CSotD: Through a Glass, Darkly

Paul Fell lays out one of the major issues in the upcoming elections, which is that a significant portion of the electorate is being fed a steady diet of, at best, downer takes on everything and, at worst, lies.

I understand the concept of spin. When I first began teaching high school kids about editorial cartooning, I had to explain the partisan press, and how most towns had two newspapers, one Democratic and one Republican. If the president made a speech, it would be at the top of Page One on one paper and buried on Page Five in the other, and it would be praised by the editorial cartoonist in one paper and blasted by the cartoonist in the other.

By the turn of the century, that part of the talk went more quickly, because I could just say, “Like Fox and MSNBC” and the kids would get it.

I don’t know how many homes subscribed to both papers in a two-paper town, but I doubt it was a large percentage, even though, in most cases, one was a morning paper and the other came in the afternoon.

But even now, when having cable means a full choice of sources, people seem to isolate in comfortable silos, hearing only what they want to hear and seeing only what they want to see.

The problem, Lee Judge points out, is when “spin” turns to outright lies. It has been a constant since the start of the nation that partisan press accounts spin the news to suit their orientation and to please their audience.

But we’re at a level of dishonest spin that — as the $787.5 million judgement against Fox demonstrated — crosses the line into lies. The advantage that Dominion Voting Systems had in suing Fox, and that the Sandy Hook parents had in suing Alex Jones, is that private citizens and companies don’t have to prove intentional malice to prevail in a libel action.

For public figures, it’s harder. In Reliable Sources, Oliver Darcy reports that the White House has sent Fox News a letter calling on them to correct their reporting on the Hunter Biden accusations which, it appears, were a fabrication. The fact that the main testimony against him has fallen apart has been reported elsewhere, but has been minimized at best and ignored at worst on Fox.

Darcy goes on to note that the White House also sent a letter to the White House Correspondents Association asking them not to distort the comments in the Hur Report. However, reporting that Hur said Biden is mentally challenged is a misreading of what he wrote.

Incompetence can be pointed out, but it’s hard to build a legal case around it.

And it’s hard for a public official to sue for libel anyway, which is ironic given Trump’s crusade to strip the media of its First Amendment protections. For a public figure to prevail in a libel action, they have to not only prove that the report was false but that the medium knew it was false and made a malicious decision to publish it anyway.

For the White House, angry letters are about as much as can be done, and the bottom line, as seen in Fell’s cartoon, is that we have a significant number of people who are only hearing one, heavily-spun, bordering on dishonest, account of what’s happening in the world.

And they vote.

The spin isn’t always coming from one side, or, at least, not from the most partisan of sources. Fiona Katauskas mocks coverage from the mainstream media that focuses on Biden’s age without noting that Trump is roughly the same age.

This passage from a NYTimes article has drawn particular criticism for its lack of objectivity. If nothing else, it seems unfair to criticize one candidate for getting his foot caught in a toe clip when his opponent uses a golf cart to get around, while one person’s “heavyset” is another person’s “obese.” And not every observer considers macho rhetoric and bombast to be “stamina” rather than “mania.”

The point, however, is that while Fox and Newsmax viewers may well be siloed in a morass of deliberate lies, we aren’t any of us free from the obligation to read and view carefully. As the song says, believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

The key is to be skeptical without becoming cynical, which is a whole lot easier said than done.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Mike Smith — KFS

Ann Telnaes

Here are two examples of that narrow line between skepticism and cynicism. The “Uncommitted” demonstration in the Michigan Primary is a good example of healthy protest against Biden’s continued support of Netanyahu’s Gaza policies. It was clear that a “none of the above” vote wasn’t going to derail Biden, while hopes that it would get his attention were well-based.

The question, which both Smith and Telnaes raise in slightly different ways, is whether the participants understood the limits of the protest and the point at which it could become counterproductive?

Both cartoonists suggest that the cynics, if not the skeptics, risk defeating a candidate with whom they have legitimate differences in favor of one who opposes nearly every principle for which they stand.

Forcing Biden to take a more clear, coherent stance on Gaza was a reasonable goal, but if the effort encouraged young cynics to say “They’re all alike!” and stay home in November, the unintended consequences may outweigh any benefits.

Meanwhile, we’re being flooded with cartoons about Nikki Haley’s failure to defeat Trump in the primaries so far. Most of them mock her for staying in the race, but I like Lisa Benson (Counterpoint)‘s piece because, while it marks the futility of the Haley campaign in the wake of the South Carolina primary, it also suggests a wotthehell attitude that seems to be part of Haley’s approach.

While she hasn’t caught Trump, she has significantly outperformed the polls in each race so far, demonstrating an appetite among Republican voters to find someone other than Dear Leader.

And here’s the thing: She’s doing more damage to Trump than Tlaib is to Biden. Most of the “Uncommitted” voters will cast a ballot for Biden in November.

Question is, how many of Nikki’s voters will do the same?

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Through a Glass, Darkly

  1. I’ll vote for the dem, but I really admire Nikki’s determination. I wish she was the progressive candidate!

  2. The way Republicans can generate such religious fervor for their candidate, while Democrats vote “Uncommitted” in the face of a wannabe dictator rising to power (again!) is beyond frustrating.

    Biden may not be the ideal candidate, but if we don’t rally around him this may be the last election we ever have.

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