It’s simple enough to watch movies like Wag the Dog and wonder when political news transitioned from journalism to entertainment. I, however, have to pose the idea that news has always been as much entertainment as it is informative media. Muck raking is certainly a big factor in our current infotainment environment and has been since the 19th century.
Take New York Times blogger Melissa Lafsky’s word for it. Politics may be dirty today, but at least no one on this year’s ballot was accused of wearing women’s corsets like old Martin Van Buren. Maybe politicians are pictured across the news wearing replica Nazi uniforms, but Barry Goldwater was even the subject of a coloring book in which he donned Klan robes. While these instances may be a few of the most humorous, they are definitely not the worst of the politically charged entertainment muck harvest.
If we look to big Hollywood movies for answers, we also have to ask ourselves, honestly, whether something like Wag the Dog could really happen. It’s easy to be cynical and think that it could have already occurred right beneath our own noses, but I have my doubts. There were too many people involved in the movie’s elaborate ruse. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from our political muck-raking past It is that no one can keep their mouth shut long enough to cover up a project quite like that. There’s a lot that is hidden, but I highly doubt the models and digital graphics designers employed by the group would keep the secret for long.