"Fool me once, shame on- shame you. Fool me- you can’t get fooled again." – George W. Bush
Is anyone else getting deja vu? Back in 2000, the media did all they could to portray a blueblooded New England fratboy as a genial salt-of-the-earth cowboy, a likable reg’lar fella who you could have a beer with. And people were fooled.
The media went along with it when a sneering, mean-spirited man who mocked a condemned woman marketed himself as a "compassionate conservative." And people were fooled.
The media touted a clueless, empty-suited company-killer whose economic plans didn’t add up as a reasonable, moderate "CEO president." And people were fooled.
The media derided a serious, accomplished, lifelong public servant as an insincere, condescending, know-it-all phony and serial fibber, in thrall to consultants and focus groups. And enough people were fooled that George W. Bush became president and flushed the United States and Iraq right down the toilet.
And now it’s 2008, and what’s happening? The media are telling us that corrupt, angry, out of touch John McCain is a straight-talking, independent-minded, maverick reformer.
This is the same John McCain who was a member of the Keating Five. Who cheated on and dumped his invalid first wife for a much younger and richer woman. Who made one grand campaign-finance reform gesture to rehab his image and turned his back on it forever, to the point where he actually ignores campaign finance laws. Who shielded Republican senators from the Jack Abramoff investigation. Who has swallowed whatever pride he once had and embraced corporate lobbyists, the religious right, George W. Bush, torture, warrantless wiretapping, telecom immunity, the occupation of Iraq, and the scapegoating of Iran.
At the same time, the media are telling us that Barack Obama is some kind of Muslim or Muslim sympathizer, that he’s an angry black separatist or angry black separatist sympathizer, that he’s all hope and no plan or spine, that he’s The Most Liberal Senator Evar, and his supporters are all sexist. They’re telling us that Hillary is some kind of calculating, ruthless she-beast who will sacrifice the Democratic party on her altar of ambition, and her supporters are all racist. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but not much.
This is why the liberal blogosphere has declared "an all-out war against the mainstream media" – not to completely discredit them as an institution (although, come to think of it, that might not be such a bad thing), but to hammer them ruthlessly every time they attack Democrats with lazy stereotypes and high-school sniping, and every time they fawn over McCain or any other macho Republican manly men who might set their loins a-quiver. And maybe, just maybe, we can scare some of them into occasional honesty, or raise a big enough stink to damage the worst offenders’ credibility.
In 2000, it was just Bob Somerby howling into the void. But in 2008, the liberal blogosphere has grown big enough to be heard – and not a moment too soon.
America simply cannot afford to get fooled again.