10 March 2008

Not surprised, but underwhelmed and disappointed

I been asked often in recent months by students and others in Central Asia what I make of the political ascendancy of Barak Obama and the race for the Democratic Party nomination for president, in part because I am an American and secondly because post-9/11 United States has been a major them in several courses I teach at the American University of Central Asia.

One of the things that left the deepest impression on me this campaign season has been the incompetence of the major news media, especially television. Week after week the professional pundit class has expressed surprise after surprise with the public’s choice at their party primaries and caucuses. Who could have imagined the size of Obama’s support? they ask each other.

Perhaps if the pundits talked to someone other than their equally cloistered colleagues on the Beltway, maybe if they spoke to representatives of the general public, which is incredibly more diverse than their bourgeois buddies, they wouldn’t be so surprised that huge numbers of American are disgusted with the rot at the top of both major political parties. By the looking no further than the spate of Hollywood films in 2007 that addressed the appalling behavior of the federal government in the so-called War on Terror (e.g., Rendition, Valley of Elah, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, Grace is Gone, and The Kingdom) the greenest news reporter could have detect a shift in public attitudes. The fact that many of these films weren’t financially successfully pales in significance to the fact were made at all, much less managed to attract established Tinseltown heavyweights as underwriters, actors, and directors. Furthermore, let’s not forget that the anti-Vietnam war films from Hollywood, like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Platoon, appeared in theaters years after the war was over.

Opinion polls from this and last year have shown widespread public dissatisfaction with the War on Iraq and huge support for the impeachment of Pres. George Bush and VP Dick Cheney. Given that, how in the world can the major news media be astonished at the popularity of the “Obama Movement,” which claims there has to be a better way to run a nation? Please do not read this as endorsement because I do not believe that substantive change will come from the Democratic Party, which holds as much responsibility as the Bush administration for the recent U.S. imperialist ventures under the guise of a War on Terror. Congressional Democrats allowed the most degenerate and mean-spirited administration in my lifetime to ransack the Constitution, produce 1 million deaths in Iraq, enrich already powerful corporations at the expense of public needs like healthcare, recruit anti-U.S. terrorists and enemies, while bankrupting the nation’s financial future.

How could any competent news organization, especially those with most resources, fail to see those changes?

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