The election media has contempt for you

This really makes me angry. Very, very angry.

Over the last far-too-many years, the media has focused its election coverage more and more on what we can call metacampaign coverage — coverage not of what policies candidates advocate or the meaningful aspects what they do, but, in the first instance, their strategic campaign decisions, and, in the second instance, how voters are to be expected to react to those decisions.

This seems to have reached a new, disgusting, low this week. Here’s an excerpt from the swill to which I linked above.

Polls show that unlike Ms. [She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named-On-This-Blog], Mr. Biden, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has passed the commander in chief test. But they also show that he is less “likable” than Ms. [SWWNBNOTB].

That presents him with an interesting challenge, and the fact that she is a woman deepens his conundrum.

Adding to it is this: Ms. [SWWNBNOTB] had such difficulty in her string of interviews with Katie Couric on CBS that some viewers may already be feeling sympathy for her. The slightest indication by Mr. Biden that he is lording anything over her could create a backlash.

Who is the audience for this kind of commentary? I’m starting to realize that it’s ordinary people. It’s not other journalists alone, or cynical political science types, who are expected to read these things. It’s voters.

And what kind of message is this kind of content-free metacampaign coverage sending to those voters?

You’re so dumb that we don’t need to actually cover relevant issues — this bullshit is more important to you. In fact, you’re so blitheringly fucking stupid that you’ll respond to the “likability” of a candidate, and constitute an irrational “backlash” should one candidate make the other look too bad. But it gets worse. We can even tell you how stupid you are, right in the pages of the newspaper, and we can predict your irrational responses to campaign events: but you’ll still do exactly what we predict! Get the fuck out of my face, morons.

The contempt starts to really shine through when we’re faced with metacampaign coverage filling columns entitled, with utterly savage irony, Seeing Past a Debate’s Sound and Fury. Sound and fury signifying nothing (told to, as well as by idiots) is precisely what that column offers!

[Edit: incidentally, the media is also very bad at predicting electoral outcomes as a result of this stuff -- and there's good reason to believe that the concrete things that political scientists use to predict elections (like party affiliation and the state of the economy) are vastly better predictors than this silly campaign strategy stuff. See this major article by Gelman and King (who are two of the best political science methodologists alive). So in addition to being insulting, the media coverage is stupid: the things they think matter, even for electoral outcomes (actual policy being completely off the table) don't matter, and political scientists regularly -- how shall we put this? -- pwn the fuck out of the media in predicting how voters will behave.]

Is it any wonder that the public is alienated from this whole mess? This kind of metacampaign coverage is an expression of contempt.


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