Monday, September 8, 2008

Media Bashing For A New Century

Bless their hearts. The “media elites” can’t catch a break--not from the Republican Party, and not from liberals.

The so-called “liberal media” (and I can’t even type those words with a straight face) got quite a drubbing at the Republican National Convention last week -- so much, in fact, that it sparked this hilarious video featuring the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank as the face of the “Eastern media elite.” If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s hilarious.

In yesterday’s New York Times Mark Leibovich addressed the GOP’s media bashing, correctly pointing out that it’s SOP for Republican candidates to blame “the liberal media.” This is true, and it’s not just politicians who like to portray themselves as a poor, oppressed minority unfairly battered by a biased press. I hear that line from conservatives all the time. They just haven’t owned up to the fact that truth has a well-known liberal bias.

But it works, for some bizarre reason. They circled the wagons and cried foul when the New York Times uncovered John McCain’s relationship with a Washington lobbyist, then cried foul when the Times didn’t cover the stalkerazzi lying in wait to nail a trysting John Edwards, who wasn't even a candidate any longer. Hello?

It’s okay for Ron Fournier, who is directing the political coverage of the Associated Press this election, to have been in consideration for a job on the McCain campaign. It’s not okay for Keith Olbermann to make his views known. In fact, Olbermann has been bumped from the anchor chair on election night, to appease the WATBs on the right:
The McCain campaign has filed letters of complaint to the news division about its coverage and openly tied MSNBC to it. Tension between the network and the campaign hit an apex the day Mr. McCain announced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. MSNBC had reported Friday morning that Ms. Palin’s plane was enroute to the announcement and she was likely the pick. But McCain campaign officials warned the network off, with one official going so far as to say that all of the candidates on the short list were on their way — which MSNBC then reported.

“The fact that it was reported in real time was very embarrassing,” said a senior MSNBC official. “We were told, ‘No, it’s not Sarah Palin and you don’t know who it is.’ ”

Whaaah!!!! Reporters doing their jobs instead of taking talking points and press releases from the campaigns! Must stop! Must stop now!

Tell it to Fox News, assholes.

Unfortunately, there are some legitimate issues with our media elites, which those in the media themselves don’t seem to recognize. It’s what folks like Digby and Atrios refer to as “The Village,” the insulated bubble in which those who hold power and the media that is supposed to be covering them exist. We saw it when John McCain hosted the media at a chummy barbecue--and was rewarded with such glowing verbiage as “grillmaster” and “all-American dad.” We were horrified when the AP’s Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti greeted John McCain with that box of donuts at a luncheon. Barack Obama was likened to a terrorist. No donuts for you, black man!

Is it political bias or personal bias? The Washington press corpse, as we call it, is all about access and cocktail parties. It’s really hard to objectively cover a subject whom you’re playing golf with tomorrow.

Here's what I mean: Buried in Leibovich’s story, where he defends the press against charges of liberal bias, is this tidbit:

At the last Republican National Convention, in New York City, Mr. McCain hosted 50-or-so media A-listers to a 68th-birthday party for himself at La Goulue on Madison Avenue. The guest list included network anchors, network news executives, Sunday talk show hosts and a lot of other media types who all qualify as Kind of a Big Deal. Mr. McCain proposed a hearty and gracious toast to his guests that night, raising his glass to “my base.”

This kind of chummy cliquishness is what bothers me. It’s not liberal-vs-conservative, it’s insider-vs-outsider. The anchors and Washington powerful put on a good show for the 6 o’clock news, then everyone goes out for cocktails afterwards. Meanwhile, Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! staffers are arrested at the Republican National Convention for covering protestors. That’s some free speech for ya.

I wrote about this a long time ago in a post called Real Deep Memory Hole. I dug up an old Rolling Stone column from 1972 which criticized the media’s deference toward candidate Richard Nixon while burying stories about George McGovern. Replace the word “newspaper” with “mainstream media” and you have a pretty accurate portrait of where we are today:

Newspapers, as A.J. Liebling explained in The Press, are neither public servants nor custodians of the Holy Grail.

They are private enterprises in a capitalist economy whose primary function is to make money. Just like a department store or a gas station.

They are not in the business of truth and honesty and the public good unless the owner of the paper sees that as a way to making money.

The other thing to understand about newspapers is that they are owned by rich people and rich people are, by and large, Republicans.

So when your friendly neighborhood newspaper dumps on McGovern, runs his campaign news inside the paper and spreads the latest bullshit about Nixon’s runaway lead in the polls all over page one, remember that Republicans own the newspapers. As Liebling once noted, Democrats only work there.

Thirty-five years later, what has changed? As I wrote then, it’s gotten worse:

Because rich Republican families no longer own the newspapers. Rich Republican corporations do--corporations which make their money from things like (in the case of GE, which owns 80% of NBC Universal), defense contracts.

Will the internet change things? Will talk radio? Probably not. Corporations have infiltrated every level of political process. Corporations exist solely to make money. And the media that could protect us from this creeping tyranny of the corporation is so deeply entrenched in that world, they don't even see the problem. They think it's liberal-vs-conservative; it's not, and don't let them fool you into thinking that. Look deeper.

Follow the money.