January 6, 2006
Bad Faith: Media Silence and the Assault on Democracy
By Robert C. Koehler
Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)
By Mark Crispin Miller, Basic Books, 363 pp., $24.95
In early 2004, Pat Robertson divined the outcome of the presidential election, then ten months away. “I think George Bush is going to win in a walk,” he said on a broadcast of “The 700 Club.” “I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord it’s going to be like a blowout election in 2004.”
God – or at least the fervent, all-justifying, “Christian soldier” belief in God, and of course God’s opposite, evil – is the real topic of Mark Crispin Miller’s new book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). The volume is a primer for the many appalled students of the last presidential election, which was won by the incumbent not exactly “in a walk,” as Robertson predicted, but by a healthy enough margin that Bush could declare the next day, “America has spoken,” and claim, as though he needed one, a mandate. It is a meticulously researched explication of the case that there was serious fraud in that election, both blatant (myriad dirty tricks) and invisible (manipulation of electronic voting), and as such takes its place along several other recent books that examine the topic in gory detail. What Miller’s book does in addition is place election fraud – or election theft – in a psychological and religious context.
Referring to Robertson’s faith-based prediction, which he quotes at the beginning of Fooled Again, Miller comments, sardonically: “That the statement was a little crass does not make it wrong. Certainly no other worldly factor can account for that amazing win, which no human pollster could foresee, and which no mortal has been able to explain in rational terms.”
Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University and a frequent political commentator on radio and TV, makes a compelling case that virulent, anti-democratic forces fueled by religious fervor are making an all-out assault on American democracy, but to my mind the most troubling aspect of Fooled Again is his indictment of the media, democracy’s watchdog, which is letting it happen. This is the part of the story that hits home hardest for me and pushes the crisis into “oh my God” mode – the fact that the institutions that are supposed to be protecting us for the most part simply aren’t. On one hand we have what Miller calls the “Christo-fascist right,” a determined army of zealots who have nothing but contempt for secular, pluralistic, tolerant and democratic American society and feel called upon by a higher power to subvert it; on the other hand we have a meek and blandly “balanced” punditocracy that refuses to stand on principle or seriously challenge the right.