Thursday, November 10, 2011

Perry's brain fart sinks the Titanic; The New York Times sinks the republic... Neil Postman laughs lustily from the grave

Rick Perry fell victim to a mind fart last night.

OMG, as my students are wont to say.

In the Republican debate he was asked what three agencies of government he had vowed to close. He could only name two. It was a disaster of Titanic proportion.

Hell, I've been there. I've walked into a few rooms and forgotten why I walked in. I've walked into a few classrooms lately and wondered why I walked in -- but that's another story.

Neil Postman is laughing this morning from the grave. I don't know how they keep his grave clean, in fact, given the number of times these days the ground shakes around it with belly laughs. We are -- without doubt -- becoming sillier by the minute.

The point Dr. Postman made about the complete dominance of show business on our culture and the destructive new epistemology of image it has fostered, is playing out everywhere you look today, but no more clearly than in the way the media cover presidential politics.

Perry's mind fart was THE news from the most recent effort of Republicans to choose a presidential contender. The New York Times played it right in the middle of their Web Site, just under Joe Paterno, above the fold, so to speak.

But you have to love the story itself. First, it included this wonderful comparison: "Mark McKinnon, an aide to former President George W. Bush, describing the moment as the “human equivalent of shuttle Challenger..."

Now, that's damned funny. Unless, I suppose, you are a family member of someone who died in the Challenger. In one of many stories to appear about Paterno, a reporter told us another media person alluded to the assassination of JFK for comparison to Paterno's firing.

But this is the best -- or worst -- part.

The Times "reporters" Jeff Zeleny And Ashley Parker don't tell the reader the third department until the 14th paragraph of their 1,500-word story, the paragraph just before the Web version goes to page two. In fact, in terms of usable voter information, they provide only one snippet on the first page of their big take: Perry apparently intends to close three federal departments -- Commerce, Education and ... well ... the Department of Energy.

As readers we are never made privy to why. No suggestion is made about what closing those agencies of the federal government would do -- good, bad, or neutral. At one critical juncture near the end of the story, they deign to tell us the Republicans presented a united front in favor of -- " less government intervention and more reliance on markets."

Are you telling me it took two big time reporters to write this story?!?

That's it. The total substance from 35 paragraphs, 1,527 words: Republicans favor less government and more markets and Rick Perry favors closing three government agencies. One last tidbit of valuable information nearer the end: the candidates are united in opposing intervention in the economic crisis in Greece and Italy. Imagine that.

I'm sorry, but from a voter's perspective, from the respective of a troubled republic, let alone a troubled Republican party, that story was bankrupt. The New York Times should be ashamed.

The Times offered this gem from Perry:

“This campaign is about ideas,” Mr. Perry said. “It’s not about who’s the slickest debater or whether anyone’s made a mistake or not...”

Who's he kidding? And, who is the Times kidding?


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