May 16, 2004

Why Daily Howler is a MUST Read

For one who is obsessed with figuring out how to get rid of Bush, I know that it isn't just the neocons or conservatives that have created the dilemma we face, but the fact that people just don't have enough good information to participate as citizens because our media sucks. One of the biggest problems we have in maintaining our democracy is not having a well-informed citizenry that can participate in shaping our policies and priorities for our government. The media has been given a special role as defined by our constitution to provide a necessary check on the government by critically and skeptically examining the workings of the government. Without a viable media, there is simply no way a democratic government can work because the only way to make reasonable decisions is based on good information and perspectives from those that comprise the democracy.

We all know our media is composed of a particular hierarchy with the TV having an inordinate influence on our national discourse. Radio also has a tremendously broad influence (with Rush and NPR having a huge impact on the zeitgeist). The print media is seen by many less people and is declining in influence due to fewer readers, yet the major papers of the nation are responsible for setting the agenda for the day's news. Today there are the bloggers who add something new to the mix - where there are some that create new news (witness Natasha's breaking the news about Joe Wilson's comments about Karl Rove's alleged part in outing Valerie Plame), or David Neiwert who as a practicing journalist provides new and important information regarding the day's stories, and others of us try to provide some context and background on the stories the media delivers. But it is undeniable that the most important thing for our country and our democracy is that the media provide enough valid information for people to participate in this democracy, even if this is simply to select viable representatives that really represent their interests.

Yet, our media is increasingly unable to or unwilling to provide the necessary information to allow citizens the knowledge they need to make a good decisions about who to support or to set the priorities for what they expect their government to do. As Bob Somerby has shown, the media is deeply dysfunctional and we are in a world of hurt if people depend on it to make their decisions. Here is how our press talked about John Kerry and his character when skiing while this country is in the worst political situation this country has known since WW2 or the civil war.

[Background, Bush fell while skiing and made a joke. The NYTimes reports that Kerry is unreliable and an elitist.] But how reliable is [NY Times'] David Halbfinger? This incident was observed by two reporters, Halbfinger and ABC’s Ed O’Keefe. For the record, the two reporters didn’t even agree on what Kerry said when he got flattened. (For O’Keefe’s account, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/7/04). Meanwhile, how much confidence do you have in Halbfinger? Here at THE HOWLER, we have very little. For example, here’s the spin-drenched way he began the report which included the snowboarding incident:

HALBFINGER (pgh 1): John Kerry was in the air, approaching the Continental Divide, and the candidate often ridiculed as straddling both sides of political divides was wrestling with the big matter at hand.

(2) Should he ski, or snowboard? Or maybe both? He gave no clue where he stood. But that was Wednesday night.

(3) A longtime adviser recently suggested that there were two John Kerrys: “indoor John and outdoor John”—one who agonizes over decisions, and another who acts boldly on them.

(4) It was outdoor John, decidedly so, who emerged from an armored S.U.V. at the foot of Bald Mountain here on Thursday morning, outfitted in blue ski gear and swigging from a bottle of vitamin-fortified water. From the rear of the vehicle he pulled a weathered old snowboard, and for most of the day proceeded to zigzag down what locals affectionately call Mount Baldy.

Is Kerry “often ridiculed” as a big straddler? Showing off his masterful wit, Halbfinger ridiculed Kerry on the theme once again, right at the start of this “news report!” Indeed, he even jammed the Continental Divide into his piece as a way to use the amusing script—a script he continued as he mocked Kerry’s attempt to choose between snowboards and skis (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/19/04). Is this simply bad judgment, or does it show a partisan animus? Here at THE HOWLER, we really can’t say. But at any rate, are you prepared to trust this hapless scribe when he says how “sharply” Kerry spoke? In our view, there’s only one thing you can trust about Halbfinger—you can trust his relentless bad judgment.

At any rate, there you have it. Kerry’s camp said he was joking. Halbfinger said the downed solon spoke “sharply.” But the scribe mocked Kerry throughout his report, typing up familiar scripts about the “image-conscious candidate.” Yes, the Times is our most disordered paper, and this report helps show why we say that. Are you on the prowl for “contemptible character?” If so, Kerry’s deeply troubling remark may not be the best place to look.

How do we make sure people can understand enough about the issues to vote when our press corp is doing their best to destroy the character of the Democratic candidates and to reduce the campaign to a school girl's gossip fest? And why do they not worry themselves about what the consequences of another four years of an incompetent and corrupt Bush administration would bring us and the world? When will they spend even half the time on providing accurate and timely assessments on the policies and consequences of the Bush administration?

Posted by Mary at May 16, 2004 05:24 AM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |

Pacific Views still has the great posts, but am I the only one that finds finds your new body text size too small?

#1 on google for liberal news

Posted by: Gary Denton at May 16, 2004 09:13 AM

Gary, use Mozilla Firefox and CTRL+ to enlarge text. I did, and then laughed in agreement when I got to your comment.

Posted by: alan at May 16, 2004 02:33 PM

Sorry, folks. I thought I'd set it up so you could adjust it, guess I'll have to fix that. MT's kind of funky in that there isn't an intermediate between the tiny text and the clunky text. I've tried every dang permutation, but it looks like I need to find one you can fiddle with easier.

Posted by: natasha at May 16, 2004 08:22 PM

As to the content, not the font, of your observation, I find it right on. For a decade I didn't own a television, but three months ago I finally acquiesced to a limited cable showing because I heard how awful the coverage was of the administration and its oppponents.

It turned out to be worse than I thought. Faux News is terrible, of course, but at least its bias is consistent. But CNN and the various NBC channels (plus, of course, the broadcast networks) aren't much better--and more deceptive because they don't show their slant as obviously.

If the Left can win this presidential election (and today the chances are better than ever), it's only because of a powerful human revulsion to the the current course of our nation, a revulsion that can't be bought or obscured by the mass media's manipulations. A true victory of empowered people over the emasculating media and corporate influence. Such a victory would be as huge and the demise of the Soviet Union or the cracking of the Berlin Wall.

If we lose...

Posted by: Erik at May 17, 2004 05:36 AM

First thing I tried was to up the size and saw your Blog Roll and archives get big and no effect on the body.

But hey, at least you get around to redoing your formats. I am backed up months on links to add.

#1 on google for liberal news

Posted by: Easter Lemming Liberal News at May 17, 2004 08:00 AM