Last Sunday, I was chopping up carrots for dinner when my husband called to me from the living room where he was watching a talking head on the CBS evening news. “This guy says we’re going to have to invade Pakistan to secure their nukes!” he said, obviously concerned. As well he should be.
The talking head’s name was Michael O’Hanlon. He had just written an op/ed piece with Fred Kagan along these lines that had run that very day in the New York Times. I had just read this about him and his let’s-invade-Pakistan fetish over at Matthew Yglesias’ shop (h/t to Atrios):
Can you imagine a responsible member of the Pakistani military inviting a large foreign military presence into the country as a prophylactic measure against a government collapse that hasn’t actually happened? Can you imagine what the popular response to that would be? People already seem tired of living under a military dictatorship over there — transforming it into a military dictatorship that involved tons of foreign troops seems very unlikely to shift that calculus.
Um, yeah. But here’s the problem:
A few hundreds of thousands of people read Eschaton regularly. Maybe a few tens of thousands read Yglesias.
Tens of millions of people watch the CBS (and NBC, and ABC) evening news every day. Most of those people have probably never heard of Eschaton or Yglesias.
This made me think of another point:
The same people who just keep returning to various old rehashed stodge on the Bill and Hillary Clinton marriage don’t have a similar fascination with the marital history of Rudy Giuliani, even though he’s currently considered the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. And it’s not just FDL saying this: Frank Rich at the NYT discusses this, too.
Yet not even Frank Rich appears on TV or even radio every day, telling us these things, and certainly nobody from FDL has been invited to do so — not every day, anyway. (Hell, when somebody like Markos Moulitsas Zuniga gets so much as a once-a-week gig with Newsweek, that’s cause for celebration in the reality-based part of the blogosphere.)
Instead, most Americans, who get most of their news from TV and radio, are much more likely to hear from someone who is — you guessed it — rehashing old Bill-and-Hillary stodge.
The guardians of the media discourse that most Americans are likeliest to encounter have been controlling this consensus reality for so long, and so utterly, especially in DC, that even the people who should know better — namely, Democratic presidential candidates — fall for their schtick and react just as the Republicans, who guard the guardians (and have for decades) want them to react.
There’s a big fat barrier between what Big Media says is reality and what really is reality. Bear this all in mind when you wonder why things that to you are as obvious as paint aren’t all that obvious to most other folk, even to some really smart folk you may know.