Thursday, July 03, 2008

purple monkey dishwasher

the title of this post comes from a Simpsons episode where, during a teachers' strike at Springfield Elementary, Bart spreads a rumor amongst a crowd of teachers that Principal Skinner "claims that the teachers are going to crack any minute". this gets whispered amongst the strikers and, in the time-honored tradition of that child's game Telephone, the message gets changed and appended as it bounces from person to person until the penultimate teacher races up to the head striker to announce:

"Skinner says the teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher"

i hear and see this all the time on video and radio media (especially AM talk radio) where somebody says something in the news and the media commentator either hears or reads about it secondhand, gets some of the details wrong, and then proceed to get all bent out of shape about the misinformation that they think is unblemished truth and proceed to spread that inaccurate recollection to other listeners, who absorb the commentator's take on the story as fact.

current example might be the Wesley Clark comments on John McCain's presidential bid:

here's an excerpt of the comments he made:
"In the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war.

"He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn't held executive responsibility," Clark said. "That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded - that wasn't a wartime squadron."

Moderator Bob Schieffer, who raised the issue by citing similar remarks Clark has made previously, noted that Obama hadn't had those experiences nor had he ridden in a fighter plane and been shot down. "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president," Clark replied

AP article on Kansas

so basically Clark is asserting that McCain is saying he is qualified to be president based on his military service and the experiences it provided; that in itself is a debatable claim and as i'm not sufficiently versed on the candidates' platforms i won't agree or disagree with it here.

for terms of discussion here, though, in print and voice media there was an outcry of people against Clark claiming how dare he belittle McCain's service to his country, etc. the "getting shot down" comment seemed to get the most stand-alone observation and if you look at that quote without the context of the rest it does sound a bit snarky. so this ball got rolling that Clark was trash-talking a veteran, which stirs up a lot of instinctive resentment and patriotic outpouring from listeners who A) love their country and/or B) were in the military or had a friend/ loved one in the military at some point.

doesn't seem to me that trash-talking was ever intended; even in his remarks Clark made note to say he praised McCain for his service, he just didn't find it an appropriate reason (if indeed that is what McCain is using as his #1 argument for the chief executive spot) that McCain deserves to be president.

why not address whether Clark's assertion about McCain using "military service" as basis for presidency is true? or compare length and type of public service between Obama and McCain?

(Author's note: I had to struggle to overcome Steven's Banality Interia in posting these questions as a more preferable method of discussion)

gets on my nerves because this type of politic-Telephone game is quite good at derailing and preventing rational discussion that might otherwise move us forward in talks on politics, the economy, global conflicts, etc. i can only hope that the media voices committing these acts are doing so out of ignorance or laziness and not deliberate manipulation for ratings or agenda (but i'm not holding my breath)

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