Simple explanation for media behavior
by itsthemedia, Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 12:19:01 AM EDT
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on
his not understanding it. -- Upton Sinclair
Much has been made of Keith Olbermann's recent slide into virulent anti-Clinton spin. Is he a misogynist? closet righty? Obamaniac? Acting on double-secret marching orders from the VWRC? It seems to me there is a much simpler explanation - straightforward careerism.
Jack Welch bought NBC/CNBC/MSNBC for GE, and stocked the top star news positions with a cadre of Irish Catholic Reagan Democrats Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert. The top boys have long been very chummy with Welch, and he pays them well, so they put out the kind of news product they know will please him. Welch still has enormous influence at NBC, although he is now technically retired. Welch does not have to call a meeting and tell people to go after Clinton. He made his feelings known long ago while summering with Brian, Chris, and Timmy on Nantucket, and they set the tone for the rest of the news talkers.
Along comes rising star KO, who of couse would love to break into the top tier at NBC. Williams, Matthews, and Russert have consistently gone after Clinton, so it is not too hard for Keith to see which way the wind is blowing. If you want to make it at NBC, being fair to Clinton is not your best play.
Careerism easily explains the baffling anti-Clinton unanimity among lefty radio talkers as well. With the rise of liberal talk radio, many of these personalities have become well known. But very few people achieve true superstar status via radio. Rush Limbaugh is the only one I can think of who was really famous before he ever went on TV. He sucked at it, by the way, but is still a mega-star on radio. Rush is the exception that proves the rule - all the other right wing talkers, Hannity, O'Rielly, et al, made it big by making onto TV.
OK, so Ed Schultz gets invited on Hardball as a guest, and Matthews is there slamming Hillary, and Ed is a smart guy, he knows how Chris feels about her. Does he stand up for her, and probably blow any chance of ever getting invited back? Or does he pretend not to notice, or even voice agreement about the nastiness of vile Clinton? After all, how can we blame Big Eddie for having a preference, just because that preference happens to also be good for his career? And just because every other lefty radio personality has the same preference, even though they are all over the left half of the map demographically and ideologically, maybe it is just a coincidence. But that is not the way to bet.
The same career dynamic has driven liberal superstar print pundits to stare blankly into space as big name Democrats have been trashed for the past couple of decades. Again, maybe it is a coincidence that Paul Krugman, the only liberal print pundit who has been willing to take a hard look at Obama's policy proposals and pronounce them below par, is a college professor, whose real career success depends on peer reviewed articles in economics journals, and does not hinge on what mass media big wigs think of his ideas.
Even on the web, the large majority of the big liberal web pundits are either in the Obama camp (Kos, JMM, Kevin Drum), or trying desparately to remain neutral (Digby, Atrios). Obama fans like to complain about how biased MyDD is toward Clinton. Frankly, I think the front page is fairly balanced, and the comments are more balanced lately (though the rhetoric in the comments is getting to be somewhat "unbalanced", if you get my drift). But even stipulating that MyDD is some sort of Clinton propaganda catapult, that makes one out of how many?
It is certainly a very odd coincidence to see such a large differential in preference among liberal commentators in all media forms. One would think Obama was leading Clinton 30 to 1, rather than 16 to 15.