I always knew that the media would find a way to turn back to right-wing ideology after America voted out the conservatives who almost destroyed the country and the financial global economy. But I didn't know they would use a minor story like ACORN as their catalyst.
You know how the WaPost feels about liberals who complain, don't you? This is very troubling indeed. Apparently the Washington Post thinks it should be paying more attention to the crazed rantings of Glenn Beck and incorporate it into their news coverage.
Now you understand what we'll be up against the rest of Obama's term:
Conservative bloggers and commentators know how to turn up the heat on mainstream media. Glenn Beck did it one day last week on his Fox News program. Theatrically unhinged, he directed viewers to call their local newspaper and demand coverage of ACORN, the national community action group targeted in an embarrassing hidden video sting.
"Right now, get off the couch. While I'm talking, you pick up the phone. You call the newspaper," he commanded. If ACORN hasn't been on the front page, or if the paper isn't investigating the group's local activities, "then what the hell are they good for?"
Shortly, The Post and other papers were flooded with angry calls and e-mails.
It's tempting to dismiss such gimmicks. Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth.
But they're also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN and, before it, the Fox-fueled controversy that led to the resignation of White House environmental adviser Van Jones.
Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries "that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It's particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view."
To guard against it, he said, "I challenge our reporters and editors with great frequency to look at what is going on across the political spectrum . . . at the extremes, among the rabble-rousers, as well as among policymakers." He said he pressed the National desk this week to provide more ACORN coverage.
The Post does not survey its staff to determine its ideological makeup.
The most authoritative recent research into the political leanings of newsrooms (including television, radio, magazines and wire services) shows they are considerably more liberal than the general public. At daily newspapers, those who "lean to the left still far outnumber those who lean to the right," said Indiana University journalism professor David H. Weaver, whose researchers surveyed 1,149 journalists in 2002 and recently conducted a follow-up study of 400.
A recent Pew Research nationwide survey said only 26 percent of those questioned believe news organizations try to protect against political bias, while 60 percent said news organizations are biased.
Beck is more provocateur than newsman. And Fox caters to conservatives. Working in concert, they and other right-leaning media have a large audience. Beck averages 2.25 million viewers.
The Post should follow its own news standards, not theirs. But it should pay attention to what they report.
The pseudo-elites who sit atop the media dogpile do think that conservatives represent the one true America, so they've found another reason to justify their actions and will submit to the new Matt Drudge of the right, Glenn Beck.
Please read the article thoroughly and then contact Andrew Alexander at 202-334-7582 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please be civil and articulate.
Digby writes a lot more on this issue:
The methods of dissemination are the same as they ever were. They push the "scandal" through the right wing noise machine, work the refs hard (which isn't hard to do because the villagers are convinced that the right wing represents "Real America") and they create the illusion that something "doesn't pass the smell test." Here, we see that the wingnuts have convinced the Washington Post that "something is wrong," that the "Van Jones story" was a huge deal which they failed to cover and that they need to be more vigilant about ferreting out these important issues.
At the same time the villagers are busily convincing themselves that the fact that all these players are black is coincidental and irrelevant because none of them have a racist bone in their bodies and yet they "feel" there must be something to all this. In fact, I think they are probably in the process of convincing themselves that only by relentlessly covering these scandals can they prove just how colorblind they really are.
If papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times (which also believes it needs to give conservatives special attention) really believe that their precarious financial future is served by following the Glenn Beck agenda, then we won't have to worry about them much longer anyway.
Update: From Andrew Sullivan an observation to which the Washington Post should probably pay attention:
A reader recently made a very interesting reference. He said he believed that the GOP was morphing into the American equivalent of the Parti Quebecois. It is essentially a regional party now - representing the South in the national discourse. And its rhetoric seems divorced from any desire to actually hold responsible public office. So Republicans, like the Quebecers, tend to use politics as a means for disruption or protest or threat or veto.
It's also worth remembering that the huge amount of noise on the far right is actually quite narrowly based. Here's a fact from the Time profile of Beck:
In 1987 comedian David Brenner bombed in syndication with about 2.5 million viewers at midnight — which is roughly what Fox, the leading network for political talk shows, averages in prime time.
There is certainly a very angry far right base out there. But it would be foolish to over-estimate it.
And as Duncan said a few years ago:
Let's get this straight. The Right hates honest journalism. Has run a 35 year campaign against it. Hugh Hewitt does almost nothing but blast regularly what he considers to be "the liberal media" which, of course, includes the Washington Post. All we, on the left, wanted was a straightforward correction and admission of error and a genuine attempt to correct the record.