Fourth Estate, Fifth Columnists
Nov. 11, 2002 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA (APJP) -- There's been a lot of talk over what the Democrats should or should not have done in order to win the November 2002 elections. The general consensus is that the Democrats' message was muddled, and that they are paying the price for moving too far to the right over the last few years.
The latter problem is already being addressed, at least in the House: Dick Gephardt, who's been too preoccupied with his longtime dream of becoming President to actually do what's best for his party, has stepped down, no doubt to spend more time refining his "Gephardt in 2004" platform -- the same platform he had in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000, in all probability. Nancy Pelosi, the effectively diplomatic House Whip who showed that bucking, not backing, the Bush Junta is the way to win Congressional races, is the likely person to replace him, and that's a very good thing.
As for the other problem, the muddling of the Democrats' message, that's a touch more complicated and not as easy to solve. Nancy Pelosi will help, by encouraging Democrats to be bold in stating their objectives, but the bigger part of the problem lies not with the Democrats, but with an American corporate media that for many years has been the assiduous servant -- and, in the case of NBC and FOX, a wholly-owned subsidiary -- of persons working hand-in-glove with the Republican Party.
As I've said, the problem goes back many years. Eric Alterman, in his latest column in The Nation, tells us how he attempted to say flat-out in a New York Times piece, without evasion or euphemism, that the first George Bush was a liar, and how the NYT people reacted:
As Alterman points out, these same NYT folks had, and still have, no problem at all calling Bill Clinton a liar when it comes to his efforts to conceal an affair that was none of their business. But when it comes to confronting Republicans in the White House about their lies on issues that most certainly ARE our business, the media sachems suddenly get all weak and wobbly, trembling like chihuahuas at the thought of risking GOP displeasure.
Look at Dana Milbank's recent piece in The Washington Post (). It contains a devastatingly accurate list of various things on which the current Republican in the White House has lied -- and it drew a stinging jack-booted attack from George W. Bush's minders -- but Milbank, even as he was drawing up a list of lies that if uttered by a Democratic president would be grounds for impeachment (heck, Clinton was impeached on far less), could not bring himself, or was not allowed by his editors, to say straight-out that George W. Bush is a liar. In fact, in a vain attempt to fend off the Bushistas' jack-boots, he took pains to mention Clinton's efforts to conceal the existence of his affair with Monica Lewinsky -- as if hiding an affair is as bad or worse than deliberately lying to the American people about whether invading Iraq is justified.
Of course, the New York Times and the Washington Post aren't the only American media entities that treat Republicans far more cautiously than they do Democrats. One has but to turn on FOX News (or rather, FAUX News) to see that they milked, and are still milking, the "outrage" from Rick Kahn's ill-advised speech during the memorial service for Paul Wellstone. It was this constant stoking of the "outrage" flames, by FOX and by every other corporate media outlet, that tipped the scales for Coleman in Minnesota: Fritz Mondale only had five short days to counteract it, and he couldn't. No one could.
What can be done to counter this heavy right-wing bias?
Well, if you're reading this article, you're already doing one thing: Unlike most Americans, you're not getting your news exclusively from TV or radio. And your numbers are growing, because a growing number of you have realized how badly you are being served by the corporate US media.
I'm hearing other ideas being kicked around -- such as having the Democrats target certain media persons/networks with boycotts. One thing is for certain: a growing number of us are ready to start fighting the real enemy.
ISSN No. 1523-1690