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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is The Mainstream Media Losing Its Clout?

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." — Thomas Jefferson

While driving home from a brief shopping trip to the grocery store the other day I noticed the car in front of me had a bumper sticker prominently displayed on his rear window. The slogan read; “Don’t Believe the Lies of the Liberal Media.”  I have been noticing more such bumper stickers appearing in my neighborhood.

I have been noticing more bumper stickers with conservative or Tea Party messages as I drive around. It appears as though there are more and more people that are beginning to get fed up with the traditional mainstream media these days.

As the influence of conservative talk radio, the Internet, Fox news and conservative electronic news services begin to grow the traditional MSM is beginning to lose both readers and influence. One perfect example is the reporting on the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor rally last week.

There is no escaping the fact that traditional mainstream media outlets have been trying to label recent conservative movements as racist, or tinged with racism. This has been the case from the town hall meetings and the Tea Party to Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally. From the latest coverage of Beck's rally, it is clear that the media has some very deep-seated stereotypes that it just can't seem to excise from its coverage. A less charitable analysis would conclude that the media's bigotry is showing.

When the mainstream media dedicated themselves to providing equal coverage to the massive Restoring Honor rally orchestrated by radio and TV personality Glenn Beck and the much smaller Reclaim the Dream rally orchestrated by radio host Al Sharpton, they undoubtedly thought they were doing their liberal brethren a huge favor.  As it turns out, they accomplished the exact opposite.

The images and sounds that emerged from the two competing events did more to damage the credibility and cause of left-wing activists from Sharpton to Obama than anything Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or any other conservative spokesmen could have done in twenty years. Why? Because for any American citizen willing to pay attention (and many of them did), it was a real-time depiction — no filter, no interpretation, no cosmetics — of the stark contrasts between two totally different views on this country, its heritage, and its destiny.

Sure, there were the anecdotal comparisons like noting how the media incessantly referred to Beck as a "controversial conservative" while the uber-controversial and race-baiting Al Sharpton received the undeserved title of "civil rights leader."

There was the humorous exercise of comparing the cleanliness of the National Mall after Beck's rally (supposedly full of environment-hating corporate polluters) to the trashed Mall after Obama's inauguration (attended by the environmentally conscious left). The liberal media made light of this fact, but the American people clearly saw the values of the two groups. One group believes they are entitled to things, while the other believes in personal responsibility and civil pride. It’s not hard to differentiate between the two. Actions always speak louder than words.

And then there was the classic moment when ABC reporter Tahman Bradley commented on how the "almost all white" crowd at Beck's rally gave "critics an open door." Besides the obvious self-indictment such a statement brings of Mr. Bradley's obsession with the color of people's skin, notice that there was no similar acknowledgment of Sharpton's "almost all black" crowd and what that might indicate.

The greatest irony of all came in the title of Sharpton's liberal lollapalooza: "Reclaiming the Dream." As Jerome Hudson, a black man who participated in the Beck event explained, "Al Sharpton is a pretender. He is going to tell you to pretend that the color of your skin matters. He is going to ask you to ignore the overwhelming proof that fifty years after the Civil Rights movement, blacks are now destroying each other faster than the KKK could have ever dreamed." My neighbor, an African-American independent contractor, believes as does Mr. Hudson.

The amount of anti-conservative vitriol wrapped in accusations of racism that make it into the reporting and commentary on the Tea Party movement or town hall meetings is shocking. The dinosaur press constantly uses an undertone of "Tea Party racism" to explain anti-big government sentiment. The examples are almost too numerous to list. Researching via the excellent Newsbusters, a media watchdog group, allows me to provide you with an abbreviated list of examples.

  1. Chris Math: Palin Supporters Racist -- 'White vs. Other People'
  2. Cynthia Tucker - 45% to 65% of townhall protesters are racist
  3. Tea Party Opposition to Minimum Wage Racially Suspect
  4. Tea Partiers Are All Racists Who Hate Black President
  5. Howard Dean; 'Lost Souls' follow 'Racist-Hate-Monger' Beck
  6. CNN - Racial Tinge To Tea Party Movement
  7. NYT's Krugman Sees Racism Among Town Hall 'Mob'
  8. Variety Columnist Accuses Fox News of Catering To Racial Fears
  9. MSNBC's: White Working Class Voters Racist
  10. Journolisters Plot To Change The Conversation About Rev Wright

If you compare how the media treats Tea Party protests or town hall meetings with the antiwar rallies, the difference is striking. These are the major grassroots movements of the last decade, and they are reported very differently.

Having seen the coverage of demonstrations against the war in Iraq and the World Trade Summits during the Bush years I was struck by a couple of items. The first was the amount of extreme hatred and viciousness directed at President Bush. The second was that the profane signs, which were everywhere, but never made it to the news. There were a few scuffles with police, and the crowd was mostly young and overwhelmingly white. The media mentioned in passing the small number of arrests, but the age and race of the demonstrators never made it into the media reportage at all. Apparently that information wasn't relevant.

Contrast the coverage of the anti-war rally to CNN, ABC, NPR, USA Today, and CBS reporting on Glenn Beck's nonpolitical rally. All of those "news" agencies noted that the crowd at 8/28 was mostly older and white. The same news outlets that rarely if ever commented on the color or age of the antiwar demonstrators find those facts relevant here. The liberal media regurgitates those same facts about town hall "agitators" and Tea Party protesters. Why? The need to comment on race betrays an underlying stereotype and the need to reinforce it.

There are two reasons why the media feels compelled to report that people who don't hold liberal viewpoints are racist. The first reason is that race and charges of racism and bigotry are simply a political battle tactic to smear a conservative idea or opponent or distract an audience. The second reason is a deep-seated belief among the media that there is something fundamentally wrong with or backwards about people who hold different opinions on government and policy. "Conservative" or "Republican" is synonymous with "stupid, racist, and backwards" in elite media circles.

It's clear from reading comments from liberal members of the JournoList that using race to smear or distract your opponent is an acceptable strategy. In years past, charges of racism would cause people to distance themselves from the accused. That is surely what the congress people were hoping for when they levied the charge that racial slurs had been directed at them by Tea Party protesters. An alternative media, lots of cameras, and a $100,000 reward demonstrated to most of America that the charge was without merit. That didn't stop the media from reporting the alleged incident over and over and over again. This type of media behavior has been going on for so long that the charge of racism is now expected by the American public. It no longer carries the sting it used to, and commentators are noticing that it seems to be the last refuge of a failed argument.
I recall one such example very distinctly. At one of the health care rallies there was a man with a rifle slung over his shoulder. MSNBC continuously ran a cropped video clip of the man. When the same uncropped clip was shown on ABC news it was obvious the man with the rifle was an African-American. This fact did not fit the racist narrative of MSNBC so they simply cropped out the face of the man and zeroed in on the gun.  This is the most egregious examples of yellow journalism I have ever seen. Here you have three people standing around a table speaking of racism and the fear that a white racist will attack Obama and showing a cropped video clip of a man with a gun while never mentioning the man was an African-American. Thankfully other media outlets called them on it. Click here for an unedited version of the same clip to see how unreliable and biased the main stream media is.

There is definitely a belief shared among the intelligentsia that people who think differently from liberal media types must be backwards, or that their motivations aren't based on reason. The media stereotype of conservative or traditional Americans is on constant display. It's most prominent when examining Barrack Obama and his big-government policies. Many liberals believe that the president's policies and ideas aren't just good, but they are "obviously" correct. Thus, any opposition of those policies must be based on not reason, but something else. This invariably leads the liberal writers to the "anger," "fear," and "racism" memes that consistently appear in media stories.

Examples of the media's stereotypes leaking into their hard new reporting abound. If you went to an antiwar rally, you would have no doubt that the antiwar protesters were "angry," but since the protesters' worldview fits the media's, they are described as "a peaceful protest" (not counting the few arrests). At the same time, the Tea Party protesters, whose views run counter to the media's, are described as "very angry" (i.e., not rational) and "overwhelmingly white" (i.e., probably racist), and "there is a potential for violence" (even though no one was arrested).

The media's hypocrisy and lack of fairness are on full display in the double standard apparent in current reporting. Bernard Goldberg's excellent book Bias has more examples of liberal media stereotyping and demonstrates that the lack of fairness is not new. The need to make the news fit the media's bias is actually an old phenomenon. Goldberg points out that it has been going on since before the media rolled out the great "homeless" epidemic that was used as "proof" that Ronald Reagan was heartless. The rise of the new media in an internet age has brought the media's bias into sharp focus. Prior to the information revolution, the liberal media elite controlled most of the levers of information dissemination. No longer.

In today's world, we have a freer, more competitive media environment. The liberal media's reporting doesn't exist in a vacuum of information anymore. A more informed media consumer is noticing the mainstream media's bias. That bias demonstrates a peculiar type of intolerance that permeates traditional news coverage. How ironic that the media elite, who consider themselves bastions of fairness, tolerance, and reason, are exactly the opposite. From CBS to CNBC, the dying mainstream media demonstrate that they are intolerant of views other than their own and are unfair to people with whom they disagree. They report as fact the most outlandish smears (i.e., potential for violence), ignoring the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The rise of the internet and an alternate media provide enough evidence and competing views that the mainstream medias bias has become obvious to all, except  the liberal media themselves.

Webster defined bigot as "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance." I think we can all agree that the mainstream media are intolerantly devoted to their own opinion. There also can be no doubt that hatred is involved after examining how Sarah Palin was treated. Regardless of why the press acts this way, when it comes to conservatives, the press is bigoted. Since 77% of the country self-identifies as conservative or moderate, the press is insulting a majority of its audience. Is it any wonder that the liberal leviathan media is going the way of the Dodo?

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