Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Complicity of the Media

Last year had a forum. We invited some nationally-known speakers, experts in medicine and education, and had some people talk about their personal experiences. People in the audience stood up and spoke, and it was really an enlightening day. There were about a hundred people there, and we all learned a lot.

All three of the major local papers -- the Post, the Times, and the Gazette -- did the exact same thing in covering our forum. They called Michelle Turner, President of the radical group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. Ms. Turner was in St. Louis, meeting with a big rightwing fringe group (Eagle Forum), and had not attended our event at all. She had no idea who had spoken or what they had said. But all the papers quoted her comments on our forum.

All of the papers felt powerless to report on what actually happened -- it never crossed their minds to just report the news. Just as a matter of routine, they had to get the extremists' interpretation, even though the extremists hadn't even been there.

Media Matters had an important article this weekend about this widespread phenomenon. I'll quote some, you should click the link and read the rest of it:
The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.

The defining issue of our time is the media.

The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.

The dominant political force of our time is the media.

Time after time, the news media have covered progressives and conservatives in wildly different ways -- and, time after time, they do so to the benefit of conservatives. "Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser

It has been so strange to watch history unfold in the corporate media. You see insane ideas treated on the news shows as if they were serious. You see lies treated as if they were opinions. You see incompetence and corruption covered up.
Even many members of the media have stopped contesting this painfully obvious point, instead offering dubious justifications. Bill Clinton's "scandals" made for better stories than George Bush's, we are told, because they were simpler and easier for readers and viewers to understand. "Sex sells," while George Bush's false claims about Iraq are much harder to explain.

This excuse is simply nonsense.

First, what's so hard to understand about this? George Bush and his administration systematically distorted available intelligence to lead the nation to war on false pretenses. His administration has been marked by corruption, incompetence, lies, secrecy, and flagrant disregard for bedrock constitutional principles. None of that can be too complicated: Polls suggest that the majority of Americans believe all of those things.

Second, even if it were true that Clinton's "scandals" were easier for consumers of news to understand, the ease of explaining an affair would, if we had a serious and functional news media, be more than offset by the far greater importance of Bush's misdeeds.

Finally, this is such a grotesque distortion of the media's treatment of Clinton that it is difficult to explain by anything other than outright dishonesty. Reporters who offer the excuse that they and their colleagues covered Clinton "scandals" so much because sex sells, and is easily explained and understood, are cherry-picking. They are ignoring the obsessive coverage they gave to Clinton "scandals" that had nothing to do with sex, and that were not widely understood.

They are ignoring, for example, years of coverage of Whitewater, an obscure land deal in which the Clintons lost money and that was investigated by multiple independent counsels, congressional committees, federal agencies, and every news organization in the country -- none of which found any wrongdoing by the Clintons. Whitewater had nothing to do with sex, and nobody understood it -- probably because there was nothing to understand. And that's not even going into Travelgate, Filegate, Vince Foster's suicide, or the myriad other "scandals" the media covered that did not involve sex.

The article goes into some incidents that have been covered up by the news media. You remember Whitewater -- nobody indicted, years of investigations, constant coverage. How much do you know about Bush's insider-trading scandal, where he dumped millions of shares of Harken stock on the basis of information that he had from inside the company? Not mentioned in the press, you never heard about it. Covered up.

One of the best things about Stephen Colbert's amazing performance at the White House correspondents' dinner last month was the way he shined a bright light on the media's complicity in the Bush administration's corrupt agenda. What? You haven't seen it? CLICK HERE. And watch till the end, it's just great. You may have read in the newspapers that he "wasn't funny," the he "didn't go over." Yeah, that's because the room was full of people whose self-serving career choices will go down in history alongside Nero's fiddling, and they were the butt of his jokes. Colbert was in their face, saying what we all know, that they are accomplices in the disaster that the Bush years have become.

He's right, and Media Matters is right. The real story of our time is the media.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the press ignores the Bush administration's faulty intelligence on Iraq. I wonder why I've heard so much about it in the press then? Actually, the Clinton administration took several military actions on the basis of the same "faulty" information. I guess Rumsfeld and Bush were controlling the CIA then too, right?

Truth is, the media has a liberal, Democratic bias. Ever notice when a conservative lawyer gives his opinion on a TV news show, he's a "right-wing" spokesman but when a liberal lawyer does, he's a "legal scholar"? Read former CBS newsman, Bernhard Goldberg's book on this topic.


May 30, 2006 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush's intelligence wasn't faulty, it was fabricated. In the lead up to the Iraq war, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

What was the policy? "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.",,2087-1593607,00.html

May 31, 2006 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Steven Colbert, April 29, 2006, White House Correspondents Dinner

May 31, 2006 4:44 PM  

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