How The Media Learned To Bend Over Backwards

by dday

OK, so welcome to the main exhibit hall, where we just had a debate between Markos and Harold Ford. (who defended the Congressional vote on FISA by basically saying that the Constitution doesn't poll very well. I'll elaborate later.)

Right now I'm in the front row of Digby's panel on the media, with Rick Perlstein, Paul Krugman, and Atrios. Not a bad group.

Digby dedicated this panel to Molly Ivins, who called for "sustained outrage" on the part of the citizenry against the instruments of power, admonishing the media for its too-cozy respect for authority. Now we're on to Rick Perlstein, who is giving a little history lesson on how the media went awry. Back in the early 1960s, footage of civil rights marchers having hoses turned on them galvanized public opinion against repression and bigotry. But in 1968, when the Chicago police beat up antiwar protesters half to death, the public opinion was the opposite, "Right on for the cops," etc. There was a popular bumper sticker in the country at the time, reading "I Support Mayor Daley and His Police." The press, who considered themselves guardians of the public interest, started to consider whether or not they were prejudiced, elitist, not rooted in the heartland of America, biased toward young people and minorities. And it basically all went to shit from there.

This is going to be good. I'll update...

...Now we're on to the media's liberal guilt, and Spiro Agnew's series of speeches (written by William Safire) on the "nattering nabobs of negativism" and how the media is trying to tell ordinary Americans what to think. We're 40 years on and these pundits still are haunted by this. Old narratives die hard.

Paul Krugman is up. He says he was never told to stop writing what he was writing in the run-up to war through much of the Bush years, but he was told that he was making management nervous. In 2005, he was indirectly told to lay up a bit, and that "the election solved some things." He said that a lot of these failures of the media aren't exactly political. They go beyond politics. "It is better to be conventionally wrong than unconventionally right." The example is how nobody who was actually right about the war is allowed to comment about it, but that's also true with the housing bubble, etc. "There's something wrong with you if you actually figure this out too early." There's a narrow range of being counter-intuitive. It's acceptable, for example, to say "Bush is actually better on the environment than you think."

...OK, I'm going to lose laptop juice here, but feel free to gab about the media and I'll be back around later to wrap up.