What If?

by digby

Eric Boehlert:

If you don't think there's a media double standard that favors Republicans over Democrats, then let's play a game of what-if.

What if, in 2006, at Yearly Kos, the first annual convention of liberal bloggers and their readers, organizers shelled out $100,000 for former Vice President Al Gore to address attendees? And what if the same organizers booked as an opening-night speaker a fringe, radical-left conspiracy theorist who'd spent the previous year pushing the thoroughly debunked claim that some Bush White administration insiders played a role in, and even planned, the 9-11 attacks. What if the speaker (also proudly anti-Semitic) received a standing ovation from the liberal Yearly Kos crowd?

Given that backdrop, and given the fact that the 9-11 Truther nut had for weeks bragged about his chance to share the stage with Gore, do you think the press would have demanded that Gore justify his association with a hateful conference that embraced a 9-11 Truther? Do you think pundits would have universally mocked and ridiculed Gore's judgment while condemning the Yearly Kos convention as being a hothouse of left-wing hate? Do you think Gore's appearance would have become a thing?

I sure do. Gore and liberal bloggers would have been crucified by the press and the D.C. chattering class if the scenario I described ever unfolded in real life.

I don't think there's any doubt. In fact, the first Yearly Kos got a lot of media attention and it featured some big names like Howard Dean and Harry Reid. But the organizers didn't pay for any of them and there were no extremist cranks invited, so there was nothing to compel the huge hue and cry that would have been raised if they had done so. It was, all in all, a pretty staid affair, with the only controversy surrounding the fact that Mark Warner paid 50k for a party --- which was roundly criticized by the participants as gilding the lily.

Considering what would have been a feeding frenzy if the netroots had done something similar, Boehlert goes on to wonder why the mainstream press didn't bother to report the fact that Sarah Palin, whose speech was broadcast live on television, followed a prime time speech by "birther" fruitcake Joseph Farah:

Because, yes, at the Tea Party convention, Farah, a proud Muslim-hater and gay-hater, did receive a standing ovation from the conservative crowd after he unfurled his thoroughly debunked birther garbage. (i.e. Obama "doesn't have a birth certificate.") And Farah did brag in the weeks leading up to the event about his chance to share the stage with Palin, to associate with Palin. ("Sold out! Palin-Farah ticket rocks tea-party convention," read the headline at Farah's discredited right-wing site, WorldNetDaily.com.)

Worst of all, though, the press played dumb about the whole thing.

Fact: Virtually nobody in the corporate media said boo about Palin helping to legitimize Farah by sharing the same stage with him. She was given a total free ride.

And I mean nobody. According to Nexis, there were more than 150 newspaper articles and columns published in the U.S. last week that mentioned both Palin and the Tea Party. (Combined, The New York Times and The Washington Post published 18 of them.) Yet out of all those articles and columns, exactly two also mentioned Joseph Farah by name. (Congrats to the Philadelphia Daily News and New Hampshire's Concord Monitor.)

And keep in mind that lots of scribes, even after listening to Farah's rambling rant, filed dispatches from Nashville stressing how mellow and mainstream the Tea Party convention was turning out to be. read on ...

If you look back at the pieces written about the first Yearly Kos convention, you can see how badly the reporters were looking for some kind of code pink flakiness or, even better, real left wing radicalism. What they found instead was a bunch of mostly middle aged political junkies and activists listening respectfully to mainstream Democratic politicians. At the tea party convention they could have written some really sexy stories about birthers and Breitbart and other assorted fringers, but they chose not to.

The reason, it seems to me, is pretty obvious: they've been worked. After all, we now know that the Washington Post was out there actively commissioning pieces about "liberal condescension" which tells you pretty clearly that the word has gone forth that the teabaggers must be treated with kid gloves. I assume reporters read the papers.