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William Rivers Pitt: Dumbest. Election. Ever.

Dumbest. Election. Ever.

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 10 September 2004


"I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."
- Orson Welles

The clearest indication that the country is coming out from under the massive psychological concussion of September 11 is the fact that we are all enduring the stupidest Presidential election season in recent memory. If we were all still walking around in the cat-like state of readiness we operated under for at least a year after the attacks, we wouldn't put up with this garbage.

Swift Boats? 527s? Who served or didn't serve, and how and why and when and where? They're talking about a war that ended 29 years ago. Bush v. Dukakis was close - a mythically stupid race, to be sure - but this current crapgasm is pinning the needle on the Dumb-O-Meter. It is no small thing that the guys who ran Bush's race against the Duke are the same guys running Bush's race against Kerry today. In '88, the thing turned on flag-burning, Dukakis in a tank and the racist meta-message of Willie Horton.

This entire election, thus far, has been about television. All the issues widely discussed stem from television advertisements. For the television news media, this is like free money falling from the sky. They cover to the hilt any story stemming from a television advertisement - which they can show, and then talk about, and then show, and then talk about, lather, rinse, repeat - and so the campaigns make this garbage the focus of their whole act. It's like a Mobius Loop for really dumb computers.

The entire Presidential debate thus far, performed in 30 seconds:

The Swifties! Denounce the ad! I denounce all ads! But denounce that ad! I denounce all ads! He didn't denounce the ad! I like eggs! 527s! Response ads! The ad said you lied in Vietnam! How dare that ad say such things! You must react more strongly to the ads! He's not responding strongly to the ads! Shakeup because of the response to the ads! Guard duty scandal revived to respond to the Vietnam angle in the ads! The documents are forged! No they aren't! Yes they are! Vote Bush or die! We need another ad!

Not to make this too personal, but I blame the Boomers. The fact that the Baby Boomer generation is the most important demographic in the country right now - both economically and politically - is really the only way to explain this. Think about it. The first generation raised by television is slogging, along with the rest of us, through a campaign where the only issues discussed have to do with television advertisements. Let's not forget, as well, the fact that the two main candidates spring from that particular demographic, as well.

I'm kidding. I think.

Marvin Minsky once said, "Imagine what it would be like if TV actually were good. It would be the end of everything we know." Let's spool that thought out a bit. If TV was good, three of the major news networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC) wouldn't be owned by a defense contractor that profits from war. If TV was good, another major news network (CNN) wouldn't be wedded to the outsourcing of technological workers to cheap-labor nations because its parent company lives and dies by paying pennies on the dollar for geeks. If TV was good, another major news network (Fox) would require its anchors to say, "We are an auxiliary wing of the Republican Party, deal with it" every fifteen minutes.

In other words, if TV was good, that would mean TV news would actually be informative, and not a commercial platform for the handful of corporations that own and distribute all the information we the people need to intelligently run the show. If such a thing were to exist, it would indeed be the end of everything we know. It would be the end of non-issues. It would certainly be the end of this amazingly stupid election.

Issues we are not hearing about because we have spent so much time talking about television advertisements:

  • Millions of jobs lost in the last four years;

  • Unbearably expensive health care;

  • A total loss of confidence within the international community in our moral leadership;

  • The underfunded farce that is the Department of Homeland Security;

  • The underfunded farce that is the No Child Left Behind bill;

  • The fact that military assault weapons will soon be making a perfectly legal return to a neighborhood near you;

  • The deeply illegal outing of a deep-cover CIA agent by Bush administration officials, who did it because they wanted to silence a critic;

  • The rape and torture of men, women and children in the Abu Ghraib prison, horrors that were sanctioned in writing by Bush's own lawyer and the Secretary of Defense;

  • The allegation by Senator Bob Graham of Florida that Bush torpedoed any aspect of the 9/11 investigation that came within spitting distance of his friends in the Saudi royal family;

  • The allegations by several generals that Bush's people started stripping necessary troops and resources from Afghanistan to bolster their ill-conceived charge into Iraq;

  • The myriad accusations by a dozen insiders that Bush and his people ignored the terror threat until the Towers fell, and then used the attacks to scare the American people into an unnecessary war in Iraq and a mammoth payday for their friends in the weapons and oil business;

  • The fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq;

  • The fact that no connections between Hussein, bin Laden and 9/11 have been established beyond the bloviating hyperbole of a few senior Bush officials who haven't yet gotten the memo;

  • Does anyone even remember Enron?

  • Tomorrow is the third anniversary of September 11th. We deserve better than this.

    Yesterday, we ran a feature article ( that carried a photograph of every soldier who has died in Iraq. The article read, "The men and women whose faces fill the page below were not told this. They were, in fact, told the exact opposite. They raised their hands and took the oath, they donned their uniform and picked up their weapon, they boarded a plane and flew far from home, and they died. They were doing their duty, and they believed their President."

    Look into the eyes of those 1,000 lost faces and tell me they don't deserve better than this stupid election and its stupid public debate.


    William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

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