Sunday, July 22, 2007

Petty Partisanship and the MSM

This is an important Media Matters editorial, and you should read the whole thing, but since it's written "top down," I'll quote the top.

Media Matters - "Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser Annotated

America's political reporters don't like John Edwards, and have tried to destroy him.

But don't take my word for it.

Marc Ambinder was one of the founders of ABC's The Note and is a contributing editor to the National Journal's Hotline newsletter. The Note and the Hotline consist largely of links to and excerpts of political news and commentary by other reporters with ample doses of snark and Rove-worship thrown in. Whatever they may lack in insight and judgment, The Note and the Hotline are at the center of the D.C. political media establishment.

Ambinder, in other words, is a political reporter whose job has largely been to understand the political media.

\This week, Marc Ambinder explained why the media has covered John Edwards' grooming regimen so much and Mitt Romney's so little:
There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards.

Fairly or unfairly, there's also a difference in narrative timing: when the first quarter ended, the press was trying to bury Edwards. It's not so much interested in burying Romney right now -- many reporters think he's the Republican frontrunner.

Now, if reporters dislike a candidate, that's their business. But when they wage a relentless and petty campaign to "bury" that candidate, that's our business. All of us.

And we've been through this before.

The 2000 election was close enough that any number of things can fairly be described as having made the difference. But what Bob Somerby describes as the media's "War Against Gore" was undoubtedly one of the biggest factors in Bush's "victory." The contempt many political reporters felt for Gore is clear, as is the inaccurate, unfair, and grossly distorted coverage of Gore that decided the campaign. And, again, you needn't take my word for it: Bob Somerby, Eric Alterman, Eric Boehlert, and others have chronicled the acknowledgements by working journalists of their colleagues' hate for Gore. Jake Tapper described reporters "hissing" -- actually hissing -- Gore. Time's Eric Pooley described an incident in which a roomful of reporters "erupted in a collective jeer" of Gore "like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd."

And Joe Scarborough -- conservative television host Joe Scarborough; former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough -- has said that during the 2000 election, the media "were fairly brutal to Al Gore. ... [I]f they had done that to a Republican candidate, I'd be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased."

Somerby has long argued that one of the reasons the media's hatred for Gore was able to define the 2000 campaign so completely is that too few people talked about it -- and demanded that it stop -- at the time. Indeed, as he writes today, too many of those who should be combating these nonsensical but damaging storylines repeat them instead:
But then, inside Washington, establishment liberals and Democrats often seem congenitally unable to understand the shape of the past fifteen years. Haircuts -- and earth tones -- have destroyed the known world! But so what? Dems and libs keep reciting these trivia! We keep inviting the public to draw conclusions from these idiot tales.
One recent example occurred during Wednesday's Lou Dobbs Tonight, when Air America Radio host Laura Flanders said that Barack Obama has "kind of become the female on this race. ... He's seen as the weaker -- cute, attractive. ... Hillary is the one with the balls." In just a few moments, Flanders managed to suggest that a male progressive is feminine and that a female is masculine -- one of the conservatives' favorite tactics for marginalizing progressives -- and to equate being "female" with being "weak." With progressives like Laura Flanders, who needs Ann Coulter?

For anyone who would rather fight these absurd media storylines than repeat them, coverage of Edwards' haircut presents a valuable opportunity to do so.

The thrust of it is to complain every time you see this sort of thing happening. And don't just rely on Media Matters to catch it for you, keep a weather eye out, report it to Media Matters AFTER bitching about it yourself to the blogosphere and everyone you know. And be impartial.

For instance, the stunts being pulled by the MSM and the Republican establishment to bury Ron Paul are equally dishonorable and an equal disservice to the American people.

I dispute as equally absurd that there is a "vast right/left wing conspiracy" within the media. But there is a LOT of sloppy, shallow and plain idiotic commentary and a clear lack of the most essential professional ethics. I don't expect reporters to support or oppose all candidates alike, but I do respect an equal, non-partisan reporting of the facts. The examples cited above are not just innuendo, not just improper commentary and shallow analysis - they are a betrayal of the media's duty to be a CREDIBLE watchdog on society and politics.

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