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Ed Driscoll

Centralized Media Trashes A Decentralized Foe: Its Audience

August 26th, 2009 - 7:56 pm

Michelle Malkin spots David Letterman losing it once again:

So, here’s what The Perv of Late Night CBS Comedy said last night:

“You know about the Taliban? Over here, we call them ‘healthcare protesters.’”

I wouldn’t get all wee-weed up about it, though.

It’s just another desperate David Letterman stunt. Ho-hum.

Guess there weren’t any teenage daughters of Republican politicians to pick on…

Johnny Carson’s distant coolness and ironic pluck made him seem almost ageless; Dave got too close to what the rest of the Hollywood-Manhattan-DC crowd perceived as the ninth circle of the Bushitler hell and rapidly withered into a crotchety old man.

But hey, it happens. As P.J. O’Rourke quips, “Us right-wing nuts sure is scary!”

That’s the message from the Washington Post. To put this in language a conservative would understand, the fourth estate has been alarmed once again by the Burkean proclivities of our nation’s citizens. The Post is in a panic about (to use its own descriptive terms) “birthers,” “anti-tax tea-partiers,” and “town hall hecklers.”

If, last Sunday, you spent a profitless hour reading the Washington Post (itself not too profitable), you noticed the loud yapping and desperate nipping at those who disagree with liberal orthodoxy. It was as if top management were a toy schnauzer accidentally mistaken for a duster and traumatized by being run back and forth through the venetian blinds. The wise and prestigious broadsheet institution was so barking mad that it sent three (Three! In these times of hardship for the print media! When reporters are being laid off right and left–well, mostly right–and stories are going uncovered from rapidly warming pole to pole! Three!) journalists to do battle with “The Return of Right-Wing Rage.”

That was the subtitle of Rick Perlstein’s section B leader. The title was “In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition.” Perlstein wrote the book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus so you can intuit (or “grok” as Perlstein might put it, given his prose style) the contents of his article. Yes, Rick, right-wing rage has returned. It was up at my place for the weekend. But it’s back, and it’s not like right-wing rage ever really went away. It didn’t, as you would say, Rick, “move on.”

Accompanying the Perlstein screed was a sidebar by Alec MacGillis explaining how “health care reform is not that hard to understand, and those who tell you otherwise most likely have an ulterior motive.”

All you town hall hecklers, calm down and go home. Never mind that Alec MacGillis is a rat, something that’s evident by the sixth sentence of his piece: “Fixing [health care] could be very simple: a single-payer system.” And never mind that his writing is more than uninformative, it is informationally subtractive. Read him and you’ll know less than you know now about what the government is going to do to you and your doctor. Read him carefully and you’ll know nothing.

Because the health care protesters actually are an organic bottom-up grass-roots movement, this has left old media, including both TV hosts and whole newspapers utterly confused. Even former Obama-supporting economist Megan McCardle recently wrote, “the liberal rage at right-wing loonies is starting to sound, well, a little loonie”.

Last week, James Taranto and Andrew Breitbart hit upon the problem the legacy media faces. Breitbart wrote:

A grass-roots movement of average Americans has stood up, making it extremely difficult to isolate and demonize an individual.

Mr. Alinsky noted in “Rule 12″ that it is difficult to go after “institutions.” And attacking “tea baggers” and “mobs” has only created more resistance and drawn attention to the left’s limited playbook. Even Americans expressing their constitutionally protected right to free speech are open game.

Now that many people are Googling the Alinsky rule book and catching up with the way Chicago thugs play their political games, Mr. Obama and the Fighting Illini are going to be forced to create new rules–or double down on the old ones.

And as Taranto summarized, “It’s a lot easier to ridicule a powerful individual than a variegated group of citizens.” And conversely, without a central figure to demonize, suddenly a political and media class who in the late ’60s and ’70s chanted “power to the people” and “taking it to the streets” (apologies for going all Michael McDonald on you there) find themselves having to attack whole swatches of potential readers and viewers.

Since the rapid growth of first broadband Internet access and then the Blogosphere and other social media at the start of the decade, Mass media were already shedding viewers and readers in a Red Queen’s Race to the bottom. Accelerating the process doesn’t seem like a wise move to me, but having thrown their lot in with their president and messianic savior, what other options did they have?

Update: Pointing out the excesses the MSM’s boilerplate coverage — including a report from his own network — John  Stossel, ABC’s lone libertarian iconoclast, questions “reporting” that makes “Every Critic a Racist.”

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