In Shakespeare’s version of the Julius Caesar story, Caesar struggles against his assassins in the Senate chambers until he sees his good friend and protégé Brutus draw his knife, at which point Caesar whimpers, “Et tu, Brute, so fall Caesar.” “Et tu” is Latin for “You, too?!”
The “Et tu, Brutus” moment for a true rendering of what happened in the last election season—the suppression of progressive voices in the mainstream news media—may have come yesterday in Frank Rich’s column in the “Week in Review” section of the Sunday New York Times.
Just as The New York Review of Books did in its most recent issue, Rich juxtaposes the Comedy Central Washington rally with the one held by Glen Beck. And just as the NY Review did, Rich forgets to mention the rally for progressives, which also took place in Washington, D.C. during the election season and drew approximately as many people as these other two rallies. It seems as if our most consistently liberal voices over the past decades of regression are using the imagery of right-wing rhetoric.
Details define reality, and over time, those details get frozen into history. Over time, certain details are always in the histories and media descriptions of an epoch, incident or nation, and some are always forgotten. For example, Lincoln made a number of speeches during the Civil War, but we always remember the one he gave after the Battle of Gettysburg because that’s the one that journalists, pundits, historians and history professors decided was important.
By deleting the progressives rally from the narrative, Rich and everyone else drives the dialogue rightward in these ways:
- Trivializes the left, by making as its symbol a TV network dedicated to amusing people (and which also broadcasts the Reaganistic “South Park”).
- Cooks the numbers, since two left-looking rallies with from 75,000-100,000 participants beats one rightwing rally with from 75,000-100,000 participants.
- Leaves unions completely out of the media image of the left coalition, since unions were a central focal point of the now-forgotten progressives rally but were not highly visible at the Comedy Central rally.
As I have stated a number of times in OpEdge over the past year, the real story of this year’s election is the mainstream news media helping the Republicans, for example, by:
- Framing the healthcare debate in Republican terms
- Overestimating the importance of the Tea Party early on
- Focusing all attention on Republican primary races and none on Democratic primary races
- Ignoring signs of progressive political activity or shows of strength, such as the progressives’ rally.
One central theme in the continuing post-election autopsy is the idea that the Obama Administration could not articulate strong messages. I disagree: the messages were strong enough, but in the contemporary world, between most message givers and their audience is a messenger ruthlessly selecting what it will deliver and often distorting the message.