by Joan Didion
The author blurb at the end of this short summarizes my feelings nicely: "a disturbing portrait of the American political landscape, providing essential reading on our democracy".
Because yes, this was quite a disturbing read. Even though you know as an American voter that the "story lines" and editorials are all fake in their own way, it's quite another thing to have it shoved in your face the way Didion does here. She is/was a political reporter, and this short centers around her experiences and observations during the Dukasis/Jackson DNC nomination race of 1988. She speaks about "the process", how contrived it is and yet how everyone buys into it completely, from the media creating the stories to the staffers feeding them.
There is one story she tells about a stop on the Dukasis campaign trail where he throws a baseball with a staffer on a tarmac. This was a completely set-up press shot (actually reenacted since there wasn't enough coverage the first time they did it), and yet the stories that were written about it made the whole thing look organic; this was a man of the people just tossing a ball to relax. This story in particular made me really think about how we are forced to believe a lot of the news that is presented to us simply because it's the only story we are going to get. Where is the story in the Times or the Herald that refutes what that moment was about? No where. So what are we forced to believe, at least just a little?
Such a thought provoking piece, though in a bit of a aggravating way. Didion manages to make you righteously angry about the whole... well, process.
This is a short from her larger book Political Fictions which I now have every intention of reading, though I have a feeling it will be one of those books that takes me a very long time and many bit-sized sessions to finish.
Copy courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group/Vintage, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.