Commentary Magazine


MSM Games

If you talk to MSM reporters and pundits, they will tell you that the McCain camp complains too much about adverse press. “They whine,” is what you hear. Let’s put aside the whole, glaring issue of MSM bias for one moment – whether it isn’t legitmate to “whine” when the coverage is so appallingly unbalanced and inaccurate. Is it smart to do so?

Jonathan Martin gets the dynamic:

Little energizes conservatives like grievance toward a media they perceive as being liberal or out to get Republicans. The pick of Palin, the derisive response to her by Democrats and the coverage of her — real, imagined and exaggerated — has done something McCain hadn’t been able to do for himself: rouse a long-depressed party base and give them something to be for instead of just against.

Couple that with the grievances that former Hillary Clinton supporters harbor toward the MSM (which they believe helped submarine their gal) and you have the making of a counter-intuitive but very favorable dynamic for the GOP ticket: the worse the MSM coverage, the more support the McCain-Palin ticket builds. That is not to say any campaign “likes” hostile coverage, but the McCain camp certainly is using it to its advantage. When the MSM goes into overdrive — as they did in the days following the Palin  selection — the base responds with fury (e.g. shouting “NBC!” at the Convention). With each clumsy attempt by the MSM to distort and attack, the GOP base (and even less committed Independent voters) become angrier at the coverage and  more inured to the MSM’s message –whatever the underlying merits of the particular issue.

Sound familiar? The McCain camp couldn’t (pre-Palin) match Obama’s “celebrity” status  so they turned it against him with mocking humor. Now they are using the MSM’s hostility — to diffuse the criticism they receive and bolster their popular support. In both cases, they have used their opponents’ excesses to their own advantage. They often don’t even bother to respond (e.g. the Washington Post’s front page hit piece on Cindy McCain) because the revulsion of the average voter is almost assured.

The McCain camp has done many things well in the last couple of months, but none better than convincing the voters that their opponents — Obama and the MSM — are not to be taken seriously. For now, voters seem to be buying it.