story by noah hussin
The scent of sterility eats at my nostrils as I saunter into the white trailer with "Royal Restrooms" streaked across the side, a posh private porto-potty where the press unloads their shit and piss during Joe Biden's big show. Factory stamped drawings of seashells cling to the walls above the bleached toilet, framed by the cheapest materials from the poorest countries. Wash my hands, step outside, my notepad collects rain as photographers cover their cameras with subway sandwich bags and compare gear, jobs, and associates. Suddenly I'm not hungry anymore. Just as well, the gates of the press grazing field are heavily guarded by seasoned Obama troopers, fully aware of the hazards that an escapee would present.
"I'm going out, I can't get anything good here." Tim boldly approaches the boundary, only to be quickly stopped by anxious urgency wearing an Obama logo.
"The press has to stay in here! If you leave, you can't come back." Like trying to reason with a sign.
"Fine!" the impatient renegade sheds his prObamaganda-laden press pass and jumps into the fray, deprived of the plastic cocaine that keeps the rest inside. Elevated views, bottled water, networking opportunities, that sense of entitlement that comes along with having a little piece of paper with the word "press" pinned to your shirt. That oh-so-perfect shot of a former army general as he leads the lawn in the pledge to the red white and blue, the massive "Change" sign filling out the background.
Point. Click. Shoot. Upload. Cash you paycheck and get on with your life.
The real story's in here, I ponder as disgusted Tim hops the barrier in search of some authenticity.
I make my way back to the flock, now comfortably posed on an elevated platform directly across from the podium. Painted behind are bleachers filled with supporters hand-picked by the campaign. Proportioned black and white and young and old and man and woman and no transvestites. No protesters. No dissent. Just enthusiastic, smiling Obamaphiles projecting the optimism and hope that's been so neatly packaged by the Obama brand.
The segregated sea of 300 or so between the press and the politicians is nothing accidental; only the so-called V.I.P populate the zone buffering the press from the rest. The very important, naturally, are the people who work for the campaign. They can bring their family and friends, and together provide a surging floor of passion for the spectacle. Propaganda is less suspicious when it's sold through the press. People buy more press when it sells propaganda. Each pretends they're not dependent, but such is love.
Sharing a fence with only the buffer zone, a TV network crew eagerly hops onto interviewing a couple of archetypes. Jolly southern black man with grey hair and 1950s getup. Overweight concerned middle-aged white mom in a T-shirt. The crew didn't even have to look for them and it turns out they both love Obama! Damn, our job just keeps getting easier.
Ask fluff questions. Nod Head. Transmit Video. Go home and watch sitcoms with the kids.
Like a studious school of catfish, the flock points their instruments at whatever nip is given to them, oblivious to the orchestrating hand of the giver, filling in the outline sketched by the campaign from the beginning and SHHHHH the event is starting.
Preceded by an adoring senator and his loving wife Jill, Joe takes the stage under a Florida Gators hat and enthusiastically hammers his finger toward a ghost friend in the crowd, the sun shining into the cameras off his blinding bleached smile, radiating the kind of confidence and familiarity that buys victory.
"I'm a proud University of Delaware alum. We won the national championship in our division a couple of years ago, but I tell ya what, I watched y'all Saturday." He pauses to let out an intimidated chuckle, and while signing the cross confesses, "Thank God we don't play The Gators!" The crowd explodes into applause and gator chomping.
The teleprompters had been painstakingly positioned to create the illusion of crowd interaction, and as the Senator continues to read them, an Obama soldier pushes past me. A puzzle piece is missing! Passing out tiny plastic American flags to the crowd to compliment their Obama signs, it looks like everything is in place and the advertisement will go off without a hitch, the only ones able to rescue us with the first amendment mesmerized by sellable sound bytes and consumed by convenience.
Apparently, the press still plays by the politicians' rules even when they're unmasked. In a typical spurt of volatile Bidenesque honesty, he blurts out, "I want the press to know, McCain has 'drill baby drill', but I have 'Jill baby Jill'!"
Scribble down. Type up. Email. Brew some coffee and work on that novel.
After the speech comes to a resounding end with smitten supporters gawking into cameras, Joe and Jill start shaking hands with the painting behind them, cameras scurrying over to get as close to the catnip as possible.
The arena drains out and as I approach the barrier, I'm accosted with the same old ultimatum. Yes, I know I am leaving the press area. I'm aware I can't come back. No, I don't care. Yes, I will have a good day. Finally out of the pen, I struggle against a tide of blue O's to find Tim.
Looks like the flock has mostly gone to relay the message. No time for reflection and criticism in the 24-minute news cycle. And it's just as well, I'm sure there's a softball game somewhere that needs covering.
The spectacle was a complete success. The Obama campaign secured a free front-page color advertisement in tomorrow's papers, a propaganda spot in the evening news, and all in the name of objective journalism. These guys are good. No wonder they're winning.