Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

No Nuance Here

Today's MSNBC piece by Howard Fineman wherein he announces the death of the "American Mainstream Media Party" ("party" in the political sense) is one of the most concise and cogent explanations I have seen for what the news media has become, and I think his declaration that the party was founded by the action of Walter Cronkite "step(ing) from behind the podium of presumed objectivity to become an outright foe of the war in Vietnam" is absolutely true. In fact, I keep expecting Peter Jennings to stand up any night now and declare the "quagmire in Iraq" lost and unrecoverable, (I know, he does pretty much nightly, but I mean blatantly in an editorial statement as Cronkite did after Tet) fully expecting that his declaration will cause an immediate loss of national support and a subsequent withdrawal in shame. (But then again, perhaps he actually reads his Nielsen numbers.)

When I read this paragraph though, it reminded me of something from much earlier last year:
Texas Gov. George W. Bush arrived on the national scene in the 1990s intent on dictating the terms of dealing with the AMMP — or simply ignoring it altogether. Already well-known as the son of a president, he focused on raising money and holding private chit-chats with donors and political supporters who would journey to Austin for off-the-record talks. His guru was not an image-making man (as Ailes had been for Nixon, and Deaver with Reagan) but a direct-mail expert, Karl Rove. Rove and Bush decided that most forms of "exposure" offered by the AMMP would be likely to do more harm than good. So why bother unless they could completely dictate the terms of engagement?
Back in April, PressThink did a piece on Bush's attitude towards the press, from which I excerpted this:
...a reporter says to the president: is it really true you don't read us, don't even watch the news? Bush confirms it.
And the reporter then said: Well, how do you then know, Mr. President, what the public is thinking? And Bush, without missing a beat said: You're making a powerful assumption, young man. You're assuming that you represent the public. I don't accept that.
Which is a powerful statement. And if Bush believes it (a possibility not to be dismissed) then we must credit the president with an original idea, or the germ of one. Bush's people have developed it into a thesis, which they explained to Auletta, who told it to co-host Brooke Gladstone:
That's his attitude. And when you ask the Bush people to explain that attitude, what they say is: We don't accept that you have a check and balance function. We think that you are in the game of "Gotcha." Oh, you're interested in headlines, and you're interested in conflict. You're not interested in having a serious discussion... and exploring things.
Further data point: The Bush Thesis. If Auletta's reporting is on, then Bush and his advisors have their own press think, which they are trying out as policy. Reporters do not represent the interests of a broader public. They aren't a pipeline to the people, because people see through the game of Gotcha. The press has forfeited, if it ever had, its quasi-official role in the checks and balances of government. Here the Bush Thesis is bold. It says: there is no such role-- official or otherwise.
Fineman's piece illustrates that, not only did the Bush campaign have that policy and execute it, it was correct (and successful). Rather and CBS attempted a major "Gotcha" and had their asses handed to them by the new media - a voice that even four years ago would probably have not been powerful enough to be heard. To Mapes and Rather it didn't matter whether the story was true (though I'm certain they believe it yet) it only mattered that they would be believed, banking on CBS's reputation as "the Tiffany Network." But that credibility, previously only eroded, has now been completely washed away.

Regardless, the attack on Bush was, in the fevered imaginations of Burkett, Mapes, and Rather, "to represent the interests of a broader public." It was to save us Red-Staters from ourselves by convincing enough of us not to vote for Bush. Bush and his advisors understood from the outset the adversarial nature of the press and did its best to neuter it. Open attack was all that was left to the American Mainstream Media Party as the election drew near. All their other teeth had been effectively pulled.

Glenn Reynolds corrects Fineman on an important point, though:

Political parties aren't noted for their honesty or lack of bias, and when the media became a sort of political party (which it denied for years, but which is now so obvious that Fineman can pronounce its death) it became less honest, though it's not clear that the press was ever as disinterested as it sometimes pretended. That's why when Fineman writes, "Still, the notion of a neutral, non-partisan mainstream press was, to me at least, worth holding onto," I think he's wrong.

The reality of a neutral, non-partisan mainstream press would be worth holding onto -- if it had ever existed.
To that I say, "Amen."

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