Ah the story. Want to read about the primacy of story, as opposed to fact, in today's America, you can of course read the ubiquitous Great Story Ever Sold. You can also simply read the coverage of the Democratic Primary Debates, which is an exercise in the primacy of the media narrative.
Let's put it this way: the story has become who is hitting hardest and whose debate performance is best. Guess what? Winning debates never helped John Kerry against George Bush. In fact, the worse Bush did, the more his supporters seemed bolstered at the time. Defeat can be easily snatched from the jaws of victory by failing to control the narrative.
The problem, of course, is that the narrative is not substantive. It's all about style. When Hillary Clinton "hits back," and the press insists that Obama isn't tough enough... the story is the fight and the blood on the stage. There's nothing remotely valuable about Obama being tough except to the press. The more the candidates act like boxers, the more fun it is for CNN and the more pundits justify their paychecks. Even sexist questions like "Diamonds or Pearls" only add a little fake blood to this B-Grade Slasher flick.
Is this how we would like to determine who should be holding the executive office when we desperately need visionary leadership? If Hillary Clinton is able, in a debate, to hit back... does that prove she's up to the challenge of amending world opinion about our nation? If Barak Obama seems a little less punchy when on the attack... is that really what we want from him? An attacker? Does someone who is truly inspiring and capable of leading also need to have, in his or her bag of tricks, a cruel streak?
The story we're being told is about which of the candidates is the best at making headlines and soundbites. As usual. Business as usual, when the country and the world are in such turmoil, is a deeply depressing trend. After the debate, listening to analysts ignore Hillary's claims about Obama's health plan, in favor of simply reviewing her as an actress, belies the worst of our news media's impulses.
They've become Entertainment Weekly, when what we truly need is a little more New Yorker.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.