As a liberal-minded person, many of my friends find it quite odd that I often visit Matt Drudge’s ultra famous ‘news’ Web site drudge-report.com. I suppose the tendency to visit the site is still a residual habit from once believing that his Web site was simply an objective compiling of news stories meant to make our furiously busy American lives just a little bit easier. I soon realized I was wrong when I first recognized Drudge’s distinctive (and not-so-subtle) rhetorical technique.
Basically, if anyone Drudge disagrees with does or says anything that clashes with neo-conservative ideology, he’ll place an unflattering picture of them on the top of his Web site and place an over-inflated, grossly misleading caption below it. The most recent whopper was an unflattering picture of Howard Dean with the caption, “Dean goes nuts!” Anyone who follows politics or watches the news has, of course, heard about Dean’s infamous “I have a scream” speech in which he delivered a speech akin to a high school football half-time speech and belted out a rather benign “yeah” at the end.
Of course, that “yeah” quickly became “yeeaahh” and the speech is supposed to display Dean’s supposedly rabid temper and mental instability.
In fact as writer Gregg Easterbrook points out, there is no record in Dean’s past that suggests he is unstable or has a bad temper. His term as a Vermont governor was served in a quite reserved, almost excruciatingly responsible manner. The bad photo is one of the dirty tricks of the editorial room (hey, just look at my photo!), and because I suspect the press has turned against Dean, don’t be surprised in the coming weeks if we see lots of photos of John Edwards or John Kerry looking debonair and classy while we get plenty of pictures of Dean looking as though he is in the middle of a tree-trunk lift in the World’s Strongest Man Competition.
Moreover, even if Dean has a temper problem, such a quality does not necessarily equal bad performance. One person with a legendary temper is, of course, Bobby Knight, who also happens to be one of the most winningest and effective coaches in NCAA history. For the most part, I would argue that Knight’s temper has not affected his leadership abilities, excluding a few notable, creepy outbursts. Knight is just one example among countless men and women who tend to ‘go nuts’ occasionally and still manage to be quite successful.
I admit the I would not want Bobby Knight in charge of the world’s largest stash of nuclear weapons, but Dean has done nothing that would even remotely hint at a lack of critical decision making skills. He is even a successful doctor for goodness sake!
So, please, like or dislike Dean based on his policy ideas, not because of the clever usage of a bad photo and an unethically dishonest and misleading caption, or even because he might, might, have a temper problem.
Kip Brown is a senior religion major from Enid, Okla.