. . . Friday October 29, 2004

Right defendant. Wrong Crime.

From the Right, Roger Simon argues that big media will pay for their efforts to get Kerry elected:

If … Kerry does win, the mainstream media will have gotten him elected with their biased coverage and they will pay for it more than they could imagine. And it will be the blogosphere and you, our supporters, who will make them pay. Our strength will grow incremently with a Kerry victory in terms of influence and even economic power. And both will be at the expense of the mainstream media.

Simon is correct in his choice of targets. But he is wrong about big media’s crimes. Skip the part about the blogosphere altogether. Whichever side wins, much of the angersphere will make a lot of people pay in many ways.

The much stronger argument is that if Bush is re-elected, then mainstream media will bear the brunt of the blame for almost never challenging this administration, even on matters as grave as a war of choice. Knocked off balance by the events of 9-11 and wildly outmatched by an incredibly effective GOP messaging machine, the press has given W passes that few presidents have enjoyed. History will show that the mainstream press was more diligent about investigating a blow job than a pre-emptive war.

Columbia Journalism professor Todd Gittlin gets the story of the press right.

But of late, the government has had plenty of help in its efforts at dominance. To a disgraceful degree, the organs of news have been grinding out its tune. Many are the reasons for deference. Reporters and editors are credulous, fearful, and flatly bamboozled. Timid about getting out ahead of a public they respect more when it is “conservative” (read: rightwardly radical) than when it is liberal, they bend over backward to accommodate spin doctors. They grant officialdom the benefit of the doubt. They fear risking independent judgment, which they have defined as occupational hubris. They are terrified of missing out on the perks of access. They fear that detailing the anatomy of official distortion will turn off readers and viewers. Their proprietors, seeking favor in high places, cool their critical engines. So the media yield to temptation and morph into megaphones, and falsehoods too often and too loudly repeated take on the ring of plausibility.

Forget about the fact that big media is owned by mega-corporations. And forget about the fact that the disparaging of thinking segments of society is key to the GOP strategy. And forget the fact that radio is dominated by right wing commentators and that Fox is clearly, and by far, the most dominant cable news organization.

How can people look at this radical administration that has gotten away with everything they hoped to and still argue that there were any significant roadblocks along their path? You can’t win a game by five touchdowns and then complain that you were robbed by the refs.

Concentration is important!