Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fools for propaganda

It's kind of funny to look back now and realize that for awhile, right-wing nutcases like Michelle Malkin were actually bitching that the mainstream media was failing to pick up on John Kerry's supposed derogation of the troops in Iraq.

Now, the lingering question is: Why exactly was everyone so worked up about it? Why, exactly, were we just now subjected to a 48-hour mass-media feeding frenzy?

Really, it's clear now that the dust has settled a bit that the whole foofara was a manufactured propaganda event. OK, so Kerry blew a punchline for a joke that was not very good to begin with. He's not on a ballot anywhere. He has no official leaadership capacity. What exactly is the point of the outrage?

More to the point, these kinds of verbal gaffes have become, after nearly six years of a Bush administration that produced them on a daily basis, the essence of the non-story. The Daily Show had the best take on this:
"Only a troop hater would make a bad joke about a serious issue like Iraq."

[Bush: "Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there! Maybe under here!"]

And as usual, they nailed the reason for this manufactured controversy:
"Yes but, in order to maintain Congress, Republicans must exhume the bloated political corpse of John Kerry and reanimate it ... so that they can kill him again."

So why exactly did the press get all worked up over this one? It couldn't have been because the Malkins and Hugh Hewitts of the world were all stamping their feet and screaming "liberal media bias," could it?

But then, that's how the "liberal media" meme is supposed to work: Merely accusing them of bad faith ensures they'll do your bidding. Just ask Mark Halperin.

What's especially remarkable here is that by buying into the notion that Kerry's gaffe was something heinous, the credulous press is buying into the underlying storyline: that Democrats hate the military. Just in case there was any doubt, Malkin spells it out for them. It has become the overarching talking point from right-wingers in the media, and it's largely going unchallenged.

Of course, it's always helpful when it comes to this charge to do a little reality check:
-- The senator at the center of these charges is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

-- His Democratic colleagues who have similarly been accused of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq include other decorated veterans.

-- The Kerry-backing bloggers at whom Malkin and others are sneering -- particularly Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos -- are also veterans.

-- In stark contrast, neither Malkin, her husband, nor any of her accusatory colleagues (such as Hewitt and the execrable Ace of Spades) has been anywhere near military service in their entire lives. This, in spite of the fact that many of them are still of age for volunteering for National Guard duty.

-- In similarly stark contrast, the Republican and movement-conservative figureheads also hurling charges and apology demands at Kerry include:

A president who failed to live up to his military commitments during wartime in Vietnam.

A vice president who "had other priorities" when it came time to serve.

A talk-show host who sat out the Vietnam War with a cyst on his ass.

A host of 101st Fighting Keyboarders who are ever eager to send our soldiers into harm's way.

Despite their own failures to step up and serve when called upon -- in stark contrast to the people they accuse of being unpatriotic -- these people claim a great love and respect for the military. It's rather the same way they "love and respect" the Consitution, which is to say, as a useful prop with which they wipe their asses when they're done.

People who have served, or those whose family members have, know that respecting our men and women in uniform means doing one's damnedest to keep them out of harm's way, and keeping the use of force as a last resort -- and, once having committed them to such action, doing one's damnedest to plan an exit strategy and get them out as soon as practically possible.

It doesn't mean projecting all of our armchair fantasies about American superiority onto the backs of the flesh-and-blood people who serve. It doesn't mean creating extended conflict scenarios with no end in sight for them. It doesn't mean assuming that their lives are expendable for an indefinite period, and that their sacrifice is something we can take for granted.

The supposed military aficionadoes of the right are all like this: Their love of the military is all about using them as cannon fodder for their political agenda; once that's achieved, they can go rot. And of course, in order to divert attention from this reality, they make a great show of accusing their political opponents of hating the military.

It's a ruse, and a fairly transparent one at that. By now, you would think the media would have wised up to how it's being played like a fiddle by these characters. And some have: my own paper, the Seattle P-I, refused to get sucked into the fake Kerry controversy. Its initial reportage on the matter was Joel Connelly's interview with Kerry in which he responded sharply: "They need to apologize to the country for a failing strategy (in Iraq)," he said. "They should apologize for putting our troops in harm's way under fraudulent circumstances."

Today's story on Republican attempts to make local candidates repudiate Kerry explained it this way:
Mike McGavick and other Republican candidates around the country tried to manufacture a countersurge over Sen. John Kerry's recent comments about soldiers in Iraq.

Note how, in this story, Sen. Maria Cantwell refuses to join the bash-Kerry brigade and instead keeps the focus on where real harm is being done: in Iraq.

And if the press, like everyone else, is genuinely concerned about the well-being of our men and women in uniform, that's where they should be keeping their focus as well.

Instead of suckering for fake controversies cooked up by hypocritical phonies.

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