Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Media coverage of this election has been "Dumb and Dumber (and Dumber Still)" according to Eric Alterman's column in the Oct. 18 issue of The Nation. "[M]ost of the mainstream media have been performing like trained seals in a Karl Rove-produced traveling circus."
Exhibit A in his case is the saturation coverage of the Dan Rather documents blooper. Alterman feels that the media have acted as if Rather's mistake is:
Worse Than War: When the New York Times ran its May 26 admission that it gullibly swallowed the Bush Administration's deception about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, which helped win support for a ruinous war, the story was, according to the invaluable Media Matters, reported thirty-eight times in US newspaper and wire reports during the following forty-eight hours and seven times on cable news. It was entirely ignored on Fox News Channel. By contrast, in the forty-eight hours following CBS's admission that it "should not have used" memos critical of Bush's military service because of questions regarding their provenance, the story was reported 167 times in US newspaper and wire reports and fifty-seven times on cable news broadcasts. Every single Fox News Channel program devoted itself to the story.
It's bad enough when the left suffers disproportionately negative press, but then Robert Novak added insult to injury. Having outed CIA agent Valerie Plame at the behest of someone in the White House and then refused to reveal his source, Novak had the chutzpah to demand on television that Rather reveal his sources. "'I'd like CBS, at this point, to say where they got these documents from,' he exclaimed to his co-panelists, not one of whom called him on his hypocrisy."
Alterman concludes that:
CBS's slip-up was such big news because it fit the right-wing script designed to shield the Bush Administration from democratic accountability. Bowing to pressure that blew the story out of all sensible proportion, the network announced that it would withhold until after the election a major investigative scoop. That story involves the Administration's efforts to mislead the nation into war using false claims that Iraq attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger--which just happens to be the story by which Robert Novak carried its dirty water. Bush was also off the hook for shirking his cushy National Guard service, and John Kerry's hard-hitting speeches about the Iraq quagmire were buried beneath the rubble. Overall, the drama--like the entire election narrative--could hardly have played more effectively for the Republicans if it had been scripted by Karl Rove. Hmm...
Considering the indisputable case Alterman makes for media bias, let me remind you that my last posting was about the crucial need for liberal radio to develop in this country after the election. Even a strong radio presence would still leave us at a disadvantage in the propaganda wars, but we have to start somewhere.

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