Back in the 90s, when Drudge was just a young wingnut princeling, the scandal mongers used to have to launder their lies through the tabloid British press before it could be considered clean enough for the mainstream US media to slaver over. That's obviously changed in the past decade with the advent of Fox and the successful effort to force the so-called liberal media to follow its lead. But it's working, particularly when they are smart enough to create scandals that appeal to people's prurient or racist lizard brains.
Media Matters very helpfully lays out the new pattern for us:
1. Right-wing bloggers, talk radio hosts, and other conservative media outlets start promoting and distorting the story.
2. Fox News picks up the story and gives it heavy, one-sided coverage.
3. Fox News and conservative media attack the "liberal media" for ignoring the distorted story.
4. Mainstream media outlets eventually cover the story, echoing the right-wing distortions.
5. Fox News receives credit for promoting the story.
6. The story is later proven to be false or wildly misleading, long after damage is done.
This same pattern has played out several times before, with some variations. Three prominent examples from the past two years are the ACORN videos, Barack Obama's "relationship" with William Ayers, and the "Climategate scandal."
Obviously, FOX has been invaluable because it can mobilize its robots to harangue the MSM when they fail to properly pick up on these tall tales whereas back in the day, they had to entice the stenographers with lurid tales of sex and gothic small town corruption to get them to take the bait.
The latest of these stories is the so-called cover-up by the DOJ of the Black Panther voter intimidation crimes (alleged by one of the high level Bush operatives burrowed into the bureaucracy) in which the wingnuts have wrapped themselves like it's the shroud of Rosa Parks. The weeping, the wailing, the rending of garments over the horror of poor white folk being driven from the polls by Big Angry Black Supremacist Movement has them virtually speaking in tongues.
Media Matters traces the whole story, including the recent pick-up by the MSM. And what they found is that the case was dismissed before Obama took office, which pokes a few holes in the right wing narrative that states the Obama homeboys took over the DOJ and issued orders immediately that they were never to bring charges against black people again. Not that anyone cares at this point. Everybody's just screaming ACORN ACORN ACORN! and the subtle racism continues apace.
And perhaps even more importantly, they are just plain lying that this is some kind of whistleblower case. As I wrote earlier, this burrowing was always going to be a problem (which many of us pointed out at the time of the US Attorney scandals and one on which we hoped fervently the administration would bite the bullet and clean house anyway) and this story shows just how pernicious it is. Adam Serwer points out:
A final point, and this is why the politicization of the Bush years is so relevant. The Washington Times has sought to portray the NBPP case as a matter of career attorneys being overruled on a legit case by political appointees -- a reversal of the charges made about the Voting Section during the Bush administration. Of the four names of Civil Rights Division attorneys on the original NBPP complaint, all have significant ties to the right or to the politicized leadership under Bush: J. Christian Adams worked for the National Republican Lawyers Association, as did Grace Chung Becker, whose nomination by the Bush administration for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights was blocked because of her support for restrictive voter ID laws that disenfranchise minorities; Robert Popper previously worked on opposing minority voting districts; and Christopher Coates, who underwent a political conversion while at the DoJ and ended up being what Bradley Schlozman referred to as "a true member of the team" at a time when the Bush administration was conducting a purge of the liberals in the Civil Rights Division.
Whether one perceives as legitimate the "whistle-blowing" element to this case depends in part on the perceived neutrality of the players -- from the supposedly "bipartisan" but functionally conservative U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to the staff members who filed the case. Describing these people as "career attorneys" is meant to suggest their decisions were apolitical when in fact they were all people who were hired or whose stock rose during an era of politicization.
So once again, the mainstream press misses the real story, chasing the breathless manufactured scandal instead.
I can't help but wonder how much this has contributed to the decline of faith in journalism. People may not know the details and may not even be willing to entertain the facts, but they can tell when something doesn't feel right --- even the ones who want to believe it. They're happy for their team, to be sure, but it doesn't make them respect the news business. Certainly those who know the real story don't.
Update: Honest, fair-minded CNN analyst Eric Erickson says "fuck the blacks, they don't vote for us anyway," and suggests that the GOP use this story to reprise the Willie Horton campaign.
The Democrats will scream racism. Let them. Republicans are not going to pick up significant black support anyway. But here's the thing: everyone but the Democrats will understand this is not racism. This isn't even about race. This is about the judgment of an administration that would rather prosecute Arizona for doing what the feds won't do than prosecuting violent thugs who would deny you and me the right to vote while killing our kids.