At the start of 2005, Howard Fineman warned his colleagues at Newsweek:
A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don’t mean the Democrats. I’m talking about the “mainstream media,” which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush’s Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox’s canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.
The destruction was complete enough within four years that last month, Victor Davis Hanson wrote, “We have no media—at least as we once knew it:”
Somewhere in late 2007, it disappeared entirely, and became something akin to the old Pravda, or the livelier Baghdad Bob’s broadcasts, or the rants of Lord Haw-Haw. (We got everything from Judith Warner about the dreams of women having sex with Obama to “I felt this thrill going up my leg” Chris Matthews).
For the short-term thrill of ensuring the coronation of Barack Obama, it gave up all hard-won standards of journalistic objectivity—so much so that it is hard to adjudicate whether the rise of the Internet alone, or the clear bias of the print media, has nearly destroyed the newspaper industry.
Few any longer connect with a Newsweek editorial, a Time essay, a riff from NPR, or commentary on PBS. The front pages of the New York Times or Washington Post are op-eds in thin disguise. The faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism is not objective. We live in an age of affluent, rather inbred ironists who punch in at the Ministry of Truth, and the result is that about half of the population still wakes up every morning and sighs when they turn on the television, listen to the radio news, or read the newspaper, “He’s lying” or “She’s biased”. The utopian ends of social egalitarianism for the new media lords justified the tawdry means of distorting reality.
The Tea Party coverage today allows viewers a perfect textbook comparison of how the legacy media covers political protests. Throughout the decade, leftwing protests against President Bush and the liberation of Iraq were reported as the salt of the earth; democracy in action; everyday Americans expressing their voice. A quick scroll through the archives at Zombietime will quickly prove that those descriptions are simplisme at best.
How are the conservative/libertarian tea parties being reported?
- “CNN Correspondent Claims Tea Parties ‘Anti-Government,’ ‘Anti-CNN'”
- More CNN: Roesgen interviews protester who calls Obama a fascist
- Meanwhile, (and this is somewhat more expected given the channel that’s the source), “MSNBC Again Touts Right-Wing Threat of Violence; Features GOP Logo”
Regarding that last item, Newsbusters’ Scott Whitlock asks:
If the DHS report didn’t mention conservatives or Republicans, why did MSNBC feature a graphic that included an elephant, clearly a symbol for the GOP? In an earlier segment, NBC correspondent Pete Williams explained, “Now, we’re not talking about [the] political right here. We’re talking about extremist groups. Neo-Nazi groups, white supremacist groups, anti-government groups, hate groups.” Brewer promptly responded, “So to be clear here, not just extreme conservatives.” Not just extreme conservatives?
Concurrently, “CNN Smears ‘Right Wing’ As Nazis”, complete with a stock photo of neo-Nazi and white supremacist flags.
And in the run-up to today’s protests, as Greg Gutfeld writes, “if there’s one great thing we learned from today’s Tea parties, it’s how Anderson Cooper spends his nights off”:
It had happened during a conversation with talking thumb, David Gergen, who had just noted that the tea party protestors had yet to find their voice. Cooper’s response: “It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging.”
Now, if you’re too old or too high to get what’s going on, here’s the joke: The liberal-leaning media are goofing on the tea parties by invoking the term teabagging, a phrase used to describe an act of oral sex performed by a man – either on another man, woman, or in Alec Baldwin’s case – a cheeseburger.
And so you have Cooper’s joke – it’s just a shame he ripped off the shtick from David Shuster, who apparently has never met a joke he hasn’t beat to death like a hunter on a harp seal. On MSNBC, Shuster repeats testicle-based puns with a fervent relish not unlike an eight-year old boy who just can’t stop sniffing his fingers. And, this, coming from me. I’m mean – I always thought I was the king of obvious jokes, but I relinquish that crown – because the real obvious joke is Shuster.
So why is it the MSM finds it so easy to sneer at a group of protestors, when you’ve never seen them do the same with the bedraggled buffoons protesting environmental ills, animal testing or the WTO?
Well, first: the protests involve people they’ve never actually met. I mean, these are average folks – not professional sign carriers. Most of these people work for a living, and ration their marching for parades. Also, the media abhors these people because they question the ultimate goal of their Messiah. These protestors know wealth distribution when they see it, and they’re calling it out – because the media cannot bring themselves to do it for them. After all, if they did, that would hurt Obama’s feelings. And if you learned anything from high school – you never make fun of Mr. Popular.
Lastly, the media hates it when they can’t control the story. These tea parties were out of their hands from day one–a movement that was hard to figure and impossible to spin. So, why not make fun of it? Why not make ball jokes?
Always the last to know, Maureen Dowd claims, “Firms, like Google here and Craigslist in San Francisco, have hijacked journalism, making us feel about as modern as the Tyrannosaurus rex model that sits on the Google campus.”
As I explored late last year in a Silicon Graffiti video, it’s possible to blame Google or Craiglist for newspapers’ loss in financial revenue, just as horse-drawn carriage manufacturers once cursed the market share they lost to a small start-up venture called General Motors. But the loss of the media’s credibility, its lashing out at half the country, and transformation into sclerotic dinosaurs, as Maureen Dowd describes herself above in surprisingly accurate terms, were all very much self-inflicted wounds.
Related: Appropriate cuisine for the next CNNMSNBCNYTNewsweek mixer suggested here.
Update: Just to bring this post full circle, note which show Newsweek’s Howard Fineman appeared on today to “discuss” the Tea Parties. Meanwhile, David Steinberg floats through “The Unbearable Lightness of Paul Krugman’s Thoughts”, and adds, “When it comes to commenting about the tea parties, the New York Times columnist wins the booby prize.”
Update: I take it all back! Red State finds media coverage that might just salvage the reputation of CNN and MSNBC: “We Have A Winner! Absolutely, Positively WORST Tea Party Day Coverage in the Galaxy.”
Last Word (at least for now): “CNN beclowns itself.”