Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something Someone Else Said

"I'm sure there's a simple answer to this, and it's just eluding me: If the McCain campaign says, on the record and before the national press, that the New York Times is not a legitimate news organization, or a journalistic enterprise at all, but a political action committee working for Obama (and that is what Steve Schmidt said to reporters; listen to it...) then why does the Times have to treat the McCain crew as a "normal" campaign organization, rather than a bunch of rogue operators willing to say absolutely anything to gain power and lie to the nation once in office? I mean, really. How far can you stretch, "they're just blaming the messenger, a common tactic when frustrated...?" Does that kind of placid response cover all cases? At what point does an extreme attempt to de-legitimate the press actually de-legitimate the candidate as an extremist in the eyes of the press? Does anyone know? And if no one knows, how can the press even cover the McCain campaign? I know there's a good, sound, at-the-ready answer to these questions; I just can't think of what it is. So Romenesko readers, help me out! If the McCain campaign says the Times is not a legitimate news source why does the Times have to treat McCain as a legitimate candidate?" -Jim Romenesko, Poynter.org

The right has been doing this for years so it's no real surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to this race that McCain's campaign has now followed suit. The standard procedure here is to attack media outlets when they air/ print anything negative about your candidate (whether it's true or not is irrelevant) as being biased and untrue, then you can either dismiss anything else negative they say as proof of your accusation, "See, the New York Times is at it again. They're out to get us!" or you can use any subsequent positive coverage to automatically validate anything you choose, "Look, even the liberal New York Times has admitted that we're right!"

Of course, for this strategy to be truly effective you and your surrogates have to keep screaming about the "liberal media" and "media bias" until other media outlets are forced to have to examine themselves and others for this alleged bias, thus legitimizing your original accusation since it's now a legitimate news story (you can read my more nuanced take on supposed media bias here). Democrats have been trying to use these same tactics for a while now but they just don't have a flare for manufactured moral outrage the way Republicans do.

But I do agree with the assessment made in the quote above: McCain and his camp aren't going to be able to keep this little song and dance up until election day. The press will eventually get fed up with this enough so that they'll actually start doing their job by confronting McCain about the outright lies he and Palin have been repeating and insisting on gaining access to Palin outside of a rigidly controlled questioning environment (it has now been 25 days since she was announced as the VP candidate and she has still not held a single press conference). Playing rope-a-dope only works if you can wear your opponent out and it appears that the press is only getting more energized as we draw closer to the final round.

[Update: It now seems that even reality is "in the tank" for Obama:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate the money that is backing companies like Fox News. You'd like to think that the press would eventually stand up for themselves, but in the end isn't it about keeping a fat paycheck for more of us than not?