How can our nation’s leaders possibly be so incompetent?
At the end of the primary season, Governor Romney’s infamous “WaWa” gaffe in Pennsylvania elicited chuckles from MSNBC viewers and Youtubers across the country. Romney’s revelations about the convenience store showed how out-of-touch he was with ordinary Americans and was another example of his unpolished public speaking skills.
Fast forward to a September rally in Ohio. As the crowd chants “Ryan, Ryan” the presidential candidate awkwardly requests they change to “Romney-Ryan.” MSNBC aired the clip on “Morning Joe” and Mr. Scarborough could hardly contain himself on set.
There was only one problem — the video was doctored, or someone was trying too hard for a good soundbite. The network inserted a “Ryan” caption, when in the reality the crowd chanted Romney’s name instead. It’s a subtle change, but one that becomes amazingly apparent with context. In reality, Romney was simply being polite to his vice presidential candidate rather than embarrassingly self-centered.
What’s more, the WaWa gaffe wasn’t all that embarrassing either. Viewed in full, it speaks to Romney’s general competency and his advocacy for the private sector.
The idea of networks such as FOX or MSNBC stretching the truth or airing controversial soundbites without context is nothing new (just type a network name + “lies” in the Youtube search bar), but it’s disappointing. It is not simply the moral implications of a network’s decision that are tragic but rather the idea that we share these brief, comic moments with friends only to retract them in embarrassment or, worse, to be refuted on the spot.
When a network lies through fake “real-life” comedy, its viewers take the fall through social humiliation. It’s another lesson not to believe everything one sees online, and an unfortunate reminder of the media’s desperation to find someone to mock or isolate.
In this case, maybe it’s better to laugh at the videos that are clearly taken out of context, such as Governor Romney’s playful (telling?) comments during a 2005 rel="nofollow">St. Patrick’s Day comedy breakfast. But when the media desperately attempts to disparage a candidate as a human being rather than his or her platform, the audience may end up being belittled instead.