A Dialogue on the Media

Jim:

I think the media in whole general should be, and in general is, a bell curve of politics, with the big hump in the middle. You tend to be on the left side of it, I slightly left, but more to the middle. The column advocates, as you do, that the hump itself shifts to the left. That is fine…

Huffington Post is labeled by the right as leftist, regardless of what it actually is, as Fox is labeled vice versa by the left.

I just heard the largest online source of online news is Yahoo, and then CNN (said on Diane Rehm NPR, now, who is talking about Fox and Murdoch). “Highly partisan news sources are way down on the list.” Still, people click what they want, and do tend to find news that reinforces their own opinions.

I am reminded of Clinton’s often compromising ways, as well as his disappointment of the farther left, and his efforts to stay ahead of things. Now seems exactly the same to me! To have a world of naught but activists is not desirable, regardless of the side. I am not for fighting fire with fire on politics. Taking a stand, yes, but anything that smacks of vain tit-for-tat political nationalism is wrong. One should have a cause, be consistent about it, and move incrementally that way. That’s what is killing the Reps right now, their knee jerk “kill them all sort them out later stance.” I hate that stuff! The left needs to remind the world that the government was elected to office, passed bills that citizens wanted, and the status quo is not a disaster right now. We just elected some bozos recently…

JP:
There was an editorial in the Times today about how all these Republicans pledged that they are signing are preventing them from actually governing. I think that is right.

I guess I can agree that overall the media is a bell curve, and I do think it is a false equivalency when people say that Fox on the right is the same as NPR on the left (or even MSNBC–they are certainly left, though unlike Fox I think for the most part try to be fact based. And they do have conservatives. One of their biggest shows is Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, who was swept into office with Gingrich in 1994 and was the darling of the right because as a lawyer he worked pro bono defending people who bombed abortion clinics. Fox has no one to the left of Scarborough, let along anyone on the actual left, and they make no attempt to be fact based.)

But that isn’t the point. It is true that people get news from sources that at least look less biased like Yahoo and CNN–though Yahoo is simply an aggregator, they do no reporting, so saying people get their news from them tells you nothing if you don’t know what links they click on.

The point I took from it is that a president shouldn’t welcome support from media outlets with a predilection for his side of the political aisle during the campaign, and then try and score points by trashing them while governing. That just sounds cynical, and like you were just playing a game and never really agreed with them anyway, but just wanted power.

And I don’t think that means Obama is a bad guy, I think it’s just how politics is. Obama might be the best guy we could ever get as president. And that, I believe, is the problem.

All told, it’s all a comparatively minor issue. There will be more to talk about when the debt ceiling is or isn’t raised and we see what kind of deal is made.

Jim:

I agree with your comments this far.

For the sake of discussion:

How does Fox’s “reporting” slant, choice of articles, manufacturing news and issues compare with CNN, MSNBC or NPR’s investigative journalism, and “slant, choice of articles, manufacturing news and issues”?

Partisans use this comparison as an easy way to make points for their side:

– the other guys are doing it

– the other guys are worse

– the other guys miss my point of view

– the other guys begin with a stance that assumes things I do not accept (government is too big, government is not doing what it could, etc.)

JP:

I don’t think there is much in the way of investigative journalism at all on TV; they just let talking heads go at each other, facts be damned. I do think MSNBC tries harder than Fox to make sure what they are saying is fact based. I think all of them are pretty weak as far as in depth investigative journalism. NPR does some good work. (One of the reasons I don’t accept that NPR is the counter to Fox on the left is this; they have a nightly show called Marketplace, talking about the business community and how things are going for businesses. Their slant is obviously different–far different–from Fox. But if they were really the counter to Fox, they’d have a nightly show on labor issues, devoted to how things are going for workers in America. And as it turns out, they have exactly zero shows and zero hours of programming devoted to labor issues. So yes, they are to the left of Fox, but as to being a true left, that has long ago been pushed to the outside margins of the media–The Nation, The Progressive, Democracy Now; and all together they are available to many fewer people than Fox News).

The other guys, that’s why I say you have to make your case. You don’t have to call names; you don’t have to say those damn hypocritical republicans raised the debt ceiling 7 times without debate. You just have to give the facts, calmly. But you have to do it over and over and over, because people are slow, and the other side will repeat their lies over and over.

I remember an interview with the great short story writer Flannery O’Connor decades ago. Her stories often had grotesque characters and exaggerated situations. When asked why she wrote that way, she said something like, to reach the very blind you have to be very obvious. The reps get that; they know if they repeat 1000 times “we won’t raise taxes on job creators” people will start to believe it. Even though there is no evidence that it works, and the past ten years has a mountain of counter evidence. The reps don’t care who they insult. They say that every time they open their mouth, implying the Dems don’t want jobs to be created. I have yet to hear a Dem counter that we’ve tried tax cuts for ten years and have lost jobs. They need to say that truth one time for every time the reps say the lie. (They don’t, I think, because they are almost as beholden to the rich as the Reps are).

Leastwise, that’s how it usually seems to me.

Jim:

I still concur…

The right has put itself way further right,

The left doesn’t have mass media on any scale like the right. Democracy Now, etc. are good, real media, but have a fraction of the market share that Fox and other right media have.

The public would perceive that there is an equal weight dichotomy in the media where it does not in fact exist. This perception is instinctive as a remnant of the Fairness Doctrine. It is also implied and promoted by the right media.

They love to create a debate between themselves and the mainstream media, and label the MSM as liberal (or worse, lying, false, conspiring, etc.). It makes sense for them to head way to the right, that way the “middle ground” between them and the MSM is further right.

So, the left has a scale (meaning market share) and public image problem.

What to do about that?

JP:

Agreed on all, and that is the million dollar question. What do we do about it?

There are good people thinking about it and trying to figure out solutions, and I don’t see much hope for serious change soon. On the other hand…Glen Beck’s show was canceled on Fox due to bad ratings (and a huge consumer boycott of his advertisers), O’Reilly’s ratings have been going steadily down for about 3 years (he still has the highest rated show in cable news, but ratings show that even that influence is waning), Beck and O’Reilly have seen their radio shows dropped in big markets including New York and Philadelphia due to low ratings. (Beck was pretty funny. He’s from Philly, used to praise it; a lot of his staff is from there, and the day his show was dropped it became worse than Sodom or Gomorrah). So I think we need to be careful not to give these people more power than they really have. Even Rush doesn’t have the influence he’d like. In ’08, the one Republican candidate he desperately did not want to get the nomination was McCain, and we know what happened. Which does make it all the more puzzling why Republican politicians remain so afraid of Rush.

Reading history helps me from getting too depressed. We came out of the gilded age of the robber barons. It is possible a new Teddy Roosevelt will appear. It is possible the Reps have overplayed their hand this time. It’s very possible the tea party will completely tank in the next election and disappear, being a blip on history. Or not. Time will tell. I can at times tend to get too depressed about it and half to remember politics always goes through cycles, and as bad as things are now, there really have been times that were as bad or worse that we survived.

I’ve probably mentioned this book before, The Death and Life of American Journalism by John Nichols and Robert McChesney. I confess I haven’t read all of it (read a long excerpt and have seen a few lengthy interviews with the authors). They have a lot of ideas about how to restart journalism in America again. One of the things they bring up that I found most interesting was that in the first century or so of America, national defense was the largest item in the national budget. And what is interesting is that the second largest item was subsidizing a free press (largely through mail rates, make it very cheap and affordable to send newspapers, because they thought it so important to inform the public and have cheap and uncontrolled access to all ideas.) We’ve obviously moved far from that and the equivalent today I think would be net neutrality (and cheap internet access; it’s unconscionable that we pay far more for Internet access with slower speeds than any other developed nation. The average American has no idea, but it’s true.)

Interesting times ahead! And there always are.

Jim:

Yes, interesting.

How is Hannity’s star doing? Is it setting too?

How about Nancy Grace (I have a particular hate for her, can you tell?)?

I wish CNN HLN would go back to reporting news… I loved Rudi Bakhtiar.

Robin Meade is cute (2 reasons to like watching her!), and reports well, too.

Are there any moderates rising on Fox? Wouldn’t that be a great sign?!?!

Right now the House is debating the Crazy deficit bill, and the Senate will soon debate the gang of 6 Moderate bll – the one I favor. Glad they came up with it.

I think the future of media lies in market forces – which should be somehow letting truth and good journalism rise up like cream from the e-crap that is so present. I think this is starting to happen, a tortoise, not a hare. Needs time for the $$ to settle out – a plan that works.

JP:

I think Hannity is down too, but haven’t seen any numbers lately (he’s in many ways the worst of them). I guess I don’t have your hate for Nancy Grace because I never see her or clips of her (I first heard of the Casey Anthony trial about two days before the verdict; that’s how out of the Nancy Grace loop I am). I too miss the early days of headline news; it was great, because any time of the day or night you could get a nice half hour summary of the day’s news. I guess the Internet did that format in; they figured you could get news any time you wanted. I don’t know why they don’t change the name of the channel, cause headline news it ain’t no more. I can’t remember the last time I turned it on. But maybe I’ll have to check it out and look for Robin Meade….

Moderates on Fox? That would be sort of like fins on a horse. They’d probably say Huckabee, but all you have to do is listen to him and you realize he’s as crazy as any of them (the night on his show when, after a lot of buildup that he’d be making an announcement, that he said he wasn’t running, he ended the show playing guitar with Ted Nugent while Ted screeched out a song about how Hilary Clinton was a slut.)

A moderate on Fox would be a sign, and I think Jesus appearing in the sky is more likely (did you see the 2006 clip from Bachman that just surfaced where she was praying at some big gathering and declared that the end days were upon us?)

I guess I need to see more details on the gang of six plan (and Durbin just said it can’t be ready–scored out by the CBO, etc.–by August 2 anyway). It talks about cuts in Medicare and Medicaid but I haven’t seen details. And again, why $4 of cuts for every $1 of revenue increase (tax has evidently become a euphemism for the plague or something and the word can’t be uttered in polite company. I feel like starting a new party called the good tax party that would continually remind people what they get for their taxes). And it doesn’t outline where the revenue increases come from. I still say you want something simple, go back to all the tax and spending rates we had under Clinton. It worked, the economy boomed. Yeah, he got a bit lucky being in office when the tech boom hit, but that wasn’t all of it. And he had things moving in the right direction before the tech thing really exploded. But I guess centrist Bill Clinton is now so freaking far to the left that he’s a radical, treasonous, evil communist whose policies can’t be mentioned anywhere near Washington and certainly not by any elected representatives of his own party, which is pretty truly bizarre, really. How well the Reps have moved the narrative and grounds of the discussion, when with the results of the Clinton policies and the Bush policies it should be the other way around. It’s really been rather stunning how they continue to double down and continue to get away with it.

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when George told the parents of his deceased fiancé that he had a house in the Hamptons where he was going for the weekend and they didn’t believe him, so he told them to get in and drove them out to the house, maintaining all along that he had a house there and couldn’t believe, just couldn’t believe (!) that they didn’t believe him. Until, of course, he gets there and there is no house. It was his mea culpa. Of course, the current republican group would just double down again and when they got to the Hamptons say that the Dems got their first and destroyed the house to make them look bad.

At least some people are calling them on it all–plenty of Dem pundits, and now David Brooks–it would just be nice to see the elected Dems grow a pair.

I’m not saying we need all tax increases and don’t need to worry about spending. I’d just like to see a plan that was actually balanced, or based on things that have worked in the past, rather than saying the best we can do is move 3/4 of the way towards the party that controls one house of congress and 3/4 away from the party that controls the other house of congress and the presidency.

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About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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