Our paranoid, race-baiting media
posted at 12:21 am on September 18, 2009 by Karl
[White House communications director Anita] Dunn played down the role that race could have in fueling the rancor. “I think that is less a part of it than some other people might think,” she said.
It may be true, as Allahpundit suggests, that the White House refuses to accuse its opponents of racism directly because “every last halfwit in big media is happily willing to do it for them.” But these statements are not mutually exclusive. When Dunn speaks of “some other people,” she may well be thinking of the legacy media.
She may be thinking of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who hears racist voices in her head. She may be thinking of the Washington Post coulmists Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne — or the paper’s media critic, Howard Kurtz. She may be thinking of TIME’s Joe Klein, as big a hypocrite as he may be on the subject. She may have read a McClatchy newspaper story about it. She may be thinking of the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, who confesses to hearing an inner Maureen Dowd voice. She may be thinking of The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg. She may be thinking of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, or NBC’s Today show, which featured more imaginary voices in the head. She may be thinking of ABC News, or possibly CNN.
She may be thinking of the White House press corps, a sizeable portion of which wanted to drag Pres. Obama into their delusion after ex-Pres. Carter claimed that the “overwhelming” portion of animosity towards Obama is racist. Obama flack Robert Gibbs — despite saying that Pres. Obama did not think race was a factor — was badgered about it:
“Are you saying that the President is not concerned about the climate of hate in this country today?”
“You don’t think it’s race-based?”
“Robert, did the President see President Carter’s remarks and read them, in full?”
“Robert, just to put a fine point on it, speaking for the President, do you believe he disagrees with what Jimmy Carter said last night, fundamentally?”
“Would the President regard statements from such a prominent American, a former President, a son of the South, as he described himself, helpful in the whole country’s understanding or comprehensive or conversation about this subject, of his presidency, race, and criticism of his policy?”
“There’s obviously the President. Why is he or why are you so reluctant to talk about it? I mean, you were reluctant to talk about the House vote on Joe Wilson. You’re reluctant to talk about — I guess my question really is that he gave this big speech during the campaign on race. There’s now a conversation that’s risen to the level of a former President about race. Can we expect him to talk about that, to address it in any way, or is your hope to keep him away from this conversation and focused on other things?”
“If the incident in Cambridge was viewed in the President’s eyes as a teachable moment for the country, why is this not a teachable moment, in terms of the role that race is playing in society?”
“What impact does it have when a former President of the United States, someone who came from the South, someone who worked against discrimination all of his career, says that the — what was it — an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity is because he’s black? What effect does that have on the country when a former President says that?”
And so on.
On this topic, the legacy media have turned from investigatory journalism to hallucinatory journalism. To assist those still hearing voices in their heads, let’s use a visual aid:
For Carter to be correct, we would have to assume that a large portion of the population was unaware in late 2008 and early 2009 that Barack Obama is a person of color, or that an increasing portion of the public is turning racist. Occam’s Razor suggests the correct answer is that Carter is an unhinged, race-baiting demagogue.
And contrary to some White House correspondent, there is not “a national conversation going on about race and the role it has or hasn’t played in some of the hostility” toward the president. Only 12% of likely voters hold Carter’s view, most of whom are Democrats. Only 20% of registered voters hold Carter’s view, 34% of Democrats. Those figures are comparable to the 35% of Democrats who believed in 2007 that George Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. It is a view held by a minority of a minority. The legacy media’s seeming obsession with the notion says far more about them than the president’s critics.
Of course, establishment journalism’s delusions about the Right extend beyond the casual imputation of racism. The legacy media has also been obsessed with the idea that the Right is thisclose to boiling over into violent revolution. Reason’s Jesse Walker has a must-read essay detailing the paranoid style in center-left politics and the history of past “brown scares” waged against the Right. In the current debate over ObamaCare, if the Obama=Hitler signs are actually the work of Lyndon LaRouche nuts who support Canadian-style medicine, the legacy media will not notice. If furthering the narrative of the “angry white man” opposition to ObamaCare requires MSNBC to lop off the head of an African-American man holding a rifle with a video editor, so be it. These acts and omissions further a “larger truth,” which is to say a narrative not tethered to reported fact.
At this point, I should take a moment to concede that some of Pres. Obama’s critics may well be racists, and may hold extreme views. On the other hand, I can find Hispanics in New Jersey (most of whom are likely not members of Radical Right) who think that Obama is the Anti-Christ, or are “birthers” or “truthers.” Indeed, the same poll has half of the African-Americans surveyed as truthers.
We could also look at the 2005 study which showed that a majority of blacks believed that a cure for AIDS was being withheld from the poor; that nearly half believed that AIDS was man-made, with a quarter believing that it was created in a US government laboratory and 12 percent naming the CIA as its source. Such fringe conspiracy theories were peddled by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Pres. Obama counted as his spiritual adviser until Wright’s comments before the National Press Club made his extremism politically impossible to dismiss. Extremism is not difficult to find in any large demographic, but the legacy media only sees it selectively.
Many on the Right presume the legacy media acts as it does to marginalize the president’s critics and to cover up the extremism to be found on the Left. However, that is a fairly charitable hypothesis. In discussing the (forced) resignation of Obama’s “green jobs czar” Van Jones, lefty blogger-activist Jane Hamsher not only noted that 35% of Democrats were truthers, but suggested that such extreme views were broadly held by the liberal institutional elite, who are presumably better informed and educated on politics than the general public. Thus, the question presents itself as to whether the legacy media covers extremism as it does due to extremism within the legacy media.
Continuing with the Van Jones case, consider that the New York Times failed to cover the story until he was forced out, and then with this lede: “In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration’s conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House’s environmental jobs “czar” on Saturday.” The news was not — and never was to the NYT — that Van Jones had been a communist Truther; the news was that conservatives had somehow won a victory. No wonder that Tom Brokaw and Tom Friedman took to NBC’s Meet The Press to blame the messenger.
Similarly, in covering the ongoing scandals plaguing Pres. Obama’s old friends at ACORN, the first headline from the NYT did not address the substance of the scandals, but proclaimed: “Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn.” Other outlets, including the L.A. Times, had the same take on the story. It might be argued that the NYT and the LAT are covering the story up, but ABC World News Tonight anchor Charlie Gibson was unaware there even was an ACORN story. Moreover, some of the questions from the White House presser quoted above were lobbed by Helen Thomas, and few can doubt that she is so fully marinated in her left-wing extremism that she sees no manipulation or dishonesty in what she is doing.
The picture that emerges may not be that of clever, biased journalists highlighting extremism on the Right and whitewashing it on the Left. The picture may be of intellectually lazy, incurious, knee-jerk liberal journalists for whom the extremism of the Left does not register as all that extreme, and for whom the concerns of half the population do not even register as legitimate subjects of news coverage.
In short, we may be looking at a case for Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Of course, I would not want to engage in the same sort of gross generalizations discussed above. Life is just too complex for that. Accordingly, we could also employ Heinlein’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”