Thursday, March 8, 2007

Identify Problems, Ignore Context

Jacob Weisberg has an interesting column in Slate today. I'm not all that familiar with his work, but from what I understand he places himself as a moderate, existing above the "partisan politics" of ideologues on either side of the so-called American political spectrum. In a recent post, Weisberg writes in a recent column,

"For many opponents of the surge, being able to blame Bush's supporters for blocking action is an ideal impasse. Happily helpless, Democrats and liberals can blame the president for getting it all wrong without assuming any responsibility for what happens next."

Here, Weisberg propagates the media narrative of the Impotent Democrat. The "Happily Helpless" link does this even more blatantly, as one might expect from the title. He does offer some criticism of the Republicans and Bush, but most of his work falls snugly in the mainstream concept of moderate Pundittry. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post about why we should be wary of these kind of political commentators here.

So, back to today's column. Weisberg's thesis is that there are 4 "unspeakable truths" concerning Iraq, by which he means there are four truths, that everyone knows and accepts, and yet, for some mystical reason the Wesiber never articulates, the candidates can't speak these truths without being crucified on the public stage. These truths are
1. The war was a mistake
2. Wounded soldiers are victims as much as "heroes"
3. American lives lost in Iraq have been "wasted"
4. America is losing or has already lost the war.

I happen to think that these Weisberg's analysis up to this point is very astute. He provides examples of candidates, both Dem and Rep, who have been castigated after saying one of these, or who have all but said one but continue to dance around the issue.

Where Weisberg falls unforgivably short is in connecting the next dot, which is not the final dot, but a dot in an entirely new paradigm, by not addressing why this should be the case. Why should it be that candidates can't say what is already present in the zeitgeist, not to mention factually supportable? Well, it's because of the media, and people exactly like Weisberg himself.

By writing at Slate, who employs Fred Kaplan and Christopher Hitchens, two of the Iraq war's most vocal supporters, and continuing teh media narrative of weak Democrats himself, Weisberg is complicit in a system that takes its cues from what seems to be the case, rather than what is the case, or even what could be argued is the case.

To paraphrase Greenwald's argument, candidates don't want to claim lives have been wasted or that the war was a mistake because they don't want to seem to not support the troops, or be weak on defense. What is actually the case couldn't matter less. The current administration has by all accounts weakened America's security, and there is no indisputable that people knew about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed, not to mention the cuts to Veteran's Benefits this administration has pushed through. That doesn't matter, though, and Weisberg fails to address that problem. He has the obligation to address why these truths can't be spoken, and the answer is obviously both the conservative noise-machine as well as the mainstream media that refuses to question is most basic assuptions about both political parties, what the public actually wants and deserves to hear, and about the fundamental role of the media itself.

Although Weisberg makes correct points in his column, his failure to understand his own complicit position and the media at large's postion in this problem is an unforgivable oversight.