Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Democratic Party's cognitive dissonance regarding the media

About a month and a half ago, I went to an event where Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer was appearing to promote her recently released novel, A Time to Run. Boxer opened the event by talking about her novel and its influences and then opened the floor to questions, either about her book or about politics in general. Most of the questions to the Senator--including mine--focused on the latter. Paraphrased, my question was this: "Why do you think the media was so quick to assign scandal to Bill Clinton when he was president, even though all alleged wrongdoing regarding Whitewater were proven false, where the much more serious charges against Bush have not galvanized the media to assign scandal to him and his administration (or even vaulably investigate it)?" Boxer's response surprised me greatly: she was thoroughly stupified by the suggestion that the media had some sort of reporting bias in favor of Bush. She pointed out that recent reports of Republican wrongdoing were coming out in the mainstream media. However, she didn't seem to understand the point that where impeachment was immediately brought up when it was revealed that Clinton may have had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, no comparable level of outrage accompanied any of the much more grave revelations about the Bush administration--secret meetings with oil execs to construct White House energy policy, lying about going into Iraq, no-bid contracts by Halliburton, leaking of the identity of a CIA Agent etc. The current illegal wiretapping revelation is of course another serious offense.

Boxer's stupification at my suggestion was not my imagination. In a great article today, Salon's Peter Daou analyzes the Democratic Party's true problem the mainstream media:
THE TRIANGLE: Matthews, Moore, Murtha, and the Media: What's the common thread running through the past half-decade of Bush's presidency? What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? Why has a seemingly endless string of administration scandals faded into oblivion? Why do Democrats keep losing elections? It's this: the traditional media, the trusted media, the "neutral" media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines. And the Democratic establishment appears to be either ignorant of this political quandary or unwilling to fight it.

There's a critical distinction to be made here: individual reporters may lean left, isolated news stories may be slanted against the administration. What I'm describing is the wholesale peddling by the "neutral" press of deep-seated narratives, memes, and soundbites: simple, targeted talking points that paint a picture of reality for the American public that favors the right and tarnishes the left.

...It’s simple: if your core values and beliefs and positions, no matter how reasonable, how mainstream, how correct, how ethical, are filtered to the public through the lens of a media that has inoculated the public against your message, and if the media is the public’s primary source of information, then NOTHING you say is going to break through and change that dynamic. Which explains, in large measure, the Dems’ sorry electoral failures. [bold words indicate my emphasis]

I beg you to read the whole thing. It's an important article.

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