Panorama’s narrow view on Palin

Last Monday, BBC broadcast a Panorama programme, Obama and the Pitbull: An American Tale (requires Flash), about what you’d think were the two Presidential candidates (McCain himself hardly gets a mention). Watching the trailers, you would have thought that it was mostly about what they called “the Palin Effect”, but the first two thirds of it - and it was only half an hour (or less) long. Really, they barely scratched the surface, talking about how he went from college to the South Side of Chicago, allegedly aiming to be a civil rights activist “15 years too late”, and giving plenty of people time to accuse him of having no experience and of having moved from one base to another in no time at all.

The problem is that Palin’s half does not go far beneath the surface either, not that there is that far to go in her case; however, although they do interview a few ordinary Americans who say that Obama’s colour might count against him, there is no mention of the mud thrown at him on account of his Muslim background, of the thuggish behaviour of some of Palin’s fans, and the way McCain has reacted to all of this (such as his reaction to someone in the audience who called Obama an “Arab”; the reaction generally has been to state that he is not, rather than take it on as an issue of bigotry). Tariq Nelson has posted a series of examples ([1], [2], [3], [4]) of the ignorant provincials who appearently form the backbone of McCain and Palin’s body of supporters, including the persistent emphasis of Obama’s middle name and the incidents of people shouting “kill him” at Republican rallies.

However, at the end of the day, what could make the difference is not the stupid and vicious, but the smart and vicious - Republican officials and state administrations using their powers to make sure that potential Democratic voters cannot vote. Last Wednesday, the Guardian printed a report on various laws existing in mostly Republican-run states which impose stringent identification rules which tend to obstruct poorer, younger, and minority-ethnic residents from voting - and that is even before you get to the issue of whether the voting machines are honest. In an election in which the right’s candidate is someone who lacks consistent support from the right-wing media, it becomes more important to make sure that his potential opponents cannot vote.

As for Panorama, this programme is a typical example of why the 30-minute format doesn’t suit it - it does not allow time to go into the issue in any depth, only for skimming the surface of a few parts of the story with a couple of soundbites. It is not the same programme that Panorama used to be, which was a serious documentary; it has the same name only because the BBC couldn’t be seen scrapping its documentary slot. However, it’s not worthy of the name; it should have its time increased, or be renamed.

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