Ed Driscoll

Pliability You Can Believe In!

James Taranto writes that already, the Obama administration has brought hope!–and change!–to one American institution: the press:

More than 144 hours into Barack Obama’s presidency, the economy is still in recession, the country is still at war, and in many parts of the country it’s still cold outside. Citizens are growing impatient: Wasn’t President Obama supposed to bring change?

Yet one institution has changed dramatically, and in a very short time: the press. After spending the Bush years as a voice of opposition, American journalists have by and large turned on a dime and become cheerleaders for the man in power.

A case in point is the Associated Press, perhaps the nation’s premier “straight news” outfit. During the Bush years, the AP introduced a new reportorial idiom called “accountability journalism,” whose goal is “to report whether government officials are doing the job for which they were elected and keeping the promises they make.” Turns out they weren’t.

But the AP’s new idiom, which we hereby name “pliability journalism,” aims to show that everything is completely different from the bad old days of a week ago and before. A Saturday dispatch by Liz Sidoti, titled “Obama Breaks From Bush, Avoids Divisive Stands,” shows how it works:

Barack Obama opened his presidency by breaking sharply from George W. Bush’s unpopular administration, but he mostly avoided divisive partisan and ideological stands. He focused instead on fixing the economy, repairing a battered world image and cleaning up government.

A central feature of pliability journalism is the bending of contrary facts to fit the narrative of change, hope and unity. Here’s how Sidoti reshapes one such fact:

So far, Obama’s only real brush with issues that stoke partisan passions came when he revoked a ban on federal funding for international groups that provide or promote abortions. He did that quietly by issuing a memorandum late Friday afternoon. The move was expected; the issue has vacillated between Republican and Democratic presidents.

So three days after taking office, Obama executed a 180-degree policy turn on the nation’s most emotionally charged subject. That would seem to be the epitome of divisiveness. But no. It (1) has been “Obama’s only real brush with issues that stoke partisan passions,” (2) was “expected” and (3) was done “quietly.”

Of course it was done quietly–the new White House can’t figure out how to send email. (And while I’m enormously sympathetic to technology snafus, imagine how that story would be reported in the world of objective pliable journalism if this was an incoming GOP administration.)

Update: From the visual arts department of the pliability media, political cartoonists suddenly get cold feet at the prospect of satirizing the man who promised to raise the ocean levels and heal the entire planet.