By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The simplistic truth

In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at the oversimplified narratives the media have used to frame the presidential campaign — and conclude that, this time around, they’re really not all that far off.

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Little Russ and me


Shales nails it


  1. Steve

    Glenn Greenwald on the “frame” – the habit of our media to create a storyline:”Our elections are dominated by the same tired personality script, trotted out over and over and over. Democrats and liberals — no matter how poor their upbringing, no matter how self-made they are, no matter how egalitarian their policies — are the freakish, out-of-touch elitists who despise the values of the Regular Americans. Right-wing leaders — no matter how extravagantly rich they are by virtue of other people’s money, no matter how insulated their lives are, no matter how indifferent their policies are to the vast rich/poor gap — are the normal, salt-of-the-earth Regular Folk. These petty, cliched storylines drown out every meaningful consideration and dictate our election outcomes, and they are deployed automatically.It doesn’t matter what the candidates actually say or do. The establishment press just waits for the right episode and then reflexively and eagerly fills in the gaps in the shallow script.”

  2. Anonymous

    Dan,All right I’m taking the bait. I don’t agree with you on this Obama is an elitist idea that you are touting in the Guardian. I think the narrative line you draw is false. Here’s where I think you’re wrong: #1 it’s unfair to paint Obama with the same brush as his supporters. His supporters ARE the elites — no argument there. But appealing to the elites and being one is not the same thing. #2 He is NOT an East Coast Elitist. I’m from Canada and I’ve lived on the East Coast and the Midwest of the US and the prejudice the former has for the latter astounded me. Nearly every east coast person I have known was shocked SHOCKED that I would even consider living in Iowa! Coming from Canada I hadn’t fully understood it but the urban North East Coast seems almost universally to view the middle of the country as a wasteland and there’s little doubt in my mind that it’s culturally learned from growing up here. Obama DOES NOT have those roots and I find his pattern of speaking IS GENUINELY inclusive and NOT patronizing and anthropologically curious as you describe it. (Did you forget the race speech?) Obama, like John Kerry and Michael Dukakis, may not be a good bowler, but unlike either of those gents he is not a blue blood talking to midwestern farmers about the benefits of transitioning to organic. He, unlike those two, really does KNOW about poverty and discrimination and what it’s like to be told you’re not worth being talked about. What I think is being missed is that when he used the word “bitter” that the word is truthful. Of course there’s bitterness. THe untold story of America right now is how the middle and rural parts of this country are getting pummeled economically and there IS “misery” and “bitterness.” The problem was that he oversimplified the connection between this and questions of religion, immigration etc … in a way that was UNTYPICAL of his normal standards of coherence and complex understanding of social interactions. I respect you a lot as columnist and blogger and so I need to say that I think that your argument in that Guardian piece is the worst one I’ve seen you make ever — and that a real look at Obama the candidate reveals something much richer and not at all on the narrow story line that you try to hang him with. And I am not part of the campaign — just an interested outsider.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    OK, folks, take a deep breath. Here are the two relevant passages:”Obama really is an elitist, isn’t he? Or at least his supporters are.””Barack Obama is an elitist. Hillary Clinton is a liar. John McCain is a warmonger. Not fair. Not even close to the whole story. Not all that wrong, either.”I did not call Obama an elitist. I’ll plead guilty to playing it cute.BTW, you certainly don’t have to have an elite background to be an elitist. I am a proud elitist, and there’s nothing in my background (or my current income!) that would point to that.

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