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by Joe Murphy

News and views from inside the media bubble

SOUND AND FURY

The intertubes were sent into a tizzy this week thanks to the caught-on-tape confrontations of two North Carolina politicos. Here in Greensboro prominent Republican Nathan Tabor caught a solid left jab at a Tea Party rally (see story, page 9) and in Washington North Carolina 2 nd District Rep. Bob Etheridge grappled with “students” practicing the fine art of ambush journalism. Etheridge’s reaction was certainly irrational and intrusive upon the fellows with cameras, but they never answered Etheridge’s initial question: “Who are you?” They claimed they were students but they never named a school and even if they were, I know that students of journalism are trained not to ask such vague and misleading questions as “Do you support the Obama administration’s agenda?” If they were students, wouldn’t the clips making the rounds online have originated from a school newspaper’s website and not Andrew Breitbart’s right-leaning Big Government blog? Wouldn’t the students who broke such a large national story come forward and bask in the recognition and attention that such an incident would draw? As of press time, the identity and affiliations of the men Etheridge tried to noogie are unknown.

Etheridge has since apologized to “all involved,” despite the fact that he still doesn’t know who they are. Regardless of the “students” identities, Etheridge’s handling of the situation was contemptible. He looked like a drunken celebrity accosting paparazzi outside a club and, in my book, the less that our elected officials have in common with Val Kilmer the better. But Etheridge is the latest victim in the new trend of gotcha journalism and political paparazzi. Its practitioners are called trackers. Trackers, used by both Republicans and Democrats alike, follow an elected official from place to place and when the opportunity presents itself, they shove cameras in said officials’ faces and berate them with questions. Suddenly Etheridge’s 2nd District re-election campaign race — a seat he has held for more than 12 years — in November looks wide open now that he is the Congressional bully on the nation’s computer screens.

Both the Tabor and Etheridge incidents are indicative of the diminished level of intelligent and thoughtful political discourse as a whole. Berating public officials in public or in town hall meetings has become commonplace and it reflects very poorly on the state of our political landscape. Neither story brings light to a cause that’s been over-looked or an aspect of tricky legislation. Instead of reasoned discussion, we have schoolyard scrums caught on tape for the amusement or disgust of the nation. The Tabor and Etheridge incidents, in sum, are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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