Commentary Magazine


Topic: social media

Will Michelle Join Hashtag Battle Against Hamas Kidnappers?

When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

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When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

The competition between these two groups hasn’t engaged liberal elites the way the Boko Haram attack, did but the willingness of some liberal publications to engage in the worst sort of blame-the-victim memes with regard to the kidnapped boys illustrates that the pro-human rights mentality that made #bringbackourgirls such a huge success is based on sentiments that run about a millimeter deep in our culture. With supposedly cutting edge websites like Vox using the kidnapping as an excuse to engage in specious and largely false arguments about the evils of Israeli occupation of the West Bank to rationalize if not justify Palestinian terrorism, it’s little wonder that Mrs. Obama is not lending her immense prestige to the campaign to free the Israeli boys.

Why won’t Michelle Obama tweet her sympathy for the Israeli boys? The answer is obvious. To do so would be to make it clear that the White House believes that the human rights of Jews, even those living on what the administration thinks is the wrong side of the green line, are human beings with rights, rather than just flesh and blood targets.

While no individual or even any government can involve itself in every issue or incident on the planet, the choices we make are instructive as to whether our putative concern for human rights is a pose or a genuine commitment. In the case of Boko Haram’s victims, it was easy for liberal Americans to express anger for the terrorists and sympathy for the victims, since to do so involved no hard choices, other than the choice former secretary of state Hillary Clinton made in refusing to designate the kidnappers as a terror group during her time in office. Americans don’t really care who runs Northern Nigeria or the intricacies of that vast nation’s political and religious conflicts. But that didn’t stop them from rightly expressing their disgust with the notion that terrorists could simply snatch girls from school and force them to convert to Islam and/or to sell them into slavery.

But to use their hashtag power to speak up against Hamas and the widespread support for kidnapping among Palestinians, even though PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has belatedly condemned the crime, involves some real hard choices. It involves a realization that the Middle East conflict isn’t so much about borders or Israel’s policies as it is about the hate that drives Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state’s repeated offers of peace.

Boko Haram’s military was not matched by an ability to mobilize international opinion on behalf of their cause of preventing women from being educated. But Hamas is more fortunate. They can not only count on Palestinian social media users to glorify their crimes and to call for more such abductions but also rely on the willingness of many Western liberals to rationalize any violence against Israelis.

Up until now, the response of the U.S. to the kidnapping has been weak. While Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned it, he has not sought to draw conclusions from events about the wisdom of his decision to go on supplying the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government with American taxpayer dollars. Nor has the White House specifically called for the release of the boys and the surrender of the Hamas terrorists.

While we still know nothing about the fate of the boys, countering those who are supporting the kidnapping—a vicious campaign with overtones of traditional anti-Semitism—won’t be easy. But it would be helped if the first lady were willing to endorse freedom for the boys. A hashtag is no substitute for action or even a policy that sought to disassociate America from Palestinian terror. But it would be a start.

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Tweet Tweet

What is it about communicating in 140 characters or less that makes people stupid? Idiotic Twitter faux pas are now just something we’ve come to expect. And the latest Twittiocy might seem to put even Anthony Weiner to shame (if such were possible). 

Justine Sacco, head of corporate communications for media conglomerate IAC, just before hopping on a plane for a vacation in South Africa, tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” 

As Ms. Sacco wended her Internet-less way through the skies in blissful ignorance, her tweet went viral, and all hell broke loose. She was given the heave-ho by her bosses pretty much as soon as her plane landed, and her Twitter account disappeared. Ms. Sacco has now issued the obligatory apology for the “insensitivity” of her tweet and for the “pain” she caused–to AIDS victims, to black people, to South Africa.

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What is it about communicating in 140 characters or less that makes people stupid? Idiotic Twitter faux pas are now just something we’ve come to expect. And the latest Twittiocy might seem to put even Anthony Weiner to shame (if such were possible). 

Justine Sacco, head of corporate communications for media conglomerate IAC, just before hopping on a plane for a vacation in South Africa, tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” 

As Ms. Sacco wended her Internet-less way through the skies in blissful ignorance, her tweet went viral, and all hell broke loose. She was given the heave-ho by her bosses pretty much as soon as her plane landed, and her Twitter account disappeared. Ms. Sacco has now issued the obligatory apology for the “insensitivity” of her tweet and for the “pain” she caused–to AIDS victims, to black people, to South Africa.

This incident was not, it turns out, Ms. Sacco’s first venture into Interweb … um … liveliness. Her now-defunct Twitter profile, for example, describes her thus: “CorpComms at IAC. Troublemaker on the side. Also known for my loud laugh.” And a couple of years ago, she tweeted, “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night.”

This woman is (or was, anyway) in the PR biz! Now, I happen to be in that business myself, and one of its key tenets has always been, “never say anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.” So, what in the world was she thinking?

The answer (obviously)? Not much. Was she trying to squeeze tragic irony into her allotted 140? Perhaps; maybe even likely. But, really, tragic irony can’t possibly translate well in four sentences dashed off on the way from one plane to another. Especially when your goal is to impress the blogosphere with your snappy cleverness. 

Soberer heads are in the process of turning Twitter into a rather more sedate business and political communications tool; but it’s safe to say that the careless, the feckless, and the downright stupid will find themselves a new digital pathway.

Let’s not forget, after all, that the social media revolution was brought to us by those models of thoughtless, insensitive stupidity (and here I do apologize in advance for any pain I may cause)–college kids.

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Why Do U.S. Embassies Bungle Twitter?

Back in September, as Egyptian rioters sought to attack the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, allegedly over a video depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, the embassy tweeted out a note effectively condemning the controversial speech rather than those who would resort to violence against it. There followed confusion in both the embassy and the State Department about free speech, American values, and the appropriateness of apologies.

It would not be the last twitter controversy for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Two months ago, after Egyptian police arrested a satirist who had poked fun at the Islamist government, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to a Jon Stewart episode in which the American comic condemned the arrest of his Egyptian equivalent. That evidently upset the Egyptian government even more. Rather than stand up once again for free speech, diplomats caved, and the embassy temporarily disabled its Twitter feed, deleting the offending tweet.

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Back in September, as Egyptian rioters sought to attack the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, allegedly over a video depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, the embassy tweeted out a note effectively condemning the controversial speech rather than those who would resort to violence against it. There followed confusion in both the embassy and the State Department about free speech, American values, and the appropriateness of apologies.

It would not be the last twitter controversy for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Two months ago, after Egyptian police arrested a satirist who had poked fun at the Islamist government, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to a Jon Stewart episode in which the American comic condemned the arrest of his Egyptian equivalent. That evidently upset the Egyptian government even more. Rather than stand up once again for free speech, diplomats caved, and the embassy temporarily disabled its Twitter feed, deleting the offending tweet.

Now it seems the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, is getting in on the act. Many Middle Eastern rulers incite anti-Americanism in order to bolster their own popularity, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no different. After having precipitated a revolt through a combination of arrogance and undemocratic tendencies, Erdoğan sought to downplay the police violence by suggesting—falsely—that the United States is far more brutal in its alleged suppression of political protests.

In response to Erdoğan’s false claim that American police had killed 17 protestors breaking up Occupy Wall Street camps, the U.S. Embassy tweeted, “Reports related to the U.S. Occupy Wall Street movement are inaccurate. No U.S. deaths resulted from police actions in #OWS.”  The tweet signified how embassies should use Twitter: An instant response to correct a calumny.

It seems, however, that calling out Erdoğan for his outright lie was too undiplomatic for the embassy, which subsequently deleted the tweet. Alas, it seems that Ambassador Francis Ricciardone—infamous for his pro-Mubarak sycophancy while posted in Cairo—still confuses responsibility to protect America’s interests with ingratiation to foreign leaders.

It would be easy to blame technology for the embassies’ Twitter missteps, but it would be wrong. Twitter simply highlights in near-real time the State Department’s curious moral calculus. Perhaps it’s time for remedial education for America’s foreign servicemen and women: The lessons should not be hard: It neither is appropriate to apologize for free speech nor is violence in response to such speech ever justified. Nor should any ambassador hesitate when defending America against the rants of an anti-American ruler.

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Twitter Crackdown Exposes Saudi Fear

Various news outlets are reporting that Saudi Arabia is seeking to end anonymity for twitter users. At first glance, the Saudi move appears to be just one more example of American information companies knuckling under to pressure from wealthy, autocratic countries. That Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal holds a substantial stake in Twitter underlines how taking Saudi money (as both companies and many universities such as Harvard and Georgetown do) always comes with strings attached.

The Saudi move against Twitter has deeper roots, however. While American and European human rights activists have for more than two years rallied for justice and reform in Bahrain—Bahraini flags flew over the Occupy DC camp—and Bahrain is certainly in need of reform, the situation not only for Shi’ites but also for Sunnis in Saudi Arabia is worse.

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Various news outlets are reporting that Saudi Arabia is seeking to end anonymity for twitter users. At first glance, the Saudi move appears to be just one more example of American information companies knuckling under to pressure from wealthy, autocratic countries. That Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal holds a substantial stake in Twitter underlines how taking Saudi money (as both companies and many universities such as Harvard and Georgetown do) always comes with strings attached.

The Saudi move against Twitter has deeper roots, however. While American and European human rights activists have for more than two years rallied for justice and reform in Bahrain—Bahraini flags flew over the Occupy DC camp—and Bahrain is certainly in need of reform, the situation not only for Shi’ites but also for Sunnis in Saudi Arabia is worse.

The Saudi move comes against the backdrop of debates about political reform and popular Saudi cleric Salman al-Awdah—who has more than 2.5 million followers on Twitter—mocking government attempts to crackdown on Twitter. Al-Awdah may have broken with Usama Bin Laden, but no longer being an al-Qaeda sympathizer is a pretty low bar by which to describe reformism. Al-Awdah may be a reformer in the Saudi context, but no one should conflate reform with liberalism.

Nevertheless, Al-Awdah has become increasingly strident in his calls for political change in Saudi Arabia. According to the Open Source Center, he warned on March 16 that the Saudi people “will not remain silent.” Ten days later, he followed up by suggesting that should the Saudi government ignore calls for reform, “the only solution would be to go out into the square and counter argument with argument.”

I speculated six months ago that Saudi Arabia could be next. The autocratic kingdom is strictly off-limits to most Western journalists. Those who get in seldom move outside Riyadh or Jeddah. But if a riot breaks out in the Saudi hinterland and no one is around to cover it, that does not mean that all is well. It will be interesting to see if Saudi Arabia manages to constrain Twitter. Cutting communications, however, is a poor substitute for true reform. And the royal family is kidding itself if it believes it can remain aloof from political modernity forever.

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Trump, Malkin, and Dumbed Down Discourse

Sometimes you come across something that is both unusually shallow and yet (unintentionally) serves a useful public service. In this case, I have in mind the Twitter war between Michelle Malkin and Donald Trump. (You can follow it here courtesy of Mediaite.com.)

It’s perfect in its own way: witless, rude, angry, and content-free. He’s a “coward”; she’s a “dummy.” There’s no large issue being engaged and nothing clever in their exchange, making it worse than parody. And they don’t seem to know when to stop.

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Sometimes you come across something that is both unusually shallow and yet (unintentionally) serves a useful public service. In this case, I have in mind the Twitter war between Michelle Malkin and Donald Trump. (You can follow it here courtesy of Mediaite.com.)

It’s perfect in its own way: witless, rude, angry, and content-free. He’s a “coward”; she’s a “dummy.” There’s no large issue being engaged and nothing clever in their exchange, making it worse than parody. And they don’t seem to know when to stop.

All of which means everyone who uses Twitter on a regular basis should use this as a case study in what can happen to public discourse in the new media age. It’s a zeitgeist-capturing moment, and a cautionary tale of how foolish people can appear in 140 characters or less.

 

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The UN’s Freudian Tweet

Today the official account for the United Nations made a hilarious and telling error in advance of the UN General Assembly vote on granting Palestinians non-member state observer status. The account, which has over a million followers, tweeted at 11 a.m.:

UN Tweet

The tweet stayed online for more than 30 minutes, followed by a correction stressing a two-state solution. The social media manager for the UN, Nancy Groves, explained to Twitter users, “Sorry all — terrible typo on my part and then went into a telephone conference call before catching it.” And: “Wish I had caught it sooner.” 

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Today the official account for the United Nations made a hilarious and telling error in advance of the UN General Assembly vote on granting Palestinians non-member state observer status. The account, which has over a million followers, tweeted at 11 a.m.:

UN Tweet

The tweet stayed online for more than 30 minutes, followed by a correction stressing a two-state solution. The social media manager for the UN, Nancy Groves, explained to Twitter users, “Sorry all — terrible typo on my part and then went into a telephone conference call before catching it.” And: “Wish I had caught it sooner.” 

The Blaze called it the typo that has the “Palestinians furious.” Given the overwhelming vote in the UNGA today for Palestinian statehood (138 for, 9 against and 41 abstentions), if any group should be certain about being the one state left standing, it’s the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

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NYT Reins in Jerusalem Bureau Chief’s Social Media Use

The New York Times has assigned an editor to oversee the social media use of its Twitter-happy Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, according to its public editor, Margaret Sullivan. This isn’t out of nowhere, considering Rudoren’s history of Twitter-related controversies. What’s interesting is the tone of Sullivan’s explanation:

Start with a reporter who likes to be responsive to readers, is spontaneous and impressionistic in her personal writing style, and not especially attuned to how casual comments may be received in a highly politicized setting.

Put that reporter in one of the most scrutinized and sensitive jobs in journalism – the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times.

Now add Facebook and Twitter, which allow reporters unfiltered, unedited publishing channels. Words go from nascent, half-formed thoughts to permanent pronouncements to the world at the touch of a key.

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The New York Times has assigned an editor to oversee the social media use of its Twitter-happy Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, according to its public editor, Margaret Sullivan. This isn’t out of nowhere, considering Rudoren’s history of Twitter-related controversies. What’s interesting is the tone of Sullivan’s explanation:

Start with a reporter who likes to be responsive to readers, is spontaneous and impressionistic in her personal writing style, and not especially attuned to how casual comments may be received in a highly politicized setting.

Put that reporter in one of the most scrutinized and sensitive jobs in journalism – the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times.

Now add Facebook and Twitter, which allow reporters unfiltered, unedited publishing channels. Words go from nascent, half-formed thoughts to permanent pronouncements to the world at the touch of a key.

There had to be a way to phrase that without making Rudoren sound completely inept, right? As New York magazine notes in its headline, this column makes it sound like they’re getting her a babysitter rather than an editor.

Sullivan gets to the larger question:

There is, of course, a larger question here. Do Ms. Rudoren’s personal musings, as they have seeped out in unfiltered social media posts (and, notably, have been criticized from both the right and the left), make her an unwise choice for this crucially important job?

On this, we should primarily judge her reporting work as it has appeared in the paper and online. During the recent Gaza conflict, she broke news, wrote with sophistication and nuance about what was happening, and endured difficult conditions.

This decision by the Times was likely driven by the latest outcry over a Facebook post by Rudoren that described Israelis as “almost more traumatized” by deaths than the Palestinians. Anti-Israel types — which probably includes a substantial portion of Times readers — claimed Rudoren was downplaying the feelings of Palestinians. The Times could have just assigned Rudoren an editor and left it at that. But this column sounds like the paper felt it needed to give an additional mea culpa. It also raises some interesting questions. What observations does the Times feel are out-of-bounds for its journalists to make? And if social media — which is primarily used for quick observations — has to be edited, is there any point for journalists like Rudoren to use it at all?

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Cory Booker and the Problem with Social Media-Savvy Politicking

As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

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As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

Booker’s Twitter feed isn’t the only reason for his national fame. He’s a good-humored, well spoken politician willing to tackle persistent, endemic problems and break from the city’s corrupt past. His mastery of social media has also been evidence of a City Hall with a new dedication to responsiveness and good governance.

But it also often descends into gimmickry and hectoring, as it did yesterday. As New York magazine reports:

Cory Booker’s interactions with the denizens of Twitter started out pretty typically on Sunday. First, he told a man whose transgender friends are nervous about moving to Newark that he’d be happy to give them a call, and by the evening he was offering to help a student staying up all night to write a report about him. However, things grew more contentious when he tweeted a bit of ancient Greek wisdom, courtesy of Plutarch: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Booker was accused of plotting to redistribute wealth and told “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.” Since simply debating the merits of providing food assistance to impoverished Americans doesn’t fit into Booker’s ridiculously hands-on approach to governing, by the end of the night he’d challenged the Twitter user to a contest in which they’d both try to live off of food stamps for a week.

A challenge to live off of food stamps for a week seems like a great way to gain attention for a cause–until you realize that there’s nothing Booker is really advocating here except more government involvement, this time because the mayor doesn’t believe kids are eating a wholesome breakfast before school. Is he trying to show that you can’t live comfortably on food stamps? I would think that’s a no-brainer; is the purpose of food stamps to give recipients a middle-class living standard?

Is it Booker’s contention that more wealth redistribution is necessary for parents to feed their children healthier food? How does Booker know what parents spend their money on now, and how does he know how they’ll reallocate it if they get a bit more of it?

An energetic, responsive government is supposed to be the attractive alternative to Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state governance next door. At this point, both big-city mayors are advocating for liberal policies and aggressive and invasive paternalism, but the difference is that Bloomberg isn’t hounding his citizens on Twitter, shaming them for daring to dispute the wisdom of a meddlesome government with designs on more of the private sector’s cash.

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RE: Palin and the Media

Pete, I want to pick up on one point you made. There is no doubt that the liberal media is, well, liberal. The evidence is overwhelming, and Newsbusters and bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds do a fine job pointing it out on a regular basis. It’s important to do so and to pressure the media to play it straight, for the ombudsmen who populate most outlets rarely, if ever, conclude that there is bias at work.

But conservative candidates generally should not whine about the media. It’s not going to help them, and it often makes things worse. When John McCain’s 2008 campaign went on the attack against the New York Times, it was a low point in the campaign and only reinforced the sense that McCain was angry and thin-skinned.

Moreover, conservative candidates today have less to complain about than Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won the governorship of California and two presidential elections without the benefit of talk radio, the Internet, and social media, which have provided new outlets for conservatives and robust competition to the liberal media. And, of course, Fox News wasn’t around either. I sometimes get the impression that candidates use the media as an excuse for why they don’t do well and why their own difficulties are getting aired. Rand Paul tried this tact when his own words landed him in trouble.

The model for how conservatives should deal with the media is Chris Christie — pointing out the bias (for example, what an alternative headline would sound like), not complaining of being a victim, smiling, and exuding jovial confidence. That’s the way for candidates and elected leaders to handle the press — and to endear themselves to voters.

Pete, I want to pick up on one point you made. There is no doubt that the liberal media is, well, liberal. The evidence is overwhelming, and Newsbusters and bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds do a fine job pointing it out on a regular basis. It’s important to do so and to pressure the media to play it straight, for the ombudsmen who populate most outlets rarely, if ever, conclude that there is bias at work.

But conservative candidates generally should not whine about the media. It’s not going to help them, and it often makes things worse. When John McCain’s 2008 campaign went on the attack against the New York Times, it was a low point in the campaign and only reinforced the sense that McCain was angry and thin-skinned.

Moreover, conservative candidates today have less to complain about than Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won the governorship of California and two presidential elections without the benefit of talk radio, the Internet, and social media, which have provided new outlets for conservatives and robust competition to the liberal media. And, of course, Fox News wasn’t around either. I sometimes get the impression that candidates use the media as an excuse for why they don’t do well and why their own difficulties are getting aired. Rand Paul tried this tact when his own words landed him in trouble.

The model for how conservatives should deal with the media is Chris Christie — pointing out the bias (for example, what an alternative headline would sound like), not complaining of being a victim, smiling, and exuding jovial confidence. That’s the way for candidates and elected leaders to handle the press — and to endear themselves to voters.

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