What's wrong with this picture?
t is now time to play are you a journalist?
, the special game to see whether you, as supposed expert in the field of political reporting, know a single thing about the substance of what you are actually being asked to report on—or whether your skill, conversely, is relegated entirely towards critiquing the fashions and speaking styles of the powerful figures you are tasked with following.
At this point, thanks to various individuals who have had the meager audacity to know what Paul Ryan was going on about at the time he was going on about it, we have a fairly good list of the biggest lies uttered in Paul Ryan's speech. Among the biggest is Ryan's attack on $700 billion in Medicare savings under Obama, an attack rather effectively neutered once anyone with half a brain in their heads remembers that Paul Ryan quite specifically has always supported and included those same cuts in his own budget proposals, and so Paul Ryan talking about "saving" Medicare from the very cuts he himself has been endorsing is a Damn Curious Thing at best. Bigger still is Ryan's casual assertion that Obama damaged the credit rating of the United States, which is also a Damn Curious Thing when you consider the rating agency involved specifically called out Paul Ryan's personal band of Congressional anarchists and privateers as the seminal reason for downgrading that credit. Then there is the GM plant that announced its closing during the summer of 2008, before Obama had even gained the small pleasure of trouncing the now perpetually crabby John McCain in state after state after state, much less before he was in any position to do anything about a plant closing in Paul Ryan's neck of the woods.
As a political pundit or outlet, this morning left you with two possible paths to take. One, you could point out that several of Paul Ryan's attacks were, shall we say, riding the bullshit train to bullshit town. Or two, you could not worry your dull little head with such things, and focus on what was really important: How dreamy was Mr. Ryan while delivering this little symphony of utter crap? How will his furrowed eyebrows and sharp-chinned rhetoric make America feel, when he is delivering these little tidbits of wisdom that were proved false by more knowledgeable voices within mere minutes of him belting them out?
(Continue reading below the fold.)
Let's look at a few of reports today that manage to avoid the actual substance of Paul Ryan so spectacularly that they could pass for parodies of actual reporting. Leading the way is this tiny little video submission from Politico, an outlet so serious about their political expertise that it is in their damn name. Unfortunately, all political expertise was used up naming the site, and so none was left over for:
"Ryan nails Obama on Medicare at convention"
This is impressive because it calls out, right there in the title, the single biggest bit of bullshit in the bullshit tsunami—and dubs it "nailing" Obama. That's all. That is akin to bragging that this fellow over here slayed a dragon, without bothering to mention that the dragon was actually his neighbor's Chihuahua. No! That is not nailing someone. That is bullshitting someone. Learn the difference. I am certain that Politico will respond that they were just passing the video clip along, without making a value judgment about its contents, but Ryan nails Obama is quite specifically and definitely an editorial judgment about its contents, so bite us.
Other outlets of note got either better or worse, depending on your point of view. Even the ones devoted to calling out the actual lies go to some pains to not be to judgmental about that whole bullshitting-the-American-citizenry thing. From AP:
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took some factual shortcuts during the Republican convention when he attacked President Barack Obama's policies on Medicare, the economic stimulus and the budget deficit.
What is a factual shortcut
? Does that mean that you were on your way towards a fact, but then decided to hop a fence and cut through Cow Patty Fields? Does it mean that it was intended
to be factual, but the time constraints of Mr. Ryan's speech meant he was not able to explain how that thing he said was actually the complete opposite of what the facts actually were? I am not sure I have heard that euphemism used before, or at least not quite in that way; let's keep it that way, in the future.
The National Journal doesn't even bother. Eh, what the hell, at least he was bold when he said the stuff:
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stepped up to the podium Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention and assumed his position as Romney’s chief attack dog.
A question from the floor: Is being an attack dog
a good thing if each of your bites are directed at poking holes through the actual, factual recent history that we all lived through? We are not talking about arcane reinterpretations of 14th century shovel-handle carvings, we are talking about commissions Paul Ryan actually sat on, and documents Paul Ryan actually signed his name at the bottom of. All those of us who were not comatose during the last few years have personal knowledge of all the things Paul Ryan is claiming to be mere hallucinations now; this requires not one bit of actual journalistic skill to dig up.
But about halfway through his speech, Ryan found his footing. He made the case against the Obama administration effectively – “They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have” – and argued just as effectively for Romney. He spoke eloquently about how he and Romney were of different faiths but, at their core, believed the same things. One other note: Ryan’s speech was the best written of any we’ve heard so far at the convention.
You are a horrible person. You literally just phoned in an assessment of Paul Ryan's case-to-America that relied on the speed at which he spoke, the "footing" he was able to find, and the "eloquence" of the "best written" pile of contrafactual bullshit ever to grace a modern political stage.
Politico, yet again:
Paul Ryan gave what was, by almost all accounts, the best speech of the convention so far tonight, running longer than 30 minutes—[...]
It was the most attentive the convention hall at this abbreviated convention, and it was a speech that Republicans - and some Democrats, grudgingly - praised as he was delivering it. He came off young, which he is, but generally not so youthful as to seem off; he was emotional but not soft; he was tough on President Obama but not caustic.
Democrats are challenging some of the facts Ryan talked about, and it remains unclear whether the message about tough medicine and changes to Medicare - even as he used his stump line about preserving and strengthening it - but the problem for Chicago after that speech is whether it resonates with swing voters, who are not checking the details but liked the presentation.
You are even more horrible than the last person. In this effort, we have explicit mention about the epic bullshit quotient of the bullshitting, and it gets couched in "Democrats are challenging" terms, as if the reality that the entire Washington Press Corps actually sat through and reported on
, during the last effing few years of their existence, is only one of many possible interpretations of reality, up for grabs depending on which current empty suit you care to believe. And then it is topped off by noting that it is more important that it "resonates" with the people Ryan wishes to persuade than whether the details he was persuading them with were, in fact, abso-posi-tively bullshit of the highest order. The American people, it is asserted, do not give two shits whether they are lied to, so long as (1) the speaker looks good while doing it and (2) no member of the supposed Fourth Estate, the proclaimed defenders of our democracy, challengers of the powerful, and the nation's check against public corruption and dishonesty, bothers to let those same American people know that this fellow over here actually is conning them eight ways from Sunday. Good show. Never has a more succinct dismissal of the actual duties of journalism ever been so aptly put into words. That may have to go in the next round of textbooks.
These are in no way a complete or even ordered list of the various journalism fails that have landed on our doorsteps in the hours since Ryan delivered his contra-factual crap-o-rama. Just examples. But since telling baldfaced lies to the American public is only a secondary consideration compared to how each politician fills out a suit and his relative skills in firing up a crowd, I would just like to point out that Paul Ryan is in fact an 18-foot-tall laser-shooting robot powered by the ghost of a small chipmunk who gained his robot-piloting skills after falling in a radioactive vat of Any Rand's rejected, third-tier ideas, one who is originally from the planet Cowpoop Centauri Five, and who has dedicated his tiny little chipmunk afterlife towards destroying us all.
And yes, you may quote me on that.