If you had any doubt that the mainstream media is gunning for Barack Obama, you need only consider the rush to join him on his sojourn to the Middle East to realize that, yes, they are. I’m not talking about the usual retinue of reporters that tag along with presidential candidates, but the Big ThreeTM: ABC’s Charlie Gibson, CBS’s Katie Couric, and NBC’s Brian Williams are part of Obama’s entourage, each one getting one day’s worth of exclusive coverage. Keep a sharp lookout for Obama’s tour rider to show up on the Smoking Gun. It’s sure to call for plenty of arugula and smelling salts to revive those who faint in his presence.
NPR’s David Folkenflik likened it to the fact that Obama is “adept at generating excitement,” and that perhaps some of the “excitement will rub off on their newscasts.” Considering the Alphabet Networks’ flagging ratings, he may have a point. Yet John McCain has made a number of trips to Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world — all without the fawning adoration of the Big ThreeTM. I’m sure it was just a matter of conflicting schedules.
It reminds me of high school, where the one really popular kid never went anywhere without his sidekicks, and those who wanted to be a part of the exclusive clique but didn’t make the cut just stood back and admired. As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the king.”
But this isn’t high school. When even the New York Times notices an imbalance in the coverage of Obama and McCain, you know there has to be something to the charge. In an attempt to justify their decision, Paul Friedman of CBS claimed that “this is Obama’s first trip — his position and the public’s perception of him on national security issues are important.” Yes, the public needs to know, but they would be better served to see Obama’s foreign policy and that of John McCain side by side so they can make a more informed decision at the polls. This “rah rah rah, sis boom bah” barrage of “all Obama, all the time” coverage is simply a disgrace.
But it gets better, because this trip to Iraq is not Obama’s first — he went there in January 2006, and spent more tax dollars on foreign travel than any other freshman senator of the 109th Congress — $28,000 in 2005 and 2006. And this was before he announced his intention to run for the presidency. So much for the “it’s his first trip and that makes it more exciting” theory.
It’s interesting that Obama, who won’t commit to meeting with military members at a town hall event, is happy to travel the globe with an entourage to rival that of Barbra Streisand, meeting the leaders he’ll presumably be working with for the next “eight to ten years.” I guess traveling to Fort Hood, Texas, isn’t as glamorous.
In a book of essays entitled New Media and the New Middle East, edited by Philip Seib, Shawn Powers and Eytan Gilboa write in “The Public Diplomacy of Al-Jazeera”: “Asaad Taha, an investigative reporter for Al-Jazeera, has defended the inflammatory and oftentimes partial nature of his journalism by arguing that he ‘is adamantly against the notion of neutrality. There is no such thing as a neutral journalist or a neutral media for that matter.'”
While I usually have little regard for Al-Jazeera, I must admire Asaad Taha’s refreshing honesty. We all bring our beliefs and experiences to whatever we do, and journalists are no exception. I’d also have less of a problem with media bias if American journalists were as honest as Asaad Taha. Back in the days before “professional” journalism schools and broadcast media, it was not difficult to tell which side of an issue various newspapers supported, and readers could take their reporting with a grain of salt. Nowadays, journalists claim they are unbiased, and yet their biases manage to come shining through despite their protestations to the opposite. And yet media moguls must wonder why less than half of those surveyed trust newscasters and journalists to tell the truth.
“Look, mommy! The emperor is naked!”
He is indeed. But don’t expect him to admit it. In the meantime, don’t expect the coverage of the candidates to change. In fact, as we get closer to November 4, you can expect the SS Mainstream Media to tilt even further to starboard. Hang on to your life preservers — it’s going to be one heck of a trip.