Thursday, May 29, 2008

McClellan to Media: We Play You Like a Fiddle

For years, folks like Eric Alterman and Media Matters have argued that the press routinely undermines the American electorate with its focus on "horse race" political coverage and by failing to exercise critical thinking.

But we no longer need to take the media critics word for it -- thanks to Scott McClellan, George W. Bush's former White House Press Secretary.

From "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" as excerpted in the Wall Street Journal:
The permanent campaign also ensnares the media, who become complicit enablers of its polarizing effects. They emphasize conflict, controversy and negativity, focusing not on the real-world impact of policies and their larger, underlying truths but on the horse race aspects of politics – who's winning, who's losing, and why…

The press amplifies the talking points of one or both parties in its coverage, thereby spreading distortions, half-truths, and occasionally outright lies in an effort to seize the limelight and have something or someone to pick on. And by overemphasizing conflict and controversy and by reducing complex and important issues to convenient, black-and-white story lines and seven-second sound bites the media exacerbate the problem, thereby making it incredibly hard even for well-intentioned leaders to clarify and correct the misunderstandings and oversimplifications that dominate the political conversation.

Finally, it becomes much more difficult for the general public to decipher the more important truths amid all the conflict, controversy and negativity. For some partisans, that is fine because they believe they can maneuver better in such a highly politicized environment to accomplish their objectives.
When the fella who held the hoop says the press corps behaves like trained poodles, it's time for some journalistic soul-searching.

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