Drum on the Media’s Declaration of Irrelevance

There’s been a sudden flurry of discussion centering around the specific topic that is this blog’s raison d’etre, so I wanted to mention it.

The Obama campaign started running this attack ad today, in which they actually use the “L” word to describe McCain/Palin’s pushing of the Bridge to Nowhere lie:

And this raises a really interesting question: How is the media going to handle this? Are they going to report the factual truth (that McCain and Palin are flat-out lying, and in a way that has been demonstrated to be a lie)? Or are they going to report it as just another controversy between two sides?

It kind of matters. McCain/Palin are making an explicit strategy out of selling a version of their biographies that, at least in her case, is directly contradicted by the facts. (The version of McCain’s biography they’re trying to sell is also dishonest and false-to-fact, but in a less stark way than Palin’s.) See this item in the Washington Post, for example: McCain, Palin push biography, not issues.

Steve Benen had a really interesting write-up of some back-and-forth that happened on CNN about this (Making a story “stick”):

Roberts wrapped up the segment, concluding, “We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.”

But therein lies the point. The nation doesn’t need 56 days of “back and forth.” We don’t need 56 seconds of “back and forth.” There’s an objective truth here, and CNN, as a neutral, independent news source, is supposed to tell viewers what the facts are.

But CNN can’t do that, because reality has a well known liberal bias. If Roberts conceded that Begala was telling the truth about demonstrable facts, then he’d be “taking sides.” For a media figure to acknowledge that a candidate for national office is lying shamelessly would be wholly unacceptable — it would break with the “balance” between competing arguments.

The viewer at home hears one side, then the other. Who’s right? That’s not CNN’s problem.

Glenn Greenwald chimed in today on a dispute between Marc Ambinder and Matt Yglesias involving the media’s handling of the Bridge to Nowhwere story, where Ambinder wrote:

To move to a Greenwaldian debate about the duties, obligations and frustrations of the press — well — read elsewhere if you want to play that game. I’ll abstain.

But Ambinder, who writes for The Atlantic, is a professional journalist, and as Greenwald points out, he does have an obligation to report that blatant lies are, in fact, blatant lies. That journalists have been increasingly willing to be played by liars lately, that they’ve reached the point where they now feel at liberty to mock, as Ambinder does, the idea that they have a duty to report the truth as they know it, is really quite significant, it seems to me.

Kevin Drum, in A bridge to somewhere, had this to say:

And not to get too sanctimonious about this, but this really is a test of some kind for the press. This lie is unusually egregious given the plain facts of the situation (Palin was eagerly supportive of the bridge until after Congress pulled the earmark, at which point she reluctantly decided to take the money but use it for other projects), and if the media allows the McCain campaign to get away with this – if they relegate it to occasional closing paragraphs and page A9 fact checks – well, that means McCain knows he can pretty much get away with anything. The press will be writing its own declaration of irrelevance.

I think that hits it on the head. If the mainstream news media aren’t going to tell the truth about this (I don’t mean the Fox News-style media here, but the real media), then it will mean a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship between them and me.

10 Responses to “Drum on the Media’s Declaration of Irrelevance”

  1. ymatt Says:

    All too true.

  2. knarlyknight Says:

    There seems to be a link between telling lies (excuse me shcb, should we be use one of your wimpy euphemisms for lies such as something like “telling misleading statements” instead?) and a lack of “honour”. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13314.html

  3. NorthernLite Says:

    CNN’s Campbell Brown is actually doing a very good job of reporting the facts about Palin and how they profoundly contradict the McCain camps’ rhetoric. Plus she’s hot.

  4. adam_blust Says:

    This is a new development? When has the so-called “liberal media” been willing to call out Republicans and conservatives on their lies? When Charlie Gibson is our version of Woodward and Bernstein, we’re bust.

    The thing is, even if the media did report the truth, the American people (bless their hearts) don’t want to hear it. It’s much easier and more comforting to think that the war hero and the soccer mom will protect them from the scary shadows that lay outside their window.

  5. adam_blust Says:

    As for Drum’s declaration of the media’s “irrelevance,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. As Drum commenter SecularAnimist said:

    The “press” is hardly “irrelevant”.

    Without “the press” to disseminate their brazen, sickening, preposterous lies, wage campaigns of character assassination against Democratic candidates, and cover up the blatant theft of elections through voter disenfranchisement and fraud, the Republicans would never gain national office.

    That’s exactly what happened in 2000. That’s exactly what happened in 2004. And that’s exactly what is happening again, this year.

    And Democrats are surprised?

    “The press” in America consists of a handful of huge corporations who own and control nearly all of the mass media from which most Americans get most of their information. “The press” in America exists to promote the interests and agenda of its ultra-rich owners through propaganda, not to perform a public service by impartially and accurately informing the American people about the facts, the candidates, their records and their policy proposals.

    “The press” is not “irrelevant”. If anything, it is the most relevant component of the Rove-Palin campaign.

    And if we continue to fight a blowtorch with the soft glow from a nightlight, it will happen again and again and again.


  6. knarlyknight Says:

    Amen Adam.

    But there are also these issues to rise above:

  7. adam_blust Says:

    Ah yes, Kirsten Powers, one of Fox’s “democrats.” She’s a piece of work, isn’t she? She’s right – Dems shouldn’t have taken the Palin bait. But along the way, she expertly muddies up the waters with stuff about “the media” and their “cultural elite splendor,” while referencing stuff said on blogs, if at all.

    Hey Powers – it’s you I hold in contempt, not soccer moms. What a tool.

    Meanwhile, purported Fox anchor Brit “ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag” Hume says that “people don’t care if Palin answers questions from [sneer] *reporters.*” And James Dobson has to debase himself by praising Bristol Palin’s teenage pregnancy. What a circus.

  8. enkidu Says:

    Geez, the Obama campaign has barely scratched at poor poor Sarah Palin and the rwnjs are all a twitter. They have been exceptionally respectful and cautious (to a fault in my opinion). Obama didn’t blow it, the press is by covering for the completely un-vetted and unready for the spotlight Palin. But once again McSame’s base is there for him, ignoring his fubars, smoothing over the noble prince’s temper and egregious sense of entitlement.


    Stop saying this extremist Palin is anything other than a sop to the rethug base.

    Our press is rightist, corporate and in McSame’s pocket.

  9. adam_blust Says:

    The best thing Obama and Biden and all the rest could do is act as if Sarah Palin doesn’t exist. Stop talking about her altogether. The ticket is McCain/Bush. McCain/Bush. What’s the ticket? McCain/Bush. On the debate stage, Biden acts as if he’s up there alone. She’s so insignificant that she disappears – he can’t see her.

    Starve them out. Suck out the oxygen until they suffocate and die. This is war.

  10. shcb Says:

    just testing to see if things still work

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