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Puppy Love and the Press

On his blog at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg poses this thought experiment:

Imagine — and it doesn’t take much imagining — but imagine Dick Cheney showed up at a party for Ahmed Chalabi, and made a videotaped toast? Don’t you think the L.A. Times would try like hell to get that video posted on its website? Of course it would, and it would be performing a valuable service for its readers.

This follows up on an earlier post, in which he (rightly) refers to the Times as a “pro-censorship organization.” He uses this sobriquet because the Times has refused to release a videotape it obtained of a 2003 banquet, at which then-state Senator Barack Obama spoke of his friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian activist.

The Times first reported on this videotape in an April 2008 story, which included a detailed description of the tape’s contents. The explanation offered by the Times is that it did not release the tape itself “because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it.” So said the newspaper’s editor, Russ Stanton (who added that “The Times keeps its promises to sources”). But Goldberg points out the obvious: the tape has been described in detail in a Times story already, it quite obviously contains no state secrets, and it could be posted in such a way as to obscure its origins. So why the restraint?

This whole episode is quite extraordinary. But it’s just one more example of the remarkable one-sidedness of the media in this presidential campaign. The political and ideological biases of the press have been a constant as long as I’ve been alive. But I don’t think they have ever been this pronounced.

Many members of the media have not only an ideological but also an emotional investment in an Obama presidency. They desperately want an Obama victory. Some journalists, as we are discovering in the case of the Times, will violate the most basic professional standards to ensure that outcome. The journalistic landscape is scattered with people like (to take just one  example) Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, who speaks and writes about Obama in reverential, even worshipful, tones. What is far more widespread, though, is a slant in how the two campaigns are covered–which issues the press deems legitimate and illegitimate; how topics are framed; the tone and manner in which the two candidates are described. It is clear, for example, that many members of the press corps have decided that raising the issue of Obama’s past associations with radicals like Bill Ayers (to name just one of a number) is crude, unrefined, and off limits. When McCain brought it up, they portrayed him in the worst possible light. Raising the issue of Obama’s association with a domestic terrorist became worse than that association itself.

The press, then, in pursuing its pro-Obama agenda, has necessarily turned with a vengeance on McCain. He never stood a chance, it seems, against Barack Obama when it came to winning the affection and adoration of the press. The MSM’s enchantment with Obama has become so obvious that it’s slightly embarrassing. (Public demonstrations of puppy love usually are.) And I suspect that, even if Obama wins, the MSM will have accelerated its decline, both in terms of the respect it gets (already low) and the support it receives (i.e. in the number of its viewers and readers). John McCain, the CW says, will lose this election. But if he does, he’ll have some company along for the ride.



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