It will get even worse in 2012.
Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Saturday.
Those of us who follow the news closely often forget that probably 80% of the adult population (seen as 85% some time ago, but likely lower than that thanks to New Media and the Tea Party movement) is relatively disengaged. They are, at best, passive consumers of news who either legitimately don’t have the time to do their own independent research, or don’t care to.
If we had a responsible establishment press dedicated to informing the public in a fair and balanced way, this would not necessarily be a big problem. But we don’t, and it is.
In 2011, passive news consumers were extremely ill served, as the leftist legacy media seemed to almost completely abandon any pretense of objectivity or fairness leftover from its disgraceful collective performance in 2010.
Why did this happen? Beyond the normal factors, 2011 saw White House thuggery directed at a press corps already inclined to reflexively parrot its positions reach previously unseen heights.
To name just three examples:
- In March, Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers, sent to cover a fundraiser involving Vice President Joe Biden and Florida Senator Bill Nelson, was confined in a closet “to keep him from mingling with high-powered guests.” Sentinel editors “dropped the story.”
- In April, the White House banished San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci “for using a video camera to capture an event.” The paper was “threatened with more punishment if they reported on it.” Chronicle Editor at Large Phil Bronstein called the White House’s subsequent attempt to deny it all “a pants-on-fire moment.” Press coverage elsewhere was scant.
- In May, the White House Press Office “refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fund-raiser” because it objected “to the newspaper’s front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed.” The shutout was virtually ignored.
In a mid-May editorial, Investor’s Business Daily called out the press for failing to stand up for it own, and correctly characterized the White House’s actions as baby steps “toward state control of the media, using the carrot of access against the stick of exile.”
Nothing has changed. In December, a Washington Post item noted that “When a reporter gets something wrong or is perceived as being too aggressive, the pushback is often swift and sometimes at top volume” (including heavy doses of profanity). What do you guys expect when you just sit there and take it — something you would never do under a conservative or Republican administration?
It’s reasonable to believe that the constant threats of White House pushback and especially of access denial significantly drove this year’s extraordinarily negligent coverage of the administration’s scandals, corruption, policy failures, and misleading statements. What follows are just ten out of dozens of this year’s worst examples of media malfeasance. Except for the final two, which are clearly this year’s most egregious, they are in no particular order. In most cases, there was no press coverage, or no further coverage, of the items cited.
1. ”I am (possibly) the greatest.” In a 60 Minutes interview with the President which aired on December 11, CBS failed to include Obama’s preposterous claim about his accomplishments to date: “I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.” Note well that the superiority of the three other gentlemen cited is only “possible.”
2. “Taunt a Republican for me.” In early December, an Obama For America campaign email asked supporters to in effect taunt their Republican acquaintances when donating by providing their email addresses so that OFA could do it for them in their name. Two days later, OFA added the ability to taunt anonymously.
3. Yet another word for “lied.” In September, Bruce Siceloff at the Raleigh News & Observer identified a false statement Obama made in a Tar Heel State appearance: “In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired.” After interviewing state officials who asserted that North Carolina has no such bridges, Siceloff reached this “brave” conclusion: “[T]he president may have over-suggested the risk to public safety.”
4. “Scandal-free” pretense. As Fast and Furious, Solyndra, MF Global, LightSquared and a myriad of other instances of corruption and cronyism continued to swirl around the administration, at least five media and academic apparatchiks continued to insist that it has been and still remains pure as the driven snow. Among them: commentators Brendan Nyhan, Kevin Drum, Jonathan Alter, and the especially odious Andrew Sullivan, along with American University history professor and presidential prognosticator Allan Lichtman, who described things as “squeaky clean.”
5. Obama’s false Mama drama. In July, a book by on-leave New York Times reporter Janny Scott (who has not yet returned) showed that President Obama’s mother was denied disability insurance coverage during her ultimately life-ending battle with cancer — but not health insurance, even though, as reported by the Times’s Kevin Sack, “the president (in speeches) left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.” Wisconsin blogger Ann Althouse’s assessment: “Obama lied about a central fact about his own life which he used — powerfully — to push health care reform.”
6. Libya Labeling. In May, 60 days after it undertook its “kinetic military action” in Libya, the administration failed to receive or even seek the legally required congressional authorization under the War Powers Act to continue to have U.S. troops engaged there. The Associated Press’s headline: “White House Skips Legal Deadline on Libya.”
7. Condescension Cover-up. At an April town hall, Obama gave an audience member concerned about gas prices, which were heading towards $4 a gallon at the time, grief over his ten children and the fact that he was still driving a vehicle getting only eight miles a gallon. The Associated Press’s Darlene Superville initially reported part of the exchange in an Obama-supportive manner. It disappeared very quickly in subsequent revisions.
8. Goodbye, Iraq. The bias was so pervasive this year that I need to bring out something I haven’t yet touched, namely the Associated Press’s historical revisionism two weeks ago as U.S. troops were about to leave Iraq. Readers here only need to see five words to get a clue as to how bad the AP story was: “No WMD were ever found.” Memo to Rebecca Santana and Robert Reid: Yes they were — along with 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium found in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown, specifically “the stuff that can be refined into nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel.”
Now it’s time for the two worst examples.
Runner-up: Covering for the Occupy Movement. After Obama effectively endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement, it was inevitable that the press would do its utmost to cover up and downplay the movement’s deaths (including at least one murder); sexual assaults; socialist, far-left, labor union (including the News Media Guild) and “1%” backing; its disease-ridden filth; the costs it imposed on governments, businesses, and the economy; and its fundamentally violent nature. Though the center-right New Media pushback was impressive, I still believe that most Americans don’t understand that the Occupy movement has been and remains an intimidation-driven enterprise co-opted by the mainstream left to assist wherever possible in ensuring Barack Obama’s reelection.
The Worst: Fast and Furious. This wasn’t a close call. The Occupy movement’s death toll is nine. The death toll from Fast and Furious is “at least 300 Mexicans” and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. This is a government-sponsored operation whose only “coherent” justification appears to be to create enough mayhem in the Southwest and elsewhere to justify the imposition of stricter gun laws and ultimately the end of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. We have an Attorney General who is so deep in the muck that he’s parsing the meaning of the word “lie.” And yet, with the impressive exception of Sharyl Attkisson at CBS, we’ve seen near silence and reflexive self-defense from the rest of the establishment press. The story wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Attkisson and several heroic center-right blogs. In fact, as of December 13, according to Mary Chastain at BigJournalism.com, Brian Williams at NBC’s Nightly News has not mentioned Fast and Furious even once during 2011.
As bad as this past year was, there’s every reason to believe that 2012 will be worse. The press has to figure out a way to drag a president who is very unpopular despite their best efforts to date across the November finish line while the White House continues its “oversight.”