War of words
By Lisa Fabrizio
As we know, the world of political journalism has radically changed in the post-WWII decades. The methods, the tone and the very role of media have morphed over time, although they have always been prone to liberal leanings. They began as mere reporters, whose sole function was to chronicle events in Washington. These pressmen represented the classic liberalism of the Scoop Jackson variety--committed to equality among men at home and the belief that a strong America was a force for good in the world--and generally represented the views of those to whom they reported the news.
Then, as the influence of radical socialists who had begun to infiltrate journalism schools in the 1930s began to take effect, they came to view their profession as a way to 'change the world for the better'. With the advent of television, the opportunity to be seen and heard furthered the ways in which the press increased its influence over the lives and psyches of everyday Americans. These men, embodied by the likes of Walter Cronkite, saw themselves as crusaders whose task it was to lift the minds of their fellow citizens out of their dreary middle-class ethos and into a more worldly one.
In earlier times, and especially those when Republican administrations held sway, they came off as courageous and zealous exposers of government tyranny and corruption. Even up until the Bill Clinton scandals, there were still members of the press--joined of course, by members of the 'new media'--who didn't shirk their duty to report all the gruesome details which eventually led up to his impeachment. But things sure changed in a hurry. The hairsplitting minutiae that was the 2000 election seemed to drive them over the edge and out into the open. And they've never looked back.
Instead of speaking truth to power, they now hold the reins when it comes to shaping popular opinion and consequently view themselves as kingmakers; and their preferences are not hard to discern. Try as they might to deny this, it has never been more evident than in the last few election cycles. How? Let me count just a few of the ways.
President Bush was continually vilified for his supposed cowboy image, being compared as you might imagine, in an unflattering way with John Wayne. His use of the term, "bring it on," in reference to bloodthirsty killers, intent on murdering innocent women and children, was met with tsunamis of derision. USA Today bewailed his "combative tone" and quoted Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who called the president's language "irresponsible and inciteful." We're still waiting for comment from the estimable Sen. Lautenberg on Barack Obama's use of vulgar street-talk when wondering "whose ass to kick" while dealing with an environmental issue that is clearly over his head.
Or how about other examples of bad language? Bush was famously and thoroughly trashed by the media when he referred to New York Times reporter Adam Clymer as a bodily orifice during an open-mike gaffe at an outdoor Labor Day rally in Tennessee. The reaction when Joe Biden dropped the f-bomb during the signing of the healthcare bill at the White House? Puff pieces like this one from CBS that asked if the entire kerfuffle was, "Just Biden Being Biden?;" while over at ABC they wondered, "Was Joe Biden's Swear a Big Deal?" I'll leave the answers to you.
Bush was constantly compared to Herbert Hoover as presiding over a terrible economic downturn and although he had earned an MBA from Harvard, he was widely regarded as a fiscal dunce. Not so his successor--whose main qualification for the presidency was a career spent in community organizing--upon whom no blame for our current mess seems to fall. Here's Paul Krugman, hitting on his two favorite subjects, love of Obama and hatred of "Bush's War," defending his hero: "And fear-mongering on the deficit may end up doing as much harm as the fear-mongering on weapons of mass destruction."
Yet the pendulum might be swinging back again. It seems that the far left segment of the media isn't too pleased with what their champion, Barack Obama has accomplished lately, even with a friendly Congress. How far might they go in failing to defend him should the November disaster everyone expects come to pass?
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!