Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gullibility et al.

The biggest non-news of this past Saturday was Rick Santorum's sweeping, stunning, choose your hyperbole win in the Kansas caucuses.

Stunning to whom? In the first place, careful observers have noted that caucuses anywhere are the bastard, inbred offspring of a primary systems whose antecedents are equally doubtful. But this is Kansas. Second, one can call it either the buckle of the Bible Belt or a large black hole in the centre of the country. Perhaps the only surprise is that Kansans didn't reject him because he's Catholic. Probably the out-there evangelism of his Catholicism won over anyone still suspicious of the Papists.

Our naive media seem surprised at the win. It isn't a surprise that most of them don't do background any more. But surely someone would have read What's the Matter with Kansas? before they pulled out the over-the-top prose. The only surprise would have been if Santorum didn't win Kansas.

Moving elsewhere, we come to the Republican bleat of the week, asking why liberal slams against the former governor of Alaska and a sitting congressperson from Minnesota haven't generated the same outrage as Rush Limbaugh's multi-day rant against Sandra Fluke. There are several excellent reasons, but one of them comes from Journalism 101. You can say much more about public figures than you can about private citizens without crossing the line into malice and libel. Even then, it's usually helpful to have a bit of evidence before you go over the edge. Sandra Fluke meets the standard of private citizen that I was taught. That Limbaugh went on about her for three days looks malicious indeed. The other two people in play meet the standard of public figure. They both rant. They both say things that are either actionable or idiotic, and their speech is fair game. But when they are mocked for their remarks, they whine.

A couple of generations ago, when people were quicker on the legal trigger than they often are now, Limbaugh would have had much bigger trouble than the loss of sponsors. Consider that Westbrook Pegler, quite as much a ranter as Limbaugh, and just as far right, lost the largest libel action of its time by crossing the line in a very similar fashion, but with a public figure. The radio clown is very lucky.

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Blogger massmarrier said...

In my every week or two check-in with O'Reilly (penance for some forgotten sin?), I heard his on Fluke. He set up a strawman of "who is running" Susan Fluke, alleging Limbaugh was set up in devious, probably-from-the-WH plots. The Terrible Two Tag Team of Twits. Caught in stupid slander? Just lie!

11:13 am  
Blogger Uncle said...

Strawman indeed! Takes one back to the Scarecrow's signature song from "The Wizard of Oz:"

"If I only had a brain."

12:25 pm  

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