03 October 2012

Selective outrage and the 2012 video wars

Republicans are outraged that no one else seems as outraged as they are over remarks made by Sen. Barack Obama back in 2007. While those remarks were not uttered in secret -- Obama being already a presidential candidate, they were reported at the time -- Republican sympathizers clearly hoped that this old news would somehow counter the negative impression of Mitt Romney created by the video of Romney's candid "47%" remarks from this year. As ever, Republicans blame the "lame stream media" for some sort of biased neglect of the alleged revelation of Obama as a practitioner of divisive racial politics. The rabid wing of the GOP has complained about Obama getting a pass from the "LSM" since 2008. The feeling is that perceived evidence of the Democrat's extremism deserves more scrutiny from the media and the population as a whole. The implicit belief is that any insinuation from Obama that Republican policies are racist in their intentions or implications should be as offensive to the general public as whatever they think to be Romney's opinion of the 47%. Whoever doesn't feel that way, Republicans argue, must be guilty of double standards or selective outrage. But there is no double standard unless Obama's remarks and Romney's are judged to be essentially the same in character. It doesn't follow that someone outraged by Romney's comments will (much less must) be outraged by Obama's, whether in the 2007 speech or the 2008 remarks about "bitter" people "clinging" to guns and religion. In fact, it's more likely that someone easily outraged by one politician's comments will agree with the other's. As for the news media, it might be argued that each man's comments are equally "divisive," but those arguing for equal attention to Obama's supposedly-damning comments would first have to concede that Romney's remarks were actually divisive. The only other option would be to insist that if one group of Americans is as outraged by Obama's words as another was by Romney's, both sets of outrage should receive equal attention from the media. That case, if made by Republicans, might be more compelling were they to allow that outrage felt by other groups over other offenses (Muslims, anyone?) is also worthy of attention. Instead, their argument always has been that their particular outrage is ignored systematically by the "LSM." Republicans are setting the "LSM" to be their scapegoat should Romney lose this year just as it was after McCain lost in 2008. To this day, the GOP complains that Obama's ties to controversial radicals did not receive the media attention Republicans felt they deserved, even though Obama was compelled during the 2008 Democratic primary season to deliver a major speech on race relations due to the media's discovery of Rev. Wright. The Republicans actually have a simple standard for judging such things: if a Democrat wins, then the media didn't subject that candidate to an adequate amount of scrutiny. Republicans assume that the media can make the rest of the public see things the same way they do, and when the public doesn't see things the same way, they blame the media. The possibility that the public knows quite well what any Democrat and any Republican stand for -- even if they're sadly ignorant or ignorantly dismissive of alternatives -- and chooses a Democrat anyway is probably too frightening for Republicans to contemplate.

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