Around the Horn

More

Le sigh:


Welcome to the Rand Paul Project, where Lesson No. 1 is that unconventional candidates are prone to do ... unconventional things. It's hard to tell them that, no, they shouldn't go on a liberal cable news show at a moment of maximum attention to their every word and, no, they shouldn't indulge the temptation to defend their extreme-sounding views on the sort of racial discrimination that once had African-Americans drinking out of "colored" water fountains. "He thinks he's got enough working knowledge of the system and his philosophy to hold forth on anything any time," 

Al Cross, a longtime Kentucky political journalist, said of Paul on Thursday. "But he's not ready for prime time." In some ways, it's just a freshman media mistake: Accept every interview that's offered, even if it means walking into the lion's den wrapped in red meat. But with what should be a safe Republican seat on the line, the first days of Paul's general election campaign have party pros unnerved.

I was watching Candy Crowley on CNN this morning, and the response was basically the same. The upshot seems to be that what Rand Paul said wasn't so much ignorant, as it was "politically" ignorant. The problem isn't that Paul hadn't thought much about why he believes what he believes, it's that he hadn't thought much about his venue. It's that he wasn't a "pro." It's not a mistake of content. It's a mistake of "messaging."

I don't want to lay all of this on the media--there's obviously a big market for this kind of journalism. But that said, while I expect politicians and their handlers to think in terms of messaging, I also expect--perhaps foolishly--for media to be in the business of pushing past that messaging to actual ideas. What we get instead is a faux-objectivity, that avoids the substance of issues and instead focuses on how that substance is pitched. In that sense, much like the relationship between entertainment and many entertainment journalists, it's really hard to see media as more than quasi-independent extension of campaign apparatus. 

Nothing I'm saying here is new or revelatory. But I feel kind of stupid for forgetting.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In