The failure of our media

This is an incredible article detailed how profoundly the media failed us in the 2000 presidential campaign.

Bottom line message: Gore was really smart, and came off as a pious know-it-all. He couldn’t boil his campaign and political views down to a simple one line slogan for stupid Americans. Gore wasn’t buddy-buddy with reporters, Bush was. Somehow the media sold likability as the key issue of the election. Bush was stupid, but seemed harmless and chummy. Newspapers and TV news want to simplify and paint caricatures to generate ratings and sell advertising.

The last point is an important one, and one that very fundamentally undermines the premise that we’ve come to trust the media on. While it’s easy for some liberals to dismiss Fox News as entertainment, it’s widely considered a reliable news source for conservatives. It’s disturbingly clear from the article that there has been a subtle, but significant shift in news toward entertainment over information. This includes all sources of news.

We were failed by a media that refused to take on who Bush really was as a person, or what his neo-con agenda entailed. We were failed by a media that in the hysteria of 9-11 failed to question the run up to the Iraq war. We have been failed repeatedly by a media that refused to report or investigate numerous violations of law committed by the administration.

When looking back at this disastrous presidency, it’s important to not only criticize (and prosecute) the administration, but to also take a long hard look at the fourth estate and how thoroughly it’s been compromised both by conglomeration and by news organizations’ existences as profit centers.

Many of our fundamental democratic structures have been heavily damaged since the Reagan administration (read about another incredibly depressing failure of the media) including a free and independent press. We’re long over due to re-examine how our thoroughly our democracy has been compromised.

The good news is: It seems like the media has woken up from it’s complacent zombie slumber in the waning days of the administration. Talk of impeachment has made most of the major news papers, even if most are still dismissive (despite recent polls showing 55% of americans believe Bush has abused his presidential powers and has commited impeachable offenses, and 34% think he should be removed from office.) More and more papers seem critical of the “We’ll accept no accountability, and set no standards for success” approach to the Iraq war.

While the media was more than happy to blow the horns of war in Iran for the administration, few were willing to continue after the NIE report demonstrated Bush’s willful deceit on their nuclear capabilities. No one in their right mind is willing to relive the intelligence debacle of Iraq.

Sadly, this is a cause for hope given the abysmally poor record of the media in recent years. Unfortunately, the tone for the 2008 campaign is woefully bad. As Gore notes:

“Modern politics seems to require and reward some capacities that I don’t think I have in abundance, such as a tolerance for … spin rather than an honest discussion of substance.… Apparently, it comes easily for some people, but not for me.”

One of the things that I love about Kucinich, Paul and Gravel is that they refuse to participate in this ridiculous world of spin that our media has helped create. It’s telling that the media has tried to silence, dismiss, discredit and exclude them from the campaign coverage and debates.

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