Fred Thompson is running for president. If you listen to the supposedly left-leaning mainstream media, you hear that Thompson is a good ol' boy, a down-home conservative from Tennessee who drives a pickup truck and embodies traditional (southern) American values.
What the press doesn't tell you is that this image is totally manufactured. Thompson is a high-priced attorney who's made millions as a Washington lobbyist. And when he's not busy buying off our legislators, he's out in Hollywood working as a high-paid actor.
All that down-home, pickup-driving, traditional conservative nonsense? It's just acting. The good ol' boy from Tennessee is just another role Thompson is playing; the Thompson we see (or want to see) is an amalgamation of his various movie and television roles. The reality is much different from the image.
That's fine; politicians have always tried to create optimal images for themselves. What's disconcerting is how the media buys into the image. Listen to any of the cable TV pundits, and they spout the pre-manufactured line: Thompson is a strong authority figure, he's a Washington outsider, he's a down-home good ol' boy. In reality, Thompson is the consummate Washington insider, but that's not what the media reports. They buy into the fabricated image, and perpetuate it.
I supposed it's not surprising; the media has long opted to simplify the complex, and present the story that they think will attract more viewers (or sell more newspapers). Just look at how the media helped to sell George W. Bush during the 2000 election (and beyond), as the good ol' boy from Texas instead of the privileged frat boy from Harvard. I suppose Bush as guy-next-door Texan is a more appealing story than Bush as spoiled rich kid, but it's not the real story.
Same thing with Thompson. It'd be nice to have a real, honest-to-goodness populist from Tennessee running for president. That's not what Thompson is, but it's what he pretends to be, and the press buys into it and perpetuates the myth. They're feeding us what we want to hear, as opposed to what we need to hear.
The press should do more than regurgitate campaign press releases. They should dig beneath the p.r. and unearth the facts, and then tell us what's really going on. That's the disappointing thing about this Orwellian world in which we live; it's not that the politicians are lying to us, it's that the press is falling down on the job. We expect our politicians to lies; we need the media to separate the truth from the fabrications.
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.