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Danny Schechter
Danny Schechter
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel1.org. He is the author of The Crime of Our Time.
The futility of politics as a blame game
The goal of the blame game is not to enlighten, but to weaken the opposition by pushing it on to the defensive.
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2012 05:57
The blame game takes on a new momentum with McCain calling Obama's foreign policy "feckless" [Al Jazeera]

Picture a line-up of political leaders. All have their arms outstretched pointing to the man to their left. 

They are all playing a blame game, accusing their opponents and adversaries of responsibility for some event, statement or incident that they refuse to be held responsible for in a contest or right versus wrong. 

Blame gaming has become a ritual with candidates advised by political advisers and consultants on how to shift accountability or accuse another for actions they clearly had nothing to do with. 

With politics often another term for opportunism, it’s often a question of how to quickly jump into a situation or “breaking news” that can be reframed to your advantage. 

Witness Mitt Romney's trigger-quick reaction to Barack Obama’s first statement on the killings of US Ambassador in Libya. 

Commentator Mark Karlin wrote: "What's important to remember here, beyond Romney's flame throwing opportunism, is that the statement Romney claims Obama apologised about - which he didn't  - occurred before news of the killings were received by the White House." 

Media focus on blame game

Facts are ever fungible in our perception-driven world. Even as Obama was being critical of statements by his own diplomats, Romney was blaming him for what they said.

"It's disgraceful," Romney's Tuesday night campaign statement charged, "that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathise with those who waged the attacks."

Obama fired back accusing his political adversary for being knee-jerk and wrong even as some in the Romney camp were also critical of their candidate’s shooting from the mouth without checking his facts. 

The actual statement Obama was blamed for was about that so-called "movie" denouncing Islam, not the killings that followed. 

 

 Petrol blame game in US election

Karlin alludes to a context that most of the press glossed over: "saying... the right-wing 'war against Islam' contingent started fanning the flames to 'commemorate' September 11. Although no one can say for certain, it does appear curiously timed for an election day flare-up, just as the Reagan campaign used the Iranian hostage crisis (almost certainly negotiating with the revolutionaries there, through William Casey representing the Reagan campaign, to delay release of the hostages until after the 1980 presidential election.)"

Neither protagonist in this "great non-debate" spoke to why the Middle East is as volatile as it is and what role the all parties in the US have played over the years - in supporting the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, undermining and helping to overthrow the Libyan government with support from al-Qaeda terrorists, or support a deeply unpopular government in Yemen. 

It doesn't take much for a spark - any spark - to ignite or inflame the population in any of these countries.

Rather than explore these deeper dynamics, most of our media has kept, the focus on the blame game and the personalities contesting for the presidency.

Obama's 'feckless' foreign policy 

The simplification of the real issues takes place even as media outlets denounce a simplistic propaganda film which many then shroud in the mantle of "free speech", not hate speech, even as we still don't know with certainty who made it and funded it and who they are tied to.

But never mind, Romney's remarks must have played well with his base -that's who both parties mostly target - and so, now, the whole Republican party plans to join in the shooting match. 

The Hill reports: "Republicans have pivoted to a broad critique of President Obama's leadership and foreign policy as violence in the Middle East threatens to escalate in the aftermath of the brutal killing of American personnel in Libya. 

"Republicans, who had appeared divided in the initial aftermath of the Libya attack, rallied around their standard-bearer Thursday, arguing the crisis in the Mideast is a reflection of Obama's failure to project American strength abroad." 

And so, the blame game takes on a new momentum with Senator John McCain calling Obama's foreign policy "feckless", a term few voters will even understand. 

Obama will no doubt respond with charges that his opponents are putting American diplomats abroad at risk. 

Presidential races conceal more than they reveal. They suck up the oxygen in every newsroom and drive nuanced coverage of world issues out of sight and out of mind. Slogans substitute for analysis with the aim of reinforcing hostility.

The goal of the game is not to enlighten or educate, but to weaken the opposition by pushing it on to the defensive. To frequently heard charges that Obama is really a Muslim terrorist, Kenyan Communist, or un or none American, we can add the notion of his being "feckless", whatever that means.

What it all means is that the politics of personal destruction is back in play, hoping to put a new notch in its belt or mass distraction.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net. His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothon (Cosimo Books). He also hosts a programme on Progressive Radio Network.

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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Al Jazeera
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