EDITOR OF REDSTATE
The American Political Press’s Psycho Moment
I was too hard on Chuck Todd in my earlier post. I apologize to him for it. My point was not to brow beat Chuck Todd, but many people took it as such. I have to conclude I failed to convey the extent of my point because in focusing as I did on Chuck Todd and his remark, I overshadowed the substance of his remark. That was my intended focus.
The substance of his remark was that the press, giving voice to people like Jack Welch and Donald Trump, among others, breaks down the public’s trust in government. My point is that it is not these people and us hearing their opinions that breaks down trust in government. That trust is broken down by the media itself and the American people clearly seeing a left-of-center bias in the media and an inability to relate to or seem to even care about the concerns of people in what some might call fly over country, or, more specifically, people who live along American river valleys other than the Hudson.
Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful film was a huge box office success. Hitchcock made movie theaters agree not to let people enter the movie late. It drove buzz and demand. He would not even allow film critics a pre-screening. They had to see it with the audience. Early critics’ reviews panned the film. But the audience loved it. Long lines grew longer. Eventually, many news outlets re-reviewed the film and, no one will be surprised to learn, the critics loved it.
Psycho was a major moment in film history, not just because of what it showed on screen, but because a lot of people realized the movie critics really were disconnected from the average movie viewer.
A few weeks ago in Benghazi, Libya, the American Ambassador was assassinated by Al Qaeda in a pre-planned attack. Within twenty-four hours the White House knew it. A few hours after the American media began running horrific stories about the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Barack Obama flew to Las Vegas, NV for a campaign event.
There is not an honest American, left, right, or center who thinks the media would have been as docile or compliant had George W. Bush done the same. But the press gave Barack Obama a pass on his campaign trip.
More than that, the press — led by Chuck Todd on MNSBC no less — began pounding on Mitt Romney with the press on virtually the same talking points across the networks and printed press, given more energy by Barack Obama’s characterization that Mitt Romney shot first and aimed later.
For two weeks the President stuck by the story that the attack in Libya sprung out of rioting over a video that had been on YouTube for six months. As members of the Obama Administration began walking it back, Barack Obama doggedly stuck to the story and the media largely let him. Finally, at a congressional hearing, Charlene Lamb of the Obama Administration still refused to characterize the “attackers,” as she called them, as terrorists. Jake Tapper of ABC News asked Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, if it was not Barack Obama who shot first and aimed later. Carney attempted to retreat on two weeks of well spun bull malarkey and the majority of the press corp gave him a pass. Carney, a former reporter for Time, tried to deny he had ever claimed any of the claims he has made the last two weeks.
Not surprisingly, NBC News’s lead story — not MSNBC — was about Mitt Romney and abortion.
But the press, like the Psycho movie critics, is beginning to change it tune because it has to. What the public is seeing cannot be rationally explained away by Obama apologists in the media. The press, for once, has to do its job, but even now seemingly wishes to drag its feet. “We can get him after he wins,” many of them seem to be muttering.
This is why the public is losing faith in government and the media. The public does not trust what the media reports. The public does not trust that the media relates to them or their values. The public does not trust that the press is not a collaborator with the political class. A majority of Americans consistently reject gay marriage and the majority of the mainstream media portrays them as troglodyte bigots. A majority of Americans are suspicious of much of what they hear from the political press these days, but the political press would rather ridicule the skeptical news consumers than explain what’s going on.
A media that is right now seeing Barack Obama’s Administration try to spin its way out of what happened in Libya is incredulous that any Americans could doubt a household survey on jobs that seemingly conflicts with a corporate survey on jobs that is more widely accepted by economists.
This is an administration whose Internal Revenue Service “accidentally” leaked confidential tax information about a number of conservative groups and the press buys the accident. This is an administration whose HHS Secretary was found guilty of a Hatch Act violation and the press said it was no big deal. This is an administration that put political cronies in Inspectors General positions, if it bothered to fill them at all, then saw the Inspectors General report away Fast & Furious, the New Black Panthers litigation, etc. and the press yawned.
This is an administration that said Osama Bin Laden was dead and Al Qaeda was on the run when we now see Al Qaeda alive and our assassinated ambassador dragged through the streets of Benghazi.
Still, most of the political press yawns. After all, there’s a non-scandal about Mitt Romney and abortion to focus on and his remarks on the 47% and . . .
Now, I promise, as the Obama campaign begins dismissing polls and lamenting polling skew, the press will not be nearly as dismissive as the press has been of Republicans saying the same.
Jack Welch’s comments and skepticism about polling skew would probably never have broken into the mainstream had the press showed Barack Obama’s administration half the skepticism it showed George Bush. Let’s not forget that for two consecutive Republican National Conventions Code Pink activists have disrupted the nominees’ speeches from the convention location. Each time they got into the convention with press credentials given to them by members of the press corp.
There is a vast disconnect that I don’t think most reporters understand or appreciate. Worse, I think they’d rather blame the news consumers — increasingly the former news consumers — than blame themselves or acknowledge their responsibility. There is little difference between the movie critic who comments derisively on the taste of American movie goers and the reporter who comments derisively on what the news consumer chooses to watch and read.
It is not that Fox News is, during its day time news, more conservative. It is that Fox News actually expends effort to ensure it relates to the values and world view of many more Americans than most major news outlets. But the average reporter for the average newspaper or other press shop would rather lament a conservative bias at Fox News than recognize most of them have a liberal bias much more detached from the average American. Outside of that news organization, very few are even interested in what middle class Americans within fifty miles of an American river valley not named Hudson even care about. The people consuming the news are not viewed as the intended consumers by the press. The intended consumers are those at their cocktail parties in Washington and New York who will herald them and give them Pulitzers and maybe one day a cushy job in a future Democratic Administration.
Festering the problem, many reporters, thought leaders in the press, and news executives rarely encounter people in the heartland any more. The Mississippi River Valley is something to be flown over instead of studied and covered unless there is a natural disaster. Additionally, the new breed of political reporter knows little about politics before Bush v. Gore, couldn’t care less to have a sense of history to give them perspective, embraces the cosmopolitan culture of elite environs in New York and Washington diving only into hipster dive bars to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon to connect in some superficial way with the rest of the country, leans left socially and fiscally, and maintains an increasingly secular world view nearly identical to that of their other young, hipster reporter friends. “Professing themselves wise, they became fools . . . ”
It is a painful truth.
But there is more.
Over the last week, a growing number of pundits, reporters, and Americans have commented on Barack Obama’s “teleprompter” issues in the last debate and his petulant reaction to Mitt Romney’s statements. Over the last forty-eight hours, the American press corp has commented on the lack of substance and the shallowness of the Obama campaign vis-a-vis the Big Bird ad.
These are all conservative critiques of the Obama Administration for the past four years. But each time conservatives raised them, most political reporters dismissed the critiques as partisanship, frivolousness, or racism. Now, the political press is taking on these points as their own as are many Americans suddenly tuned in. The conservative echo chamber talking points about Barack Obama have broken out of the echo chamber and seeped into the American psyche in a way that the Obama camp will have a hard time shutting down. But the damning thing is that many of these points were, for four years, treated dismissively by the American political press only to now be repeated by them.
It is not that suddenly these points underwent a metamorphosis from illegitimate to legitimate. It’s that the political press, like with Benghazi, can no longer tell the American people they did not see what they actually saw. Americans are believing their lying eyes and, in so doing, more and more feel like they’ve been had by a press corp that calls itself objective when it patently is not.
A week ago Tucker Carlson released a video of Barack Obama at an event in 2007. The media waved it away as illegitimate. “We covered that,” they all said.
The press never covered Barack Obama telling a black audience that the Bush Administration somehow considered blacks in New Orleans as not part of the “American Community.” Had a Republican said that to a white crowd about Barack Obama’s administration there would be hell to pay across every network. But the media chose to pooh-pooh it away saying it had been covered already. Some went so far as to deny the clear implications of what the President had said. None reported that the President had voted against the very waivers he accused George Bush of denying New Orleans.
Now they won’t revisit it because it is old, not new, despite not truly being covered at the time.
In the same way, Barack Obama’s autobiography was a huge seller in 2007 as the press “vetted” Obama. But this year conservatives kept trotting out portions of the book and the media reacted with incredulous surprise. “What’s your source on that,” the media demanded collectively. It was the freaking book all you people bought in 2007 and clearly never read.
This all goes to a larger point and it is directly related to the relationships between reporters, their spouses, their friendships, etc.
Believe it or not, many Americans in this country would have a hard time believing that a person could be married to an abortion rights activist without being okay with that activism. And those Americans would more likely than not conclude that the reporter married to the abortion rights activist, the Democratic operative, the Joe Biden communications director, etc. share their spouse’s liberal world view. If we are honest about it, we’d have to admit that in most cases the Americans concluding that would be absolutely right. There are exceptions to all of these, but then they are the exceptions — these relationships between people of opposite world-views also seem to be much more common inside the NYC-DC corridor of press, politics, and power than out in fly over country, which adds to the cynicism many Americans have for the press and politics. Any conservative pundit who is friends with a liberal pundit in Washington knows exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to this cynicism.
As a related aside, I rarely endorse a man running for office without getting a sense of his wife’s world view. Why? Because over time I’ve found inside and outside of politics, most (though not all) men slowly evolve toward their wife’s world view. So if the wife is to the left of the husband, I have a pretty good idea of where the husband will be after a decade in office. It’s just reality.
You might want to dismiss me or my point for saying it, but you’ll have to trust me that I and many others in this country could not marry someone who is okay with killing kids. You will have to trust me that I and many others in this country could not marry someone diametrically opposed to our world view, whether it be liberal or conservative.
And you will have to trust me that, even though you disagree with me, very many news consumers beyond conservatives are deeply suspicious of the incestuous, entangled relations between the political press and political class in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, too many members of the press would rather, like with the Obama race speech, wave their hands and pooh-pooh those concerns away instead of being legitimately, conscientious of those concerns and going out of their way to be as even handed as possible and conscious that the reporter’s world view may very well have nothing in common with the person listening to the reporter.
The galling thing for me as a conservative activist who is regularly on television and radio is to know there are so many good reporters out there who do good work who, because of their colleagues in the political press corp, are tainted by the obvious contempt for so many Americans by so many political reporters and the absolute willful blindness of many news executives who are willing to sprinkle media holy water on liberal pundits, analysts, operatives, and reporters and suddenly declare them free of bias and 100% fully objective, guaranteed.
Put more bluntly, many of us out there would never have had the opportunity to exist had the media bothered to be as objective as it claims it is.