There are some days when it almost seems like the national press is making a conscious effort to prove Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent gospel. If the national commercial media really did exist solely to perpetuate the attitudes of the political elite, and to create phony debates around unthreatening policy poles, endlessly pitting a conservative/reactionary status quo against an “acceptable” position of dissent — if that thesis were the absolute truth, then you’d see just what we’re seeing now in the coverage of the health care debate.I have a heartbeat's hesitation about criticizing Matt Taibbi, because I often find him a fine and entertaining writer with an eye for the absurd that is quite plainly lacking in today's media . . . landscape, but I find it impossible to let the above pass without comment. What proved "Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent gospel" was Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, and the fact that the reality he observed, documented, and marshaled as proof in that book comports with the reality he observed, documented, and marshaled as proof in that book isn't exactly surprising. Is it? From Taibbi's own books and other writing, it seems clear that he would be otherwise inclined to pooh-pooh MC as another conspiracy theory, even though it is anything but. The national exists solely to perpetuate the attitudes of the political elite. This was in question?
Taibbi goes on:
So this is where the “debate” is being framed. One side argues that the public option isn’t anything to write home about. The other “side” argues that a bill without the public option won’t be a disaster after all. Of course if you’re paying attention these are both actually the same argument, arguing the same side.Taibbi could revisit the manipulation of attitudes and expectations for Iraq and observe the same. How did something other than full and complete withdrawal become the default liberal position? How did "the surge" become a self-evident success? Etc.
I get that the public option isn’t a cure-all and I also get that it would be nice if they passed a law preventing insurers from denying patients with pre-existing conditions. But what strikes me the most is how the instant the public decides it’s fed up and really wants something, all these arguments suddenly appear in the press showing why they are unreasonable and uneducated and should take a more “nuanced” (God, I hate that word) view of things. It seems to me that if you pay careful enough attention to the underlying theme of a lot of these articles, the pundits’ biggest concern about the public option is that their readers are demanding it in spite of what they are being told. Me personally, I think the time to consider what good stuff might be in a public-option-less bill is after you’ve lost that battle, not before.
Maybe I'm being uncharitable in my reading; maybe Taibbi didn't mean to imply as he does that there is something questionable about Chomsky's thesis. But I don't think so, and so I commend to Matt, and to The Internet, and to You, the World, this general rule of thumb: your conviction that it just can't be so is not evidence that it isn't so.