Election Coverage of Election Coverage

Tom Engelhardt muses (TomDispatch, 11/5/08) on 2008 U.S. presidential election coverage as “a tsunami of entertainment, or was it distraction?”:

An eternal election campaign. Two years of the most everything–the most money… the most ads… the most places (Internet, email, YouTube, Facebook, bloggers, text messaging, cell phones), the most jokes, the most appearances by candidates on late-night talk shows or TV satirical programs involving themselves, and, of course, the most talking (or babbling) heads and media pundits, always predicting, assessing, sizing-up, telling us what the candidates “must” do, and do, and do, 24/7. Whole programs, whole cable stations, whole news cycles, whole websites devoted to nothing but the constant discussion of… well, what? More spinners, bloviators, and pundits than previously existed on the face of the Earth….

So let me just ask again: ….what were all those talking heads on MSNBC and CNN and Fox doing? What were those bizarre feedback loops and YouTube videos of “events” you’ve already long forgotten? What were the gazillion ads and the gazillion discussions of them, and really, what were all those polls, hundreds and hundreds of polls, more polls than humanity has probably ever seen? What were they all about?

Engelhardt’s troubling answer: “It wasn’t primarily for or about us. It was for and about them. It was, above all, an event for, and geared to, the media itself, which fed it, stoked it, and lived off it.”