April 25, 2008

Obama's Major League Weapon

I read this story, Obama's Secret Weapon: The Media the other day and I was struck by a couple of thoughts (thankfully, not too hard).

The first, most obvious is that the media isn't Obama's Secret weapon, it's his Obvious weapon. I mean, come one, the media long ago shed any shred of objectivity, and the open rooting for and gushing over Saint Barry has been clear to anyone who isn't Obama Girl. Who's being arrogant and condescending here - does the media really think (1) we're not biased, and (2) the public doesn't notice? How clueless can one be?

And on to the second thought. The story touched on it only the briefest way:

The response was itself a warning about a huge challenge for reporters in the 2008 cycle: preserving professional detachment in a race that will likely feature two nominees, Obama and John McCain, who so far have been beneficiaries of media cheerleading.

Unlike the stock market, I think past media performance is a pretty reliable indicator of future media performance, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that McCain will be covered like all other Republicans before him - with dislike. What Clinton has had to face in the primaries is what every Republican in the last 40 years has had to face in national elections - a media that prefers, or much prefers the other guy. The only reason Hillary Clinton gets any sympathy, or at least a fair shake, in this article is because she's a Democrat and there actually are Hillary partisans within the ranks. McCain benefits from media cheerleading only when he is acting in concert with the Democrats, something he does routinely (and which allows him to claim with far greater effectiveness the position of uniter and bridge to the other side than Saint Barry).

But the authors can't actually face that truth, and instead we get this:

The breakdown of journalistic conventions about point of view. In an earlier era these standards -- favoring austere, stoical language conveying voice-of-God authority -- were designed in part to ensure that stories betrayed no hint of the writer's real feelings.

But the convention was a pretense. There is a generally laudable move toward more conversational -- and more candid -- language in stories. This shift allows a respected pro like the Associated Press's Ron Fournier to unsheathe a knife and write this sentence earlier this year about Mitt Romney: "The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents' record and continued to show why he's the most malleable -- and least credible -- major presidential candidate."

Ron Fournier is respected by whom exactly? Adam Clymer? I laud the move to partisans within the press coming out into the open, but I don't laud the press for having so many liberal Democrat partisans. Why not pour the cup full - if there is no way reporters can hold in check their real feelings - which is a central thrust of this story, and an accurate one, how then can Americans rely on them for accurate, unbiased information? If it's opinions I want, I'd much rather talk to friends than listen to strangers with no particular ability or knowledge beyond the ability to write to length and deadline.

We're into syllogism land. Liberal Democrats clearly prefer liberal politicians from the Democratic Party -- that's what makes them liberal Democrats. The press is overloaded with liberal Demorats; consequently the press prefers liberal politicians from the Democratic Party. The coverage of national politics is partisan, and hopelessly so. Reading the New York Times, or watching a national news broadcast doesn't inform aobut what happened, it informs you about what liberal Democrats think about what happened.

This article is just a part of the press groping their way to this conclusion, but they haven't even begun to contemplate the ramifications of that truth - only part of which is that their audience is only a third to a quarter of the nation, not the whole nation as they expect. Another is that they don't speak truth to power and never did - they speak the liberal Democratic party line to the faithful. These are hard truths and I don't expect most of them to ever come to grips with them. I wouldn't.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at April 25, 2008 11:29 AM | Media Criticism
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