A Corrupt Media.

Cross posted at Kickin it With CG

I originally wrote this about a month ago - but am hoping that this now gets a bit more attention.

As some will note I have written several diaries now on the failure of the fourth estate during this primary season.  The reactions to these pieces were mixed from agreement, indifference and denial of any bias in the coverage.  But with the recent feeding frenzy of the press in response to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book - nothing could be clearer: A CORRUPT MEDIA HAS FAILED.

Amongst other things, McClellan's asserts that the media's failings are primarily responsible for the rush to war in Iraq and complicit in enabling the Bush administration.

And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it... the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth--about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict--would get largely left behind...

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam Hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere--on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

He goes on to blame a liberal media bias, but that's a whole other story.  PBS's Bill Moyers devoted an entire show in April 2007, entitled Buying the War to answering the questions of a complicit media.

How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President -- no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored. How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?

But what's more interesting about the fallout of this book is the sudden Mea Culpa by some members of the press.  

Katie Couric:

"... I'll start by saying I think he's fairly accurate. Matt, I know when we were covering it--and granted, the spirit of 9/11, people were unified and upset and angry and frustrated. But I do think we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions. There was a lot pressure from the Bush White House. I remember doing an interview and the press secretary called our executive producer and said, `We didn't like the tone of that interview.' And we said, `Well, tough. We had to ask some of these questions.' They said, `Well, if you keep it up, we're going to block access to you during the war.' I mean, those kind of strong-arm tactics were really...

CNN's Jessica Yellin on 360:

Yellin: I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.

And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

I think, over time --

Cooper: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?

Yellin: Not in that exact -- they wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.

Washington Post's Dana Milbank::

Of course he's right.  We didn't do as much as we could have and the fact of the matter is we did raise these questions.  And I mean I guess what Scott`s just saying in a backwards way there is they were just doing a particularly good job of keeping the facts out of the public domain.

What's worse is as Eric Boehlert points out, the warning signs were provided by Senator Edward Kennedy, who largely was ignored by the press.

Specifically, back in September 2002, with the Bush administration and much of the Beltway media rushing to embrace war with Iraq, Kennedy delivered a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about a possible invasion. Unlike today, the political press wasn't very interested in Kennedy or what he had to say about the most pressing issue facing the nation. Back in that media environment, being the voice of American liberals didn't mean much.

So what is the moral of the story?  

Boehlert puts it best "let's not forget that it wasn't that long ago that the media did their best to ignore what Kennedy had to say. And when it ignored Kennedy, and when it ignored the voice of liberals, the press -- and the country -- paid a dear price."

There's more...

The Year Progressives Lost Much of their Innocence.

Since sexism seems to be the topic du jour this weekend, I thought I would add a short little diary to add to the conversation. While I am happy more people are talking about sexism, I have been yelling from the rafters about this for months now without getting much attention.  In any case....

Between the rationalizations, denials or accusations of delegitimizing BO as the nominee when discussing sexism, it honestly makes me question some people's progressive ideals.  How does anyone know how sexism affected the outcome?  We don't.  We can only reflect on its meaning in the framing of progressive thinking - no?

As Paul Krugman writes,

The 2008 campaign has been a very disillusioning experience for a lot of people. You can make a very good case that Barack Obama was the right person for the Democrats to nominate, and Hillary Clinton the wrong choice. But the way we got there was terrible. The raw sexism, in all too many cases coming from alleged progressives -- see above -- was part of it. So, too, was the inability of many alleged progressives to see that the news media created the narrative of Hillary Clinton as race-baiter in much the same way that, 8 years ago, they created the narrative of Al Gore as congenital liar -- by assembling a montage of quotes taken out of context and willfully misinterpreted.

This whole story shouldn't affect peoples' votes in the general election: there are huge substantive issues at stake, and a wide difference between the candidates on those issues. So this is no time for a protest vote. But 2008 was definitely the year in which the progressive movement lost a lot of its innocence.

The race is over.  Isn't it time to reflect on this honestly?

There's more...

Sexism Might Sell, But We're Not Buying It! [REDUX]

Kindly cross-posted at dkos by kevin22262.

[I originally posted this diary a couple of weeks ago, but now with the primary being over with, perhaps some will view this issue differently and join the chorus in decrying sexism from the media.  I encourage all that agree to sign the petition listed at the bottom.]

On May 23rd, the Women's Media Center together with Media Matters launched a new video and online petition campaign illustrating the pervasive nature of sexism in the media's coverage entitled "Sexism Sells, But We're Not Buying It." 

"While Hillary Clinton's campaign has cast a spotlight on the issue of sexism, this isn't a partisan issue: it's about making sure that women's voices are present and powerful in our national dialogue."

Below is a statement about the video from WMC president Carol Jenkins.

May 20, 2008 (New York) - With a new video illustrating the pervasive nature of sexism in the media, The Women's Media Center is speaking out against the notion that sexist coverage is the path to commercial success for today's struggling media companies. As the sexist tone reaches a fever pitch with networks chase ratings in this historic presidential election, Carol Jenkins, president of The Women's Media Center (a nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization), delivers this message to both consumers and media executives:

"We know that media companies today are under tremendous pressure to build audiences and drive ratings, but this type of vulgar, sexist commentary is not the way to do it. Women wield tremendous financial power in the United States. Our message to media companies: if you think that sexism sells, think again, because women in America are not buying it.

"As our new video shows, the media's sexism is not specific to a candidate or campaign. But the presence of a woman, front and center at last on the national political stage, has sent shockwaves through a media grappling with ongoing problems of diversity. Hillary Clinton's campaign has cast a spotlight on the institutionalized sexism that The Women's Media Center was founded in 2005 to combat, providing us with a unique moment to examine ourselves and the media we consume. This is about the inherent and unnecessary obstacles that women face every day in speaking out and participating in the national dialogue."

In the video released today, "Sexism Sells, But We're Not Buying It," The Women's Media Center and its partners including Media Matters and the National Women's Political Caucus document 30 examples of gendered, sexist coverage from the mainstream media (far from an exhaustive list). From jokes about a woman's appearance to specific gendered insults, some media professionals this election season have fallen far short of their responsibility to report and educate.

Women are a driving force in the U.S. economy with a purchasing power of more than $7 trillion a year, and purchase fully 82 percent of all products and services in the U.S. Earlier this year, The Women's Media Center joined NOW, the Feminist Majority, and the National Women's Political Caucus to speak out against the particularly egregious remarks Chris Matthews made about Hillary Clinton's campaign, when he said that "the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around" (MSNBC's Morning Joe, January 9, 2008). Speaking for more than 15 million women across the United States, the coalition secured an on-air apology from Matthews, and assurances from NBC executives that steps were being taken to address the situation. Yet the situation persists, which is why The Women's Media Center is taking this next step, releasing a video and launching an online petition campaign to allow women to speak out against this continuing sexism.

The Women's Media Center is working to make sure that issues of gender and media do not slide to the backburner. For more information on The Women's Media Center and to join our campaign to make women more visible and powerful in the media, please visit www.womensmediacenter.com/sexism_sells.h tml.

If you would like to join their petition campaign and send a message to the media, please visit here.

There's more...

Poaching, Pandering and the Long-Awaited Acknowledgment of Sexism.

As mentioned earlier, the timing of Howard Dean's comments about sexism in the media seemed curious. Now, in light of this Washington Post piece, I think we may know why Dean timed these comments as he did.  As it looks like ol' Johnny boy is making a REAL play to poach HRC supporters turned off by the sexism in the primary.

A top adviser to presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain said that she believes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has faced sexism on the campaign trail.

"I think women in positions of power are treated differently, and the treatment of her demonstrates that," former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina told Portfolio magazine in an article published today. "I have a lot of sympathy for what she's gone through. A lot of women recognize she's been treated differently, whether they're Democrats or Republicans."

The timing of Fiorina's comment is intriguing, given that the McCain campaign has reached out to Clinton's supporters in a low-key but targeted way. It also comes as many Clinton backers are still smarting from the divisive Democratic primary and as a significant number say that they will not vote for Clinton rival Sen. Barack Obama in the fall.

The McCain strategy for reaching women across the aisle involves praise for Clinton and connecting with some of the newer women's media outlets, such as the community BlogHer and MOMocrats blogs, which have been invited to join McCain campaign conference calls. BlogHer has also been treated to an interview with Fiorina. Health information sites -- women are the primary consumers of health information -- have also been targeted.

Clinton "has inspired generations of American women to believe that they can reach the highest office in this nation," McCain said at an appearance today in Nashville.

It seems rather ironic that political posturing is what it takes to get ANYONE to call out sexist behaviour.  Thoughts?

There's more...

Howie D and the Curious Case of Calling-Out Sexism.

As the primaries draw to a close a curious change in party line has occurred.  On yesterday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos ," Democratic National Committee Chair Dr. Howard Dean took the mainstream media to task for some sexist news coverage of Sen. Hillary Clinton 's presidential ambitions. His response was to a question from Stephanopoulos about a recent op-ed by Geraldine Ferraro on the topic of sexism and race in the 2008 campaign

DEAN: There has been an enormous amount of sexism in this campaign on the part of the media, including the mainstream media. We'll leave present company excepted, because I think that's true. But there have been major networks that have featured numerous outrageous comments that if the words were reversed and they were about race, the people would have been fired.

So that's a big issue. And there are a lot of women in this country who -- there's two issues here. One is one candidate is ahead and one is not. That happens all the time in primaries, and you get over that. What you don't get over is deep wounds that have been inflicted on somebody because they happen to be a woman running for president of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does Barack Obama get over it by choosing Sen. Clinton as a running mate?

DEAN: We don't know. But I do believe that the issue of sexism in this country has to be addressed.

His words are a welcome sight to many who feel that the silence and tacit approval of the DNC in this primary with regard to sexism.  However the timing of these comments is curious.  Why would Dean wait until two day before the last primaries to call-out the rampant sexism we have witnessed over the past months?

There's more...


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