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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes*

By Amanda Marcotte
Sunday, September 14, 2008 19:00 EDT
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Apologies for the sexism of the term “cunts”. Really, the British need to hop to using a more gender-neutral word for the concept. Americans have a leg up in this department with the word “assholes”, which doesn’t, unfortunately, fit in the meter of this song.

The fact that the McCain campaign has resorted to a level of pants-on-fire lying, both about himself and especially about his opponent, has left me in the sort of funk that can only be treated by escapism. I like Ezra’s analysis of how it’s gotten so bad, but honestly, I think his analysis explains more how low the media has gotten that they won’t call a lie a lie, proving how much they’ve sold out to the McCain campaign. That’s unbelievable amounts of cynicism in the mainstream media.

Am I more freaked out than when George Bush pants-on-fired lied to the public about Iraq, 9/11 and WMDs? Well, that was five years ago, so it’s hard to say. It sure felt different then. I remember feeling very Cassandra-like, because I was absolutely positive that the Bush administration were lying straight up to get a war they’d planned before, but also that people I expressed this feeling to largely scoffed. It seemed impossible that the administration would pants-on-fire lie, probably especially in light of the trust extended after the events of 9/11. So while I was unbelievably frustrated to be treated like a bit loony, like a conspiracy theorist because I was so damn sure that they were lying, I think it was mildly comforting that most people bought the lie, because that meant that the mainstream media was at fault for being lazy and overly trusting, not that they were conspiring with the Bush administration to get us into war.

They can’t hide behind naivete any longer. It’s obvious to anyone who knows anything about politics at all that McCain has resorted to blatant lying in order to win this election. Not bending or stretching the truth, or telling stinky lies by justifying them with some sort of technical truth claims (classic example: “I did not have sex with that woman”), refusing to tell the whole story or lying through using empty phrases that you don’t really care to live up to, like Bush did with “compassionate conservatism”. These sorts of lies are sadly standard in politics. No, McCain has crossed into a new territory of wild lying, just making shit up.

Since July, John McCain and his campaign have made 11 political claims that are barely true, eight that are categorically false, and three that you’d have to call pants-on-fire lies—a total of 22 clearly deceptive statements (many of them made repeatedly in ads and stump speeches). Barack Obama and Joe Biden, meanwhile, have put out eight bare truths, four untruths, and zero pants-on-fire lies—12 false claims.

Just like during the WMDs fiasco, my heart keeps yearning for someone to swoop in and correct the record, to shine the light of truth and make the lies shrivel up and die. So much depends on this. But that’s not going to happen. I mean, you have Rachel Maddow on TV, and that’s a big help, because she’s willing to use the toxic but accurate word “liar”. And the women on “The View” apparently let the truth about lying be spoken out loud. But so far, we’re seeing a taboo forming around calling John McCain what he is—a big, fat, motherfucking liar.

I’m confident in the Obama campaign, but even if they run the perfect campaign, they are handicapped by the media. They’ve made a couple mistakes, but on the whole, it’s a tightly run, confident campaign. And of course, they can’t turn around and lie right back. They simply won’t be extended that privilege of being able to bald-faced lie without getting called on it, because they’re Democrats and probably because Obama is black. The media would turn back on their referee duties if Obama started lying, so even if he wanted to (and that is not something I believe), he couldn’t return this fire. The high road is the only option, and let’s hope the voters reward that.

But what we’ve learned this campaign is that the mainstream media has completely abandoned even the pretense of ethical journalism. Even during the run-up to the Iraq war, they could plead ignorance and terror of terrorism. Now, there’s no reason to coddle the liars, outside of complicity with the project to dismantle our democracy.

*I just finished finally reading “The Watchmen” last night, after being told that I had to by everyone ever. The ending is great, if depressing. So much for my commitment to escapism, huh? Anyway, thus the quote.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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