Wednesday, January 04, 2012

But They Didn't Know the Territory!

We've just seen (thankfully) the end of another spectacle of pointless media wretched excess in Iowa -- where estimates were that up to 2,000 out-of-area media roamed the state for that exercise in irrelevance called the Iowa caucuses.

But, to paraphrase the opening number in "The Music Man," Meredith Willson's wonderful musical set in early 1900s Iowa, they didn't know the territory.

Now that the "voting" is over we get a little insight, like this story in Slate today saying, essentially, that the fix had long been in, that Romney operatives had long ago identified a core of known supporters in numbers sufficient enough to prevail, and assiduously worked that specific group to ensure enough votes to prevail, no matter what else happened.

The result was a predictable triumph for religious sanctimony. A former Mormon bishop and Wall Street pirate, Williard Mitt ("Landslide") Romney, won an 8-vote victory over the inexplicable Rick Santorum, candidate of the hard-core Christian religious fanatics, while various other strange characters, from Angry Macy's Parade Balloon Newt Gingrich, to Michelle (Deinstututionalization of the Asylums Was Always a Mistake) Bachmann, trailed behind.

Oh, and that funny-eyes fellow Perry also ran, proving once again that the late, great Molly Ivins was prescient when she said, contemplating the candidacy of George Bush many years ago, "How much more proof do we need that people from Texas should never be elected president?"

Not to mention Ron Paul, the squeaky-voiced old coot who thinks it would be a good idea to allow us all to carry guns on airplanes.

Anyway, my point here is that there were 1,500 or 2,000 reporters roaming the landscape, regurgitating the same tired nonsense day after day (and night after night on TV, where I finally gave up in horror when I saw that the execrable Al Sharpton was being taken seriously as a political commentator on MSBNC).

How much did all that folly cost? Yes, I know that newspapers and TV stations in Iowa cleaned up big time, what with the bombardments of political ads, but really: How much of the total news budget of any given media organization was consumed by this ridiculousness?

Our national media landscape is crowded with newspapers and TV outlets that wouldn't spend the money to send a reporter to the next county to cover the Second Coming. Even the big national media have been cutting back on covering the news.

Yet here they all were for weeks at a time in ... Iowa. When they could have been covering actual news of real importance to the commonweal.

By the way, I've always thought that Meredith Willson got Iowa just about right in "The Music Man," which for my money is one of the two great really American musicals, the other being "Oklahoma."

It isn't generally appreciated by those who think "The Music Man" was a corny paean to pastoral virtue, but that show actually has a pretty sharp edge with its evocation of small-town pettiness and ignorance.

"Pick-a-little, talk-a-little"... "Trouble, trouble,
trouble, trouble, trouble" are among the lyrical phrases that still resonate. "You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself," is another.

My only quibble with the show is that it never conceded dramatically that Marian the Librarian, scorned by the town biddies for having Balzac on the shelves and for other unspecified reasons, is obviously actually the mother, rather than the big sister, of little Winthrop.

The father, is was utterly obvious to me, was "Old Miser Madison," the dead local tycoon who founded the River City library, left the library to the town but bequeathed all the books, including the Balzacs and all those "highfalutin' Greeks," to the beauteous, prim but secretly lusty Marian ("The Librarian") Paroo. Ahem.

To understand that about Iowa, ya had to know the territory.


1 comment:

sgnissim said...

Love this post! Was in the Music Man once upon a time (got to sing "Pick a little talk a little")...always wondered about Marion. And I always sing the song in my head with all the Iowa town names whenever I hear the media pretending they know anything about Ames, Keokuk, etc.