Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Our entertaining Washington press corps

Gene Lyons, who was the first to describe the symptoms of the current pathological phase of the mainstream press in his book Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater (1996) and in preceding articles on the Whitewater pseudoscandal, has some Advice for Obama Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 11/19/08. And in doing so gives this excellent summary of what's wrong with our Establishment press:

One of the Republican right’s most successful inventions has been liberal media bias. Even as the “mainstream” press has trended rightward, the liberal-bias trope has had two big advantages in keeping the party faithful, well, faithful. First, it allowed devotees to reject any and all information at odds with GOP dogma. Second, it preserved the sense of victimization essential to the right-wing world view. In reality, the Washington political media have been functionally pro-Republican for years. The so-called Gang of 500 long ago abandoned journalistic ethics for those of the entertainment industry. They’re celebrities, and as such would-be insiders and front-runners. Liberal media? During the Clinton administration, this cohort flogged the make-believe Whitewater scandal for years. They went hysterical over Bill Clinton’s sexual sins and sustained false derogatory stories about Al Gore during the 2000 election (invented the Internet, “Love Story,” etc.). After that, the nation’s premier newspapers, specifically The New York Times and The Washington Post, got suckered into running single-source, frontpage propaganda about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. The embedded mainstream media treated the subsequent invasion of Iraq as the world’s biggest Boy Scout jamboree until chaos in Baghdad became impossible to ignore. [my emphasis]
Lyons' bottom-line advice about our high-end press corps and Big Pundits: "In short, if Obama ignores the gasbags and leads, Americans will follow."

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