Saturday, December 10, 2011

Of inventors and clues

All those nice rules that make heds tighter and shorter -- drop the auxiliaries, drop the articles, drop the linking verbs, and the like -- can also turn a once-simple phrase into a crash blossom on short notice. Such is the issue here as our friends at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network do their best to perform damage control on Newt Gingrich's foray into the Balfour-era politics of the Near East. Gingrich dresses up a familiar set of talking points:

"Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community," Gingrich said.

... and in the breathless syntax of the homepage, we get "Candidate draws fire for saying Palestinians 'invented' people." I mean, you could see them inventing the Internet or the compact disc or algebra, but the whole human race?

It's always nice to be reminded that some of Fox's cluelessness is down to simple incompetence, rather than the sort of deliberate ideology that rises to the top at news organizations through the hiring and promotion process.* But it's still a disheartening comment on the state of American journalism  -- party politics aside -- to note the ease with which genuinely loony assertions reach the public with little to nothing in the way of contextual checking-and-balancing from the press.

The amusing walkback from the Gingrich camp ("To understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history -- which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing") suggests the scale of the problem. Historical ignorance is the petri dish of dishonest campaigning. The non-issue that arose in May -- Obama's alleged demand that Israel return to the 1967 borders as a precondition for talks -- would have been laughed out of the park by a press corps that had paid attention to even the last two decades of fairly simple history. Candidates who asserted that claim as a matter of fact would have been asked why, in effect, they should be nominated based on a belief that water flows uphill.

Gingrich, of course, is supposed to be different from the Bachmanns and the Perrys and the Cains because he's a perfesser. When he lectures, he's supposed to be talking from the brain, in addition to whatever strange vestigial organ the rest are declaiming from. This distinction may or may not provide its own hilarity as primary season begins.

* Grownup news tries to be nonpartisan, but that doesn't mean it isn't deeply ideological.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I wonder what his take on Roma, Kurds, and the like is?


10:29 AM, December 17, 2011  

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