Saturday, August 03, 2002

Josh Marshall wrote an entry complaining about the Daily Howler taking him to task for saying that "people never warmed up to Gore", when it was really the media that pretty much created that perception.

His defense? That it's easier to say. Well, not quite, but how else to explain this?

One can't say that people never warmed to Gore because then one is lumped in with the anti-Gore, ass-covering media conspiracy. One has to make the prescibed genuflection, stating that people never warmed to Gore because the press bought into the right-wing's long-standing and well-timed attacks on Gore's character, held him to a higher standard than the bumbling governor of Texas, yada, yada, yada.
Josh, the reason why people object to that sort of characterization is because it is incorrect, even if it is easier and puts the situation in a simpler light. While it may be annoying to have to admit and acknowledge that every time one discusses the election, there is nothing good that can come out of this sort of simplification. What starts off as a simplification of a complex situation with an understood "well, but.." will inevitably turn into that simplistic explanation. At that point, whether or not you believed that Gore was getting a raw deal "back in the day" becomes pointless, because the "oversimplification" will have become conventional and accepted wisdom. Hell, it's a pretty damned effective way of pushing a Big Lie, probably the most useful one I can think of.

Still, Josh goes even further:

In a similar fashion one can never write the grammatically elegant sentence "Gore lost the election" without a hundred yahoos writing in to say, "No, no, no, Gore didn't lose. He got more votes. He won. Bush wasn't elected, he was selected!"
First, it isn't elegant. It's short. That's it, and nothing more. It's also functionally and factually inaccurate in many respects. More importantly, if Josh is going to repeat this oversimplification and miss out on all that inconvenient truth, what's the difference between Josh Marshall and the people who (arguably) "selected" Bush in the first place? Both grant Bush legitimacy, especially considering that half the reason Bush always seemed "ahead" was because the press decided for him prematurely and therefore influenced the public's perception of the election. The only difference is that the former does it unwittingly, and the other knows exactly what he's doing and how to exploit those who are too lazy to make important distinctions.

Normally, Josh would be right, and the simplifications would be good enough. 2000 was not "normal", however, and simplifications play right into partisan hands. I hope that Josh would be willing to sacrifice percieved elegance to stymie a Big Lie.

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