The media is acting silly again
Stop the presses? Hmmm.
I wrote about this for Salon this morning. Here's an excerpt:
Schieffer is old friends
with George W. Bush and has long been presumed to lean conservative. Anyone on Fox, like Kurtz, almost certainly is. So they aren’t being particularly dishonest if they show favoritism toward Republican politicians. They have an obvious, if not overt, partisan affiliation with the GOP. Not that they admit it, of course. But at least it’s based on something substantial.
If the rest of the mainstream press were outwardly motivated by ideology, we might be better off than we are. Instead, many of them seem to be motivated by an insular, careerist, petty, and somewhat puerile feedback loop. It’s not partisan or even political; it often appears from the outside to be a random decision within the herd to “prove” the media’s independence and clout and then becomes a competition within the field.
Matt Yglesias at Vox wrote yesterday
about the dynamic between the press and the Clinton campaign. He pointed out that recent polling, admittedly early and without a lot of bearing on where we will be a year and half from now on election day, shows that Hillary Clinton is a very popular politician. As he points out, the Gallup poll has shown her the most admired woman in the world
for the last 17 out of 18 years.
Again, this has little to do with what polls will say in 2016, but it does say something about the press in 2015 that this popularity is not just ignored when political reporters write about Clinton; from reading press coverage, you’d be surprised that anyone in America can stand the woman at all.
Yglesias gives us a couple of examples that perfectly reflect the way this is done:
For Clinton, good news is never just good news. Instead it’s an opportunity to remind the public about the media’s negative narratives about Clinton and then to muse on the fact that her ratings somehow manage to hold up despite these narratives.
“Hillary Clinton’s stature has been battered after more than a month of controversy over her fundraising and email practices, but support for her among Democrats remains strong and unshaken, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.”
“Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to have initially weathered a barrage of news about her use of a private email account when she was secretary of state and the practices of her family’s foundation, an indication that she is starting her second presidential bid with an unusual durability among Democratic voters.”
This framing is not surprising, since, among journalists, Clinton is one of the least popular politicians. She is not forthcoming or entertaining with the press. She doesn’t offer good quotes. She doesn’t like journalists, respect what we do, or care to hide her disdain for the media.
Here’s a random tweet that illustrates the political media’s framing perfectly:
That’s one way of putting it. It’s clearly supposed to tell people that Clinton doesn’t care about people. (It’s actually a beautiful spot for a campaign announcement in front of the UN, one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal projects. But I’m sure there’s something terrible about that as well.)
Yglesias goes on to point out that the public does not hold the press
in high esteem, which is true
. They do not think the press is credible
and you can’t blame them. When it comes to presidential politics, I think this is mainly because the way the press covers presidential campaigns leads the average person to believe the media thinks it’s their job to decide who America’s leaders are for them, and to tell them what they should care about. When they put their thumbs on the scales as those examples above do, it’s fairly obvious that the media have decided that this person is not someone for whom the American people should have any regard. And, inevitably, what the press thinks the people should care about is different than what people actually care about. And more often than not, it turns out that the trivial “narratives” which are supposed to reveal deep character flaws, if not actual bad behavior, end up reflecting back on the press rather than the politicians.
, today, we find that the political media are just so darned miffed at the Clinton campaign for holding off the record background meetings that they held an off the record background meeting themselves and then reported it with anonymous quotes from each other. Because transparency.
Jesus, it's going to be a looooong campaign.