as in the previous 222 years of the republic combined – merited an enormous media yawn. As did the various criminal misdeeds of government those whistleblowers were trying to publicize, and the government was working, with media complicity, to hide.
This year’s statistics show that the 2000s were a lost decade for the American public. By every measure of financial health, whether it was median wages, average savings, median income, property values, or the types of jobs available for middle class Americans, all the data showed that we’ve either lost ground or have been running in place since the year 2000. Meanwhile, politicians have been trying to take us back to the middle of the last decade to relive the glory years of the Bush Administration. No thanks.
Banks and credit card companies are quietly getting back into subprime loans. Nobody’s stopping banks and credit card companies from doing all the horrible things that got us into our current financial mess in the first place. And since their CEOs and upper management made out like bandits during the financial crisis while lower class Americans took a knife in the back, why would they ever stop hawking subprime loans – or any of their other ongoing predatory practices?
That $26 billion settlement with big banks will help less than one-quarter of the over four million families who’ve lost their homes since September 2008. More people could have been helped, but that would mean forcing the banks and their management and shareholders to pay back some of their ill-gotten gains. And why would we make them do that? That would suggest they might not have the financial incentive to do it again.
Edward DeMarco, head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, refused to offer debt forgiveness to homeowners like most private banks have. Even after the Obama Administration offered to pay for most of it, DeMarco said “no.” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently hold about half of all the mortgages issued in the United States. Meanwhile, Freddie Mac has quietly started buying investments that will increase in value if Freddie can keep homeowners from refinancing. This isn’t just a conflict of interest, it’s purely criminal.
Google was caught with its modem in the cookie jar: Those little Google cars that toured our neighborhoods collecting addresses for its street-mapping project were also gathering “payload data.” In other words, they were tapping into your wifi to read your emails, get your credit card numbers, gather financial data, and invade your privacy in every way possible. Did Google get punished? Oh, no. The story disappeared almost as soon as it broke.
Speaking of breach of privacy, the websites of most major corporations, from McDonald’s to Apple to our good friend Google, were caught by the FCC collecting data on children without their parents’ consent, in violation of FCC rules. In addition, most apps designed for children contain features to secretly collect data on children, even when the app designers promised not to.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is on its last legs, due to several court decisions. If Congress were able to get anything done, it would put a stake in its heart.
The Department of Justice admitted that the anthrax used in the 2001 anthrax attacks couldn’t have come from Bruce Ivins’ lab. Instead, they now say that it probably came from a private lab in Ohio. Which means that the perpetrator will never be found. Ivins, you’ll recall, committed suicide after being publicly named as a suspect in the attacks. Meanwhile, funding for bioweapons research continues to increase, with the anthrax attacks being the major impetus for this expensive, dangerous government-funded boondoggle.
Mississippi became first state to eliminate abortions: Not by outlawing abortion – why, that would be unconstitutional. It has instead harassed all of the providers of abortion-related women’s health services out of business. The final blow was a state law aimed at the last doctor willing to perform abortions in the state: a measure allowing hospitals to revoke hospital privileges for doctors providing such services, after which the doctor in question was immediately booted by his hospital due to “patient safety concerns.” In other words, the hospital was afraid of violence by “pro-life” thugs. Your constitutional rights in action, circa 2013. One state down, 49 to go.
Lastly, did anyone notice that we found out this fall that the Boy Scouts of America spent over fifty years enabling and covering up for pedophiles? No? That might be because the story, about an abuse of minors at least as tolerated and widespread as the years-long story of the Catholic Church’s priest problem – in an organization that arguably has reached more young boys in America than the Catholic church over the last five decades – disappeared almost immediately. The BSA has become much beloved by the right wing in recent years due to their shared, virulent homophobia. Maybe, because of that support, dwelling on fifty years of enabling kid-fucking would just be seen as too “partisan.” Either that, or diddling male asses is actually fine for conservatives, so long as the owners of those asses haven’t hit puberty yet and don’t – and can’t – consent.