Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Mind of the Mainstream Media

Bernard Goldberg called it a slobbering love affair. If I recall correctly, he did not say whether it was licit or illicit.

Goldberg was calling out the media for its coverage of the Obama 2008 election campaign. As he saw it, wizened reporters were slobbering over Obama like love-struck teenagers.

They did not just evince their everyday liberal bias, Goldberg wrote, but they became part of the campaign, spinning every story to make Obama look good, counterspinning every story to make McCain and Palin look bad.

They tossed their journalistic integrity aside as though it were an encumbrance. Shamelessly pandering to a candidate they did not really know they presented a fiction as fact and helped sell it to the nation.

On one side they had learned in college that America was a nation beset by sin. Having been indoctrinated in this lesson they believed that the only solution to America’s problems was to find a Savior, a Messiah who would free it from its sin.

On the other side, Barack Obama was one of them. He had gone to the same schools, hung out with the same crowd and taken the same courses in deconstruction and critical theory.

How better to respond to the detractors who were saying that they had been brainwashed with liberal dogmas than to convince the country to embrace and elevate someone who was just like them.

If so, the nation would affirm that their beliefs were not deviant, but mainstream.

They might have believed in their heart of hearts that Obama would save the nation and the world and, but it is more likely that they believed that Obama would save them.

Surveying today's media landscape yesterday Roger Simon offered an insight into the mind of the media elites.

Believing correctly that their “jobs are increasingly precarious,” mainstream journalists have developed a bunker mentality. Terrified of being laid off they have followed Benjamin Franklin’s advice:

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Afraid to lose their jobs they will not risk offering a potentially offensive opinion or even a potentially deviant point of view. Fear produces mindless conformity.

Of course, journalists also know that their industry is dying and that their jobs are quickly losing prestige and status.

If a journalist works for the New York Times, presumably the most prestigious American new organization he knows that his company has long been on the edge of bankruptcy. If his retirement plan contains Times stock he has lost much of his savings.

If he became a journalist because he aspired to be Woodward and Bernstein he now knows that the world of heroic investigative journalism no longer exists.

In the depths of their chagrin mainstream journalists have been forced to deal with another, even worse nightmare. The only great media success in America today is Fox News.

While many mainstream news operations depend on the largesse of corporations of the government Fox News makes a substantial profit.

The New York Times has long been flirting with bankruptcy. Fox News is printing money.

Do mainstream reporters hate Fox News because of its conservative slant, because it is “fair and balanced,” or because it has succeeded in a climate where they tell themselves that media success is impossible?

Consumed by envy mainstream journalists have caricatured Fox News. They believe that it has succeeded because it is corrupt, shrill, biased and partisan. Then insist that Fox News appeals only to the least educated and least intelligent audience, and that it never distinguishes fact from fiction.

But then, the same mainstream journalists, lost in their emotions, go out to ensure their own success and survival by emulating their version of Fox News.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with imitating a more successful enterprise. Businesses do it all the time. They hire consultants, do an in-depth analysis of what the competition is doing better, and draw up an action plan to improve their organization.

If I had to guess, I would say that mainstream media outlets have not been looking at Fox News for pointers. To their mind Fox is the Evil Empire. If they were to imagine emulating Fox it would put their souls in peril; it would be like making a deal with the devil.

If they cannot choose rationally to be more like Fox, they can do so irrationally. Not by emulating what works for Fox but emulating their dismissive caricature.

Having lost touch with their rational faculties they are left with unprocessed emotions, their hatred, their envy, and their spleen.

They believe that Fox News is crassly biased; they become crassly biased. They believe that Fox News distorts the facts; they distort the facts. They believe that Fox News preys on ignorance; they prey on ignorance.

If that’s what it takes to succeed, they will do it. If Fox can get away with it, why should they feel any regret or remorse or shame.

All the while they hate themselves, but they hate Fox News even more for forcing them to compromise their integrity. They cannot take responsibility so they blame others.

In their minds they have one last hope: Barack Obama. Like bitter clingers they hold fast to their notion that Barack Obama will restore their lost prestige, gain them entry to corridors of power, and give them influence and authority.

In the worst of all possible worlds a Republican is elected president and Fox News gains better access to the people in power. 

But, what happens when their dreams come true, when a Democrat wins the presidency, and he fails. What happens when the country does not revive from its economic malaise?

Roger Simon says that they must feel considerable shame for having foisted a failed administration on the nation.

In his words:

They [mainstream journalists] have seen the same things we all have and know that the economy (the very heart of America) is failing. And they know deep down that they are responsible for some of it, because they bought and promoted Barack Obama as if he were a messiah without the slightest bit of vetting. Obama was anointed, not elected. To this day no one knows who he is, possibly even Obama himself.

Of course, they cannot admit to their embarrassment so they transform it into rage. Simon explains:

Obamaphile journalists bear a considerable responsibility for the current state of the nation. They are facing two options. Either they can double down on Obama or they can recant their prior views and admit to the error of their ways. For now they seem to believe that they must follow Obama to the bitter end.

In Simon's words:

And deep down these journos are embarrassed by this (who wouldn’t be?) but they can never never admit it. To do so would injure their self-image and self-respect to the level of personality disintegration.

So this shame is projected out in rage and, yes, loathing toward you, me, Mitt Romney, and anyone else who might deign to disagree with them. We are accused racists, homophobes, sexists, classists, any refugee of sixties group speak that might stick for ten minutes, even though they themselves are more likely to be those things. It is, after all, projection. Ideology is but a pretentious cover for rage.

On the other hand, if it looks like Obama is going to turn out to be a loser, I suspect that they will very quickly forget about all of the unearned support they threw his way. They will magically rediscover their journalistic integrity and might even attempt to cozy up to the Romney team.

Rubbing shoulders with winners always makes people feel good. Journalists who see their fortunes and their prestige diminish might become so desperate that they will try to hitch their wagon to a rising star.

Stranger things have happened.


Sam L. said...

Media sins of commission: Vast.

Media sins of omission: Vaster.

Media people: Half-vast. (Can't be more because of all the vast-holes.)

Cynical? Moi?

Dennis said...

Can anyone expect more out of people who think their job is to save the world. Silly me! I always thought it was to report on the news. Then I/We would have the requisite information to save the world. But alas, journalists are not very good at their jobs and cannot even figure out what it is that they are supposed to do.
If a knowledgeable electorate is the underpinning of a free society then we are not well served by the "media." One should not be surprised that we are losing more freedom each day.
As misery loves company incompetence loves incompetence. They do Calender (sp) (see Thomas Jefferson) proud and have as much integrity and honesty as he demonstrated only we cannot throw them out of the country as the British did to our chagrin as a nation.
I have tried for years to understand why the NYTimes is supposed to be the newspaper of record. I have read a lot of American history and in a large majority of them the NYTimes was more representative of inaccuracy and political chicanery. Must be a New York thing?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

That's a great point. I agree with you that many journalists might simply be incompetent... and they try to cover over their incompetence or even laziness about getting a real story by offering up propaganda.

It takes a lot of work to get all the relevant information. And some of it is almost certainly going to contradict whatever you thing. Much easier to do it halfway and lard it with your opinion.