One of my favorite writers–now at the HuffPo–Dan Froomkin has a post up that really speaks to the heart of the matter: How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign. We’ve long been saying it, as have other bloggers whom I greatly admire, that both sides Don’t do it, and in essence that’s Froomkin’s thesis.
We’ve spitballed Cokie Roberts a lot over the years, as she is almost always the first person to leap to False Equivalencyville on any of the Sunday Talkies. No matter what the subject of the GOP’s latest transgression, Roberts will immediately and reflexively jump in with, “…but the Democrats…” and name something unrelated. I think for a while we even called it the Cokie Roberts Rule when the blog first started, but it had become such a reflex in the punditry now that it is no longer funny.
Driftglass tells a joke where Dick Cheney is filmed on the front Lawn at the White House gutting live kitties and throwing the poor twitching things on a barbecue, and Cokie Roberts immediately says, “But the Democrats…”
Back to Froomkin. The issue, says Froomkin, is that the media is too timid and too afraid of being viewed as biased, and so that they go out of their way to always have a counterpoint, no matter how much of a false equivalency it might be. The problem is that as the GOP lurched off the charts into absolutely delusional, fact-free, poo-in-their-hair, shrieking, that the media could not report it as such. So they treated the squawking of lunatics as a legitimate point of view.
Even the latest craziness that the UN is going to force home-schooled kids to have wheel chair access to their houses drove the wingnuts to vote down the ratification of a non-binding treaty that asks all other nations in the world to live up to the much esteemed Americans With Disabilities Act. Read the Media’s coverage of it. It’s amazing.
While many others say that there is too much money in politics–which is true–and that we will never have a real democracy (and we never will: we have a democratic republic) until we can purge money from the system, I continue to say that the biggest obstacle we face is the Media. And let me be more specific, it is really about media ownership. The Progressive, some years back, had a wonderful chart that showed who-owned-which media companies (similar to this chart from Corporate Media Exposed). There were about six companies that owned it all (globally) back then. Globally. It has since then grown to be a smaller list.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that if you rock the boat, you will never work in the Village again. The timidity of journalists is not necessarily enforced by the head office, but they don’t have to enforce it. It is generally understood where the boss stands, and so you don’t have to even be told to hold back on something. Case in point: during the Thee Mile Island meltdown, NBC (at various times owned by GE and Westinghouse, both of whom made nuclear power plants) never had it as their top story, and quickly dropped it.
The point here is: if you can never get your message out, you don’t stand a chance of winning. Until the media monopoly is broken up, and journalists find themselves unshackled, nothing will change.
One of my other favorite journalists, Bill Moyers, has said of journalism, that the facts lead you to a conclusion. There is no bias in factual reporting. Our free and unfettered press should try it sometime.