Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The media admits to manipulating the message
At the Val Air party Monday night and over the weekend in Iowa, I pretended to jump the shark a few times so I could get an inside line on how the media is operating during this election cycle. I had a few long conversations with Candy Crowley, Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, and some guy from FAUX (I have blocked his name out, probably a natural reaction due to his employer). Over the weekend I also had an opportunity to discuss the election with Mort Kondrake, Tim Russert, and some field reporters from NBC, CNN, and FAUX.
Basically, all one has to do is fawn over them until they drop their guard, then you go in for the kill and asked some real questions.
The consensus is this: the media are all pulling for a Dean v. Bush election because otherwise they'd be bored to tears. On a daily basis, they have to come up with ways to keep the election exciting - for them. Whether it's spinning Dean's Val Air speech as "angry" or pounding Wesley Clark for "being a Republican", they are doing what they can to keep themselves entertained. Isn't that pathetic? They aren't reporting the facts and they have no intention whatsoever of reporting the facts as long as it gets in the way of entertainment.
It's more entertaining for them to portray "Angry Dean versus Everyman Bush" than it is to talk about "People Power versus Big Corporations". It's more entertaining to talk about "The New McGovern versus the Strong-on-Security Bush" than it is to discuss "Sound Fiscal Management versus Busted Budgets and Unfunded Mandates". The media just wants to create characters. They don't care about presenting the public with the real issues that we face, because as one pundit said to me, "Discussing policy is boring".
The one person who provided the most insight into how they operate was my new favorite conservative, Tucker Carlson. I found that off-camera, Tucker was earnest and truthful. I can see why many left-of-center pundits consider him to be likable. But once he gets on-camera, the schtick comes out. Like last night when he said (with a more than heavy dose of sarcasm) on CNN that Dean's Val Air speech made women and children "run screaming from the room". Having spoken with him and gotten his take, I could see right through that little smirk of his (and in fact I laughed out loud when he said that), but the majority of the American public isn't privy to this information. They probably don't realise that the media is just playing a giant game of Calvinball with America. We must make sure that our fellow Americans understand that the media is manipulating this race.
Tucker also told me he hoped that Dean would win because it would "give Americans a real choice". He also said that he feels the other candidates are boring, and that because the media has to cover this race for the next nine months they have to do something to make it exciting. This is apparently the modus operandi within the media corps, and from what the talking heads told me this attitude is common within their circle. Hey, I give them props for being honest with me when the cameras weren't rolling, but that doesn't mean I'm going to sit here quietly and let what was said go into the old memory hole. So listen up, folks.
The talking heads and pundits are the enemy of the Democratic Party. No matter who the nominee is, they are going to get Gored. The media is also going to distort our message. They are going to play out their pre-written storyline. I honestly do not know what to do about this other than get on their asses (apologies in advance to TS Quint who always criticises us when we use profanity) and call them out for this bullshit. The American people deserve a media that is critical, that functions as the public watchdog, that will tell them the truth.
I also met some FAUX news reporters at dinner one night and proceeded to rip them a new one. They feigned shock when I accused them of massive right-wing bias, then they claimed they were democrats who worked for FAUX. Then they went on to defend their employer and they claimed they aren't pressured to put a right-wing spin on their news. Naturally I called them on it because sometimes I can't bite my tongue. I said it was obvious to anyone with half a clue that FAUX is simply a propoganda channel and that any good democrat with a conscience wouldn't sell their soul to FAUX in order to pay their bills. I expressed my severe disappointment with them for towing their employer's propoganda line and suggested that they do some soul-searching and find a new employer, particularly one that reports instead of distorts. I know I rattled them because they left soon after that, and I hope that my words rang in their ears for days. I guess I'm tired of being manipulated, and after all the conversations I overheard or had with reporters, I am now more certain than ever that Howard Dean is right about some industries needing re-regulation. It is impossible for the media to be fair when they are owned in large part by people with a right-wing agenda to push.
So take heed Dean supporters (and all Democrats). If you think it was bad in 2000, it's just going to be worse this time around. If you think we are working hard now, you haven't seen anything yet. It is going to take extra vigilance to get our message out no matter who we nominate, and all of us will have to coalesce behind the eventual nominee no matter who it is so that we can present a unified front. In the meantime, please adopt a pundit and fact check them, please write letters and make phone calls to the media. Hook up with DDF and DeanRR. They are more important now than they've ever been. We have got to fight back and hit hard, go for the media jugular, or we're sunk. It's that simple, IMO.
My open letter to the American media reads as follows:
Dear Big Media,
I don't care about Kobe Bryant, Laci Peterson, or any of the other sensationalised cases you seem so enamored of. I am an American voter and I care about the issues challenging us, like the massive loss of jobs under the Bush administration, whether Al Qaeda has regrouped in Afghanistan, our busted budget, and how Bush is rolling back environmental protections.
It is not your job to write a storyline and spin the race so that you won't be bored for the next nine months. It is your job to inform and to act as a public watchdog. If I want to be entertained, I'll go rent a movie.
What's the text of your letter? What pundit are you going to adopt? How many media outlets will you contact today? This is what it's going to take.
cross-posted to annatopia.
*thanks to atrios for inspiring my letter
DiscussionPost a Comment
Obama 2008 - I want my country back
Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.