Inside Baseball part.1 (inside, inside baseball)

Joan Didion’s excellent and influential essay “Inside Baseball”, collected in After Henry, added a new descriptive term/connotation to our political lexicon, that of its title.

Content wise Didion masterfully dissects the meta-before it’s time concept of “the political process” not in actuality being a process that affords:

“the citizens of a state a voice in its affairs, but the reverse: a mechanism seen as so specialized that access to it is correctly limited to its own professionals, to those who manage policy and those who report on it…to that handful of insiders who invent, year in and yearout, the narrative of public life.”

After Henry 49-50

This state of affairs has only intensified exponentially with the advent of cable news networks and the resultant “24-Hour News Cycle” (Didion wrote this in 1988).   Everyday professional pundit/interpreters are invited on TV to dissect and discuss the narrative that they and their colleagues create and perpetuate, like a virus, while we the voter/citizen get collectively smaller and smaller and positioned at an ever further remove from any sort of objective reality.   Didion basically provided the first modern description of the “Beltway Bubble”, or “The Villagers” per Sally Quinn’s now infamous piece, and how remote this specialized establishment and their specialized concerns can be from the reality of life elsewhere in the United States.

I’m writing about this today because the Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins has an extraordinarily caustic, withering  piece on the upcoming “New York Times Magazine” profile on Politico’s Mike Allen (talk about meta)!  In fact, the term “terrible inside baseball” is used and triggered my thoughts on Didion’s essay in the first place.

Linkins is a great writer and his stories are always enjoyable and worth a read, but this one is a must-read because it delineates, in bright neon lights, everything that is wrong with our political process and the media’s coverage of it.   He isolates this quote from the Times piece:

I was also struck by how freely VandeHei threw out the word “market” in connection with how newsmakers and sources interacted with Politico. “If you want to move data or shape opinion,” VandeHei wrote to me by e-mail, “you market it through Mikey and Playbook, because those tens of thousands that matter most all read it and most feed it. Or you market it through someone else at Politico, which will make damn sure its audience of insiders and compulsives read it and blog about it; and that it gets linked around and talked about on TV programs.”

This speaks exactly to what Didion observed but it’s all dressed-up in pretty corporatespeak about “marketing.”  What they are “marketing” is insipid, manufactured political gossip that pollutes language and poisons what passes for substantive debate and discourse in our ever dumbed-down society.   Information, critical to any non-delusional people’s ability to govern themselves, should never be viewed as just another commodity to “market”  and accumulate “market share” as if it were no more or less important than a pair of shoes.   This is the type of insidious journalistic malpractice and shallow disrespect for true democracy that breeds the Sarah Palins of the world.

I also love Politico honcho VandeHei’s cavelier mention of the “thousands that matter most” aka Didion’s professional class of insiders “who invent our public life.”  I considered titling this post “Here’s What They Think About You.”  How much more venal and vapid can these ‘insiders’ get?  How much less interested in REALITY and ACTUAL governance could they be?  Yet, here they are ghostwriting the script.  Feeding the narrative and getting stories that may, and often do, have no factual basis “talked about on TV programs.”

It leaves a sick feeling in my stomach.



One Response to “Inside Baseball part.1 (inside, inside baseball)”

  1. Here’s What they Think About You Part I. Bewildered Herd « Left Hook Says:

    […] observers.  The specialists who understood the understood the “common good”, much like Didion’s identification of the professional narrators and interpreters of public life, were to make the decisions about everything including the flow of […]

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