This election is based on a true story

Jan Haugland is astonished at the Norwegian press’s obsession with the American presidental election, and says it’s worse than the last time. I hadn’t noticed, partly because I pay little attention to the Norwegian news media, and partly, I guess, because I’ve gotten so used to their strange foreign news priorities. The abnormal now seems normal to me. My theory is that news is a form of soap opera. We invest time in its characters and their backstories, and get neverending new stories and plot twists in return. American politics is one of the best shows on air: it’s written by the smartest political consultants in the world, it’s in a language our journalists can read, and there’s a huge amount of bonus material and fan communities on the web for those who want more. And unlike actual soap operas it has that “based on a true story” appeal for those who want to pretend they’re doing something useful. American politics is important, but less for us than EU politics, (which is dull and in the wrong languages). And the truly important things, the developments that will change your life tomorrow, take place in areas like economics and technology, and in the dark corners of our social structures. You can rarely tell a riveting story about economics, so it’s not told, (correction: it’s told, but not reported). So while we obsess about Obama and McCain, the future sneaks up on us, ready to knock us over the heads with a hammer and say: Surprise!

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