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April 27, 2003
What Liberal Media? (Alterman) (4)

What Liberal Media?

Picking up where we left off, which was in the middle of me rambling aimlessly about this excellent book.

The next bit I wanted to talk about what Alterman's coverage of economic bias in the media. If there is, as he suggested and I agreed, a distinct liberal social bias in the media, then there's also an opposing conservative economic bias.

Might was well call it "conservative corporate interest bias" and be done with it. It exists, and the tenderness shown toward corporate well-being by the national press unquestionably dose huge damage to this country by disguising from people the real consequences and effects of things like NAFTA. It's all well and good for the politicians to trumpet about the jobs to be created by NAFTA, but the press should have pointed out that the bulk of those jobs would be 'created' by moving jobs from the USofA to other, less-developed and consequently less-expensive labor markets.

The report of the way the dot-com boom and the accompanying stock market boom were promoted and "sold" to the public by men making money off the very stocks they were praising should be grounds for a criminal investigation, but whatever.

I left that chapter with a bad taste in my mouth and, if possible, less respect for the media even that I had before.

And then, of course, there were the Clinton years. Worthy of investigation not only because it was all so recent, but because of the mindless blood-lust shown by the press for eight solid years.

Alterman's report of how reporters essentially banded together to assault the white House during those years is astounding. A fascinating report on how "lead" after "rumor" was thrown on the front page of the daily papers, only to be dropped or buried when it proved to go nowhere and on how certain reporters went on a crusade to bring Clinton down and, by dint of relentlessly hammering home what a crook he was, nearly managed to do so even though, aside from a couple of sexual shenanigans, there was never any proof, or even solid circumstantial evidence, of wrongdoing.

(The more different "angles" I read on this subject, the less I understand what the media thought it was doing if I don't ascribe "conservative bias" to their behavior. Because if they were so offended by their belief that wrongdoing existed to be uncovered, they'd be hiding in Bush's shrubbery hehe right now, copying down the reams and reams of distortions, lies, and half-truths this Administration is tossing out each and every day. The difference in the media's treatment of Clinton and Bush, even before 9/11 is so notable that only an overarching conservative bias can explain it.)

This chapter alone proves the entire premise of the book.

(Reading this chapter, I also found myself wondering if those reporters really were driven by a kind of "hatred' or by sheer, blind, lust for sex-and-scandal-fueled ratings? Either way, the majority of the public's indifference to the relentless media hysteria must have driven those same journalists nuts.)

The most telling passage in the book might be this one:

Such blatant manipulation is viewed with a kind of cynical appreciation by the cogs in the media who conspire to pass it along. Everyone understands "how the game is played" and so nobody gets too upset when the rules are bent to deceive voters.
Consider that a moment.

Is there any occasion, really, when reporters "playing the game" should aid and abet candidates in broadcasting lies to the public? I'm thinking, not.

The passage is in direct reference to this:

During Robert Dole's 1996 convention speech, network camera operators could not find any actual black people to portray as delegates who were really delegates. So as a favor to Dole and the Republicans, they focused on their own employees."
Read it well. This little "favor" has consequences, because the Republican Party's reputation for what little "diversity" it possesses is based upon incidents like this.

Alterman's point is that it doesn't matter if a candidate is photographed in a staged scene with a group of black and brown children who had to be bussed in for the moment, because it doesn't matter if children like a candidate or not, but I think it does matter.

If a candidate isn't campaigning where the black and brown children live, if no parents of black or brown children show up at his rally and bring their children, I think the public is entitled to know that, okay?

In any case, it's just plain dishonest.

Everyone understands "how the game is played" and so nobody gets too upset when the rules are bent to deceive voters
Considered dispassionately, that sentence tells you much you need to know, not only about what's wrong with politics in this country today, but about the pathetic state of the media.

Anyhow. Ahem.

Moving along....

I don't know if journalists "relate to" Democrats better or not, but on page 158, Alterman finally took a sideswipe at the thing I believe most strongly colors the media-Democrat relationship. Even the media willing to fairly cover Democrats expects more from Democratic candidates and it holds them to higher standards.

(Did I discuss this before? Oh well. Even if I did, it bears repeating.)

Behavior that wouldn't twitch a journalistic eyebrow in a conservative candidate produces full-throated screams of outrage in a Democrat. Clinton was accused of having extra-marital sex. Even before he lied about it, before he was suspected of doing it in the White House, the press was just furious with him. Why aren't we hearing even a tenth of the same outrage over one of Clinton's accusers pleading guilty to child pornography? If the press is so moral and upright, why does sex, albeit extra-marital, between two consenting adults outrage them more than kiddie porn and statutory rape?

(And why did the court give this man two years' probation instead of a prison sentence?)

Anyhow. Maybe, by saying the above about journalists "relating" to Democrats, Alterman is suggesting something along the lines of, "you always hurt the ones you love," I don't know.

We were making war on Iraq as I read this book.

Against the backdrop of the BBC discussing the reporters who were dead or missing during the opening days of the war, I read that Bush got kid glove treatment from the media, including a discreet silence on the subject of his appalling record in Texas because they were childishly amused by the nicknames he bestowed upon them. Reporters were amused and as I read about it, other reporters were dying.

Against the backdrop of Fort Blix announcing that they knew nothing and could say nothing about a dozen or more missing soldiers, I read that reporters accepted that Bush did, "not take this politics stuff too seriously" but they didn't think that was very important, and I'm ashamed.


All of my quibbles aside, it's compelling and convincing reading. There's tons of good stuff in there. Better yet, read it the way I did.

Read Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose) first.

It was published in 2000, before the election, so you'll get a good feel for who Bush was when he decided to run for the Presidency. Background on his policies in Texas, on how he did business, etc.

Then read this book, paying close attention not only to the overall conservative bias in the media, but how it acted in Bush's favor during the election.

You'll see how a man manifestly unfit to hold a high office was placed there, not only by political influence, but by actual conniving on the part of people who knew he didn't belong there but who thought he was "nicer" than the other guy.

You'll get a sense of how thousands of people have died in the past month because of overt and unashamed unprofessionalism in the media.

Cause and effect.

It would be harder to find a clearer or more compelling illustration of the pitfalls of a shackled, partisan, and corporate-controlled press.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

I miss Walter Cronkite.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:51 PM