Monday, October 27, 2008

Obamunism and Its New Vocabulary For the New Order

The Obama campaign has banned yet another television station that has asked hardball questions of Joe Biden. In the past, before the Obama campaign inverted the rules of political discourse, a good reporter would dig up facts with which to confront a political figure. The drama of political journalism was once the discomfiture of the high and mighty. Orianna Fallaci, a brave Italian journalist who fought the Nazis when she was a teenager epitomised this style of confrontational journalism. As a darling of the left, she once conducted an interview of Henry Kissinger towards the end of the Vietnam was that he described as one of the worst experiences of his life. One of her famous moments was when she tore off her hair covering during an interview with Ayatollah Khomeini and threw it down like a gauntlet in front of him. One of Khomeinei’s aides told her that Khomeini admired her courage.

It is not unheard of for authors on a book tour to conduct interviews with powder puff questions. If a book is a work of fiction in accosting the author. If the book is about a controversial subject, such as the Da Vinci Codes, then the rules of engagement can change, especially if fiction is a vehicle for statements of fact and opinion.

There is a tradition of fawning political interviews in totalitarian countries. A photographer was booted from North Korea when he lay on his side in front of a gigantic statue of Kim Il Sung. It had been deemed that his lack of sufficient reverence rendered him unfit to remain in the country. When Nhan Dan, the Vietnamese Communist Party newspaper interviewed Ho Chi Minh, it was understood that it was unthinkable to cause “Uncle Ho” any discomfiture.

There is no tradition for such oppressive reverence in a democracy. The press is referred to as “the fourth estate. This term is a spinoff of the French monarchy, which convened , which in 1789 convened three hudred nobles, three hundred clergy and six hundred commoners in an assembly known as the’Estates General‘. Journalists were subsequently dubbed “the fourth estate” because of their access on behalf of commoners to public figures. There was an aura of reverence for the power wielded by these individuals and the awesome resposibility that came with constituting the nervous system of a society.

Each “estate’ has had in history its days of infamy. If you substitute business magnates for hereditary royalty, there have been times when both types of royalty have disgraced themselves with oppressive and self aggrandising behavior. Corrupt and perverse clergy have had their day in the spotlight of shame. And there have been many times when “commoners” demanded and got injustice in the form of segregation, discrimination and corrupt verdicts rendered by juries. The shameless partisanship of the mainstream media has defined this election as a “season of shame” for our blatantly biased media. The reverence attached to “the fourth estate” has been long forfeit, tarnished and soiled beyond recognition.

A new term has been coined to attach opprobrium to inquisitive and aggressive reporting. “Ambush journalism” is a term coined by the Obama campaign to describe questions that make a candidate uncomfortable. A television interview, according to the new rules of engagement, is a time for the candidate to preen and cast out unassailable sound bites. Any unscripted question that could embarrass the candidate is lese majeste and results in banishment of the offending media outlet.

According to Freedom’s Lighthouse,a Philadelphia television station, CBS TV Channel Three in Philadelphia has been banned for hitting Joe Biden with tough questions. During excerpts aired of a Fox News segment, his anger was clearly visible. This is the second TV station that has violated the rules of the New Order and been banished from the Obama campaign.

When a person sits down for an interview, they should expect to be questioned. Crowding into someone’s yard or barging into their place of business unannounced to spring questions could well be considered to be ambush journalism. This term should not be applied to a scheduled interview during a campaign.

In Missouri, a city district attorney swaggered in front of a microphone and purported to speak in the name of voters she said did not want “distractions”. The word “lie” has come to mean “uncomfortable truth” in Democratic Newspeak, our new dialect of public discourse.

I am far more troubled by a District Attorney entrusted with criminal prosecutions misappropriating his or her aura of authority for political advocacy. This does not evoke memories of anything within the traditions of representative democracy.

We are not only fighting an electoral battle. We are fighting to maintain the integrity of political discourse and the terms by which it is defined. The misshaping of language to stigmatise legitimate inquiry and dissent is a process we must highlight , stop and condemn. Our democracy and way of life depend upon it.


Joe Biden faces real interview


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