Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Merchants of Trivia by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone

Why do the media insist on reducing one of the most exciting presidential primary seasons in American history to a simple horse race?

December 28th, a beastly-cold afternoon in Story City, Iowa. Another school gym full of polite, placard-bearing Iowans herded in to support yet another pomp-and-ceremony-promising presidential candidate, in this case Hillary Clinton.

Hillary's late, however, so the campaign decides to pass the time by sending a pair of central-casting Adorable Local Children onstage to chuck HILLARY '08 T-shirts into the crowd. A young Hillary volunteer in a standard-issue Pale Blue Button-Down Shirt (the mandatory uniform of all campaign volunteers) takes the mike to introduce the kids.

"There's something you should know about these two," Pale Blue Shirt shouts. "They only respond to NOISE!!! Whoever makes the most noise gets a T-shirt!"

Robotic cheers as the kids hurl shirts in every direction. Last time I saw this act, it was New Jersey Nets mascot Sly the Silver Fox shooting tees with a slingshot to "Who Let the Dogs Out" during halftime at the Meadowlands. This time, the soundtrack is Tom Petty's nauseatingly Hillary-specific "American Girl." Some reporters are rolling their eyes, but every camera is dutifully following each flying T-shirt.

"Make sure you get that," a TV guy to my left whispers to his cameraman.

"Got it, got it," the camera guy says.

There must be a hundred reporters here, and every last one has lined up to capture this event in all its stage-managed glory. There are two camera risers, both packed to the gills with network shooters. Hillary's lectern is planted squarely between two enormous American flags; this way, every shot is sure to make her look like George C. Scott in Patton, with every curve of her ample jowls bathed in the iconic stripes of Old Glory. Campaigns pay top dollar for such images in commercials, but the free press literally fights for space on the risers, for the right to transmit those juicy images for free.

And when Hillary finally arrives, her speech turns out to be the same maddeningly nonspecific, platitude-filled verbal oatmeal that every candidate has spent the last year slinging in all directions — complete with the same vague promises for "change" we've heard from every last coached-up dog in this presidential hunt, from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney.

For the rest of the story, please go to http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/17977692/merchants_of_trivia

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