Sunday, May 27, 2012

Which bias?

I have heard other bloggers (at Podcamp) say to never apologize for not posting. Yeah, but, you feel bad ...

I mentioned before that Jack Kelly himself is writing more columns. I don't believe I mentioned that there is a comments section at the bottom of his (and I assume all PG columnists') column. I have been frolicking (so to speak) there. Kelly has his share of ditto heads. People who think that Obama's not having released his transcripts proves something nefarious.

I am back here today for Jack Kelly's Sunday column, where he spins a story of how biased the media is toward Barack Obama, and how since it has been done so many times, it might be losing its effect.

Let's look at these broad statements first, before getting to picking apart some of his statements in detail. Now obviously everything I say is colored by my opinion, so your mileage may vary (as they say) in your reaction to what I say. I hope y'all realize the same is true for Kelly, that is the whole point of my doing this. But I will say now that watching Meet the Press or This Week (with Stephanopolus/Ammanpur/Tapper - and no, I don't feel like finding the correct spellings), these shows almost always start a discussion from the conservative point of view. The discussions were always "what's bad about the health care reform plan""Why are people so angry in town hall meetings""What about the death panels" or before the midterms "Why hasn't the President done more to lower unemployment". I believe a Jack Kelly would deny this as an evidence of bias, and spin it around somehow. Now, I will admit I think the press has shown a certain amount of affection for the President as a person. I think they like him in a way that they did not like George Bush (maybe because they sensed Bush's antipathy towards the press when he called a New York an asshole or maybe because in some ways Bush seemed like a dry drunk). But I don't think that affection for Obama carries over into discussions of policy.

Cory Booker's recent defense on Meet The Press of a generic "private equity" and Harold Ford's and Steve Rattner's defense of Cory Booker shed's light on another interesting media bias - a willingness to let Wall Street off the hook for past and current crimes and misdeeds. While the example I gave is of Democratic politicians, I will say that it is only media outside the "mainstream" that really seem to be investigating, examining and complaining about Wall Street and their actions. I am talking about Mother Jones, Democracy Now, Democratic Underground, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, scores of liberal blogs, etc, etc. I mean you get the occasional New Yorker or Vanity Fair piece, which are generally only partially negative (don't want to bite the hand ...) and there is Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times. I may have missed one or two (they're in the "etc's"), but by and large these outlets can be dismissed as fringe or having a known bias. The "mainstream media" chuckles at their antics, pat them on the (collective) head and tell them to leave Real News to Real Reporters. Real News being anything that doesn't harm Wall Street. (Honestly, do they know they are on TV on "Washington Week in Review"; maybe that's why it is on Fridays, to do the least harm).

To some of Kelly's more specific charges, I will say that despite the Monica Lewinsky episode, or perhaps because of it, the Press does show some deference to political candidates. Did you know that Al Gore developed what he thought of as almost an addiction to marijuana after he came home from Vietnam (yes, Al went to Vietnam, as a journalist, but still in country, unlike Dubbya)? I suspect most everyone who reads this blog also knows that George W Bush had a cocaine habit in the eighties (in fairness, like a lot of people who could afford it) in addition to his drinking problem. But think about it, do you recall any major news stories on these particular topics? I am certain 95% of the media knew these stories were out there, but chose not to talk about them. Deference.

With that in mind, what about Jack Kelly's complaint that the media is using Romney's Morman faith to attack him. Well, we have not had a Morman President, surely some in the public are curious about a religion that seems to be such a big part of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. That the religion's history and/or relative weirdness reflects badly upon Romney is not the fault of the messengers. And should it be a secret that Mitt Romney is very, very wealthy? Jack Kelly thinks talking about Romney's wealth is showing bias, although presumably he is eager to talk about Romney's business skills as a basis for being President (although not his time as Governor of Massachusetts apparently). Kelly thinks that the media is wrong on the facts of "a nasty prank" from 1965 based on the victim's sister who "said she had no knowledge of the incident but that the portrayal of her brother was "factually inaccurate"". Hmm, could a victim of a vicious attack based on the victim's supposed homosexuality keep that from his family? I don't know if John Lauber is or isn't gay and frankly don't care, it is only important that a young Mitt Romney apparently thought he was, and that humiliating Lauber was something Romney should do. We also know the adult Romney thought that the family dog should ride in a crate with a windscreen strapped to the roof of the family station wagon on the highway. Romney says the dog liked it up there, but I suspect dog owners could tell us about how far dogs will go to please their owners. Had the dog traveled at highway speeds up on that perch before or if ti had, had it been up there that long? Regardless of that, on that particular trip the dog reacted with what I think many of us suspect was terror, and had considerable diarrhea. Romney reaction was to hose to dog and car off and continue. Yet according to Kelly we should never have heard these stories as they show the clear bias of the media, he thinks we should know only what Romney wants us to know about his character. Kelly then pivots and launches a series of attacks on Obama under the guise of things the media didn't cover even though they are crucial. Isn't that actually being hypocritical?

Kelly talks about the primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky, how other candidates (or "uncommitted") got 4 in ten votes. Kelly gushes, when Eugene McCarthy got 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire in 1968, Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for re-election. Well, maybe there were other, more important factors in Johnson's decision (Vietnam, although the primary vote may have sealed that decision), and of course, New Hampshire fall in a different place in the primary season than Arkansas and Kentucky. But it is fine with me that Jack Kelly is that excited about this.

Kelly then comes back to Jeremiah Wright (and later he will go back to Obama's birthplace, again). Look, frankly, I am a bit alarmed at what Wright has said (and I don't know if it was once, occasionally or all the time that he God-damns America and expresses hatred of white people). But keeping in mind that at least in the past I probably had more contact with African Americans on TV than in real life (I always had some, more recently), I might be forgiven for thinking that I wish they would stop being scary criminals, get over it and just get along with us white people. But I have also always had the thought at the back of my mind - I have no idea what life is like as a black man - or less to my credit - I am glad to have that extra little advantage of being white, for while we have no secret handshake, there is the implicit connection of shared heritage that most of us whites are not "Christian" enough to extend to blacks. Now, I don't think I would say whites are born with a leg up, but I think most honest people would say that all blacks in America, even Jaden and Willow Smith, are born with a leg down with at least some and often most white people.

I could go into more detail about my thoughts of race relations, but suffice to say what I learned from reading and a few conversations with blacks, the constant oppression over literally two hundred year of blacks in America puts perspective on Reverend Wright's feelings about history. Douglas Blackmon wrote a book "Slavery by Another Name" that puts a different perspective on segregation (more than just separate water fountains). I think Reverend Wright, far from intending to offend, is trying educate everybody in America (although he cares more that blacks get a positive message about their own situation). Kelly wants to pin guilt by association on Obama, even as he wants to exempt Mitt Romney from the same treatment. Yet we have already heard about Jeremiah Wright (even if Kelly thinks an Obama supporter trying to buy him off makes him relevant again), we are only just now learning about about Mitt Romney, and his associations.

before putting Obama's birthplace in Kenya, Kelly mentions lawsuits brought by the Catholic Churches top hierarchy. It is a sad and cynical statement that the only contraceptive the church can attack is the one that has medical uses as well, and that the church claims a constitutional right to oppress poor women. But we have heard the story in the last few months and know that Republicans have tricked the Church into being being their dupes.

And finally we get (back) to Obama being born in Kenya, which one literary agent had written in a book of clients in the nineties. That trumps the birth certificate, newspaper notices and family memories. Kelly thinks this one point should be the headline story, trumping unemployment, natural disaster and *some* international news (the triumph of austerity in Europe and/or the triumph of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt could *share* the headlines).

Kelly's column really is nothing more that the umpteen millionth recycling of the eternal conservative complaint that Nixon made (probably not even the first instance) about the vast Eastern intellectual conspiracy. Kelly speculates that the familiarity of the liberal bias in the media might render it impotent this time (certainly the mainstream media, let alone left wing media, has no chance to penetrate the right wing noise machine for those immersed in it). As I argued, the mainstream media is actually rather more conservative in their leanings than liberal. Conservatives themselves have done an excellent job of playing their own race card, in part by accusing Democrats of playing the race card, and making sure Barack Obama's blackness has stayed front and center (if often unspoken) for many to fear or despise, and many others to show contempt towards. But I think there is a danger of the conservative noise machine falling into the very trap Kelly thinks the mainstream media is in, of showing too much bias, of trumpeting faux issues while ignoring the real problems in ordinary people's lives.

And once again, what is the PG thinking?

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