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The Defenestration of the MSM

The Defenestration of the MSM

September 17th, 2008  |  Published in Reporting commentary  |  2 Comments


(The defenestration of Prague  1618-Wikipedia)

I can’t honestly tell if the Palin brouhaha is causing a serious problem for the Obama campaign, but I’m pretty sure its causing one in the established media aka the MSM. I have to say that I find The Anger Factor by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz preposterous and highly partisan. Here is his opening:

“The media are getting mad.

Whether it’s the latest back-and-forth over attack ads, the silly lipstick flap or the continuing debate over Sarah and sexism, you can just feel the tension level rising several notches.

Maybe it’s a sense that this is crunch time, that the election is on the line, that the press is being manipulated (not that there’s anything new about that).”

To this point he seems reasonably neutral, but he openly unfurls his partisan flag in the very next paragraph.

News outlets are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign, whether it’s the ad accusing Obama of supporting sex-ed for kindergartners (the Illinois legislation clearly describes “age-appropriate” programs) or Palin’s repeated boast that she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere (after she had supported it, and after Congress had effectively killed the specific earmark).

Naturally there are endless claims and counter claims about both candidates ads, but where I fall on the floor laughing is the idea that it’s the media being manipulated. As readers of this blog will know, it is my view that the raison d’etre of the media to manipulate the public. Do politicians try to manipulate them? Sure. Constantly.  So I think Mr Kurtz’s anger is of the faux variety.

I believe the cause of the anger is the frustration that attacking Palin is just making people more interested in her and often sympathetic to her.  In the week leading up to convention speech they even published a pure tabloid story claiming she had faked pregnancy to cover her daughter’s pregnancy. And they ignored the Edwards affair for 10 months? Pfui! And no, I am not being partisan when I point this out because the I think the sequence of events of how the media treated Hillary followed by how they are treating Palin has exposed them to new levels of skepticism. But here, let  a Democrat, Hillary Clinton adviser Mark Penn,  tell the story. Toward the end of this CBS News piece the interviewer suggests that the media are treating Plain with kid gloves:

CBSNews.com: Your former colleague Howard Wolfson argued that you all unintentionally paved the way for Palin by exposing some of the unfair media coverage that Hillary Clinton received. And, therefore, a lot of the media may now be treating Sarah Palin with kid gloves. Do you agree with that?

Mark Penn: Well, no, I think the people themselves saw unfair media coverage of Senator Clinton. I think if you go back, the polls reflected very clearly what “Saturday Night Live” crystallized in one of their mock debates about what was happening with the press.

I think here the media is on very dangerous ground. I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Governor Palin ever filed, if they don’t do that for all four of the candidates, they’re on very dangerous ground. I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems.

And I think that that’s a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media — not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan — but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development.

For the record newmediatheory, its non existent sponsors, hangers on and assorted groupies do not think the defenestration of the media is unfortunate. That’s right – out the window with the lot of them – they are all so into manipulation they just can’t stop. It is high time and good riddance. They have been conning and misleading us for years and it is progressively obvious to everyone. From Saturday Night Live to the family Pit Bull, Hocky Puck, who has taken to growling at the TV when the news comes on.   Mark Penn is right – they all do it. The emperor isn’t a Republican or a Democrat, he is stark naked. And Mark Penn gets better:

CBSNews.com: So you think the media is being uniquely tough on Palin now?

Mark Penn: Well, I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they’re not doing on the other candidates. And that’s going to subject them to people concluding that they’re giving her a tougher time. Now, the media defense would be, “Yeah, we looked at these other candidates who have been in public life at an earlier time.”

What happened here very clearly is that the controversy over Palin led to 37 million Americans tuning into a vice-presidential speech, something that is unprecedented, because they wanted to see for themselves. This is an election in which the voters are going to decide for themselves. The media has lost credibility with them.



  1. Richard Landes says:

    September 29th, 2008at 12:24 am(#)

    it might feel good to cheer the defenestration of the MSM (cdn’t happen to nicer guys), but what next? don’t we need MSM to (do a good job) filtering what’s reliable and not? cyberspace offers a valuable alternative source of information, but wdn’t we rather a well-operating (honest, fair, informed) MSM that inform us and thereby empower us, rather than throw the baby out with the bath water?
    granted many of these guys are beyond reach — precisely because they are so smart — but can’t we begin a process of forming a reliable school of journalism that cd eventually shed the dysfunctional practitioners of the current MSM — partisan gatekeepers — the way a snake sheds its old skin when the new one has grown? but can we do without a MSM?
    maybe i misunderstand your argument, but you probably get what i’m driving at.

  2. admin says:

    September 29th, 2008at 4:24 pm(#)

    Perhaps my point does get lost. The intent was to use overblown sarcasm, symbolically, not literally, throwing the MSM out the window. But I do mean it in the sense that before the snake sheds its skin there will have to be some real pain. The loss of credibility is already a major factor and the survival of even the NY Times is not assured. Perhaps MSNBC’s failed attempt to outfox Fox is a turning point. To be unsarcastic I think we are seeing independent journalists filling the vacuum in the market by playing it straight – writing the first draft of history instead of soft core propaganda. To address your main point I certainly hope the MSM are finally coerced by the competition introduced by the Web based market to start really doing their job again. I would speculate that in the future there will continue to be a merry band of independents that think they can do a better job and who can, in fact, compete for the public’s dollar. They may develop a recognizable identity and role – a sort of 5th estate. A J-school that makes their students study al Durah for a semester would be welcome. That said, during technological change the old players often die off because the new players understand the game better. Henry Ford understood manufacturing dynamics better than the buggy makers. Gates beat IBM but Linus Torvalds understands the dynamics of software development better than either. Bill Roggio just presented publicly available material dismissed by the MSM and now heads his own new organization -PMI (Public Media International) that dispatches correspondents to war zones. He writes a first draft of the War on Terror that the WaPo and the NY Times fail to write. Then there is your own Second Draft. I believe some of these new institutions will become part of the changed institutional landscape – a profoundly modified MSM – that emerges as a result of the changed media environment. So I think we will get a new and reformed media establishment – a genetically modified snake – to stretch the metaphor- rather than the same snake in a new skin.

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