Friday, October 29, 2004

Notes on the Maelstrom 

Things are really getting pretty nuts right now among political junkies and news addicts.

We have voter challenges, the looted explosives, the upcoming wag-the-dog assault on Falluja, Arafat near death, and now, a piece of news just strong enough to knock every single one of those stories out of the anchors' lips and on to the crawl, Osama Bin Laden is alive (apparently) and speechifying in a studio. He takes full responsibility for 9/11 (which may or may not be true) and says some nasty things about Bush before adding that Al-Qaeda, like the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, will not be endorsing either candidate this year. UBL then added whimsically that his "most embarassing vote" was for Harry Browne in 2000.

Now -- watching each and every high-traffic blog's comments go nuts with predictions, attempted spin, Cassandra imitations and occasional joy at how they assume this will play among voters they've never met, I have to step back and admit that I have no fucking idea what this means for either candidate.

Honestly, I and everyone who has a political blog are too far inside the news and spin bubble to know, at this point, what people think about news they pick up between football highlights and Everybody Loves Raymond repeats.

But I do know this: this video was not planned or even predicted by either campaign -- if the Bushes knew this was in the pipeline, they would not have tossed this shoddy video out there a couple days ago. And they've been trying to erase UBL from our collective memory since mid-2002 -- they don't need him out there reminding us of Bush's interest in a little girl's pet goat. And Kerry's people, well, they know that any statement from a terrorist critical of Bush will be played as an "endorsement" of their guy, a reverse-psychology play by those damned clever Islamo-Fascists. While keeping bin Laden's name floating about was an effective play against the memory hole and the Bush "strong on national defense" meme, having the actual guy show up and talk trash can easily turn into "UBL wants Kerry to win" -- which, I might as well point out, is bullshit.

I think it's a wash for both sides, but its effect destroys the current media narrative: Kerry on offensive, Bush on defensive. That rule no longer applies, but remember how many people have already voted early or absentee, and that, election returns aside, most people are fairly intelligent, as evidenced by their deep distrust of all politicians and media figures.

So, folks, fuck the news, but keep abreast of it anyway. Just go to a swing state and get out the fucking vote this weekend.

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