People on the Right have for years complained about a media establishment biased toward the Left, only to be roundly mocked as paranoid, even when some evidence shows they were right. (For example) During the 2008 campaign, it became increasingly apparent that the major media had given up objectivity and was openly pulling for the victory of then-Senator Obama. While concentrating all their powers on Sarah Palin’s tanning bed, they almost totally ignored Obama’s political background, relationships, and lack of experience.
But they weren’t just passively avoiding anything that might be critical of Obama or detrimental to his presidential bid. No, at the very least some members of a now-defunct private mailing list for liberal and left-wing journalists and other opinion makers called “Journolist” were looking for ways to actively intimidate into silence not just conservative critics, but even more moderate liberal members of the MSM. How would they do this?
According to The Daily Caller, by smearing their opponents as racists:
It was the moment of greatest peril for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s political career. In the heat of the presidential campaign, videos surfaced of Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, angrily denouncing whites, the U.S. government and America itself. Obama had once bragged of his closeness to Wright. Now the black nationalist preacher’s rhetoric was threatening to torpedo Obama’s campaign.
The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”
Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”
The members of Journolist weren’t about to see their champion hurled to the ground. But, rather than investigate and try to refute the allegations regarding Reverend Wright and Obama, they instead decided to attack their colleagues:
“Part of me doesn’t like this shit either,” agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. “But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.”
Ackerman went on:
“I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
“And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
In other words, a naked call to play the Race Card in American politics in order to stifle debate and criticism. Racism is the most vile charge one can make in our society; to accuse someone of it is to smear them for a long time, if not forever. And the discussants on Journolist were about to unleash it on their professional colleagues.
It’s fair to note that the people mentioned in the DC article formulating this strategy are almost all opinion journalists, such as Katha Pollitt at the progressive The Nation. One would expect them to try to shape the debate and defend their ideological positions, just as their counterparts at The Weekly Standard or National Review would do.
But not by character assassination and implying they were racists. And not by attacking members of the “objective press” for simply asking tough, legitimate questions.
That crosses the line not just into advocacy journalism, but propaganda of the worst sort, the kind I’d expect to see from the “journalistic organs” of a totalitarian state. Jack Reed and Walter Duranty would be proud.
The Daily Caller promises more in the days to come, and it will be interesting to see how far this rot has spread from politically-oriented opinion journalists to mainstream reporters.
I suspect it’s gone quite far.
(via Big Journalism)
LINKS: More from John Nolte, who says the playing of the race card isn’t the most shocking thing; Andrew Breitbart, who thinks the reporters at Pravda were better people; Kurt Schlichter, who talks about the MSM memory hole; Ed Morrissey, who considers the implications of this for the Left’s attempts to paint the Tea Party as racists; and William Jacobson, who says “Yes, Liberal journalists did manipulate the 2008 election.”
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)