Skip to comments.Fred Barnes: Conventional Wisdom (The mainstream media still has the power)
Posted on 12/01/2005 4:10:48 PM PST by RWR8189
CONSERVATIVES are justifiably proud of the alternative they've created to the mainstream media--the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, big regional papers, TV networks, and the national news magazine. Last year, conservative talk radio, websites, and bloggers forced the Swift Boats vets story onto the national media agenda and instantly destroyed 60 Minutes's case against President Bush and his Texas Air National Guard service. But conservatives shouldn't get triumphal. The mainstream media still rules.
We see this every day. Consider the case of Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, who recently called for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The mainstream media treated this as a shot out of the blue by a defense hawk who suddenly concluded that the war was unwinnable. Conservatives knew better--namely that Murtha had been criticizing the war for many months and that his call for withdrawal was utterly irresponsible.
The mainstream media view prevailed. Murtha was treated as a pro-war hawk who had reluctantly--and more in sorrow than in anger--turned against the intervention in Iraq. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch gave him an "up" arrow, and indeed that reflected media opinion about Murtha and opposition to the war in Iraq. The dissent by the conservative media barely registered.
Despite all the good done by the alternative media, the mainstream media is still able to impose its interpretation on news events. It has no qualms about creating out of whole cloth national figures it likes. And the mainstream media continues to hold to a double standard, one for Democrats and liberals, another for Bush and Republicans.
I don't mean to diminish the alternative media. It's simply that the mainstream media is far bigger and much, much stronger--and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Talk radio, websites and bloggers don't report. They can only react to the reporting of the mainstream media.
FOX NEWS has dozens of reporters. It's not really part of the alternative media. True, it's far more welcoming to conservative commentators (I'm one of them) than any of the mainstream broadcast outlets and this gives Fox a conservative tilt. But Fox also has many liberal commentators. And its reporters, in my view, are fairer and less partisan than most mainstream media reporters.
A GOOD EXAMPLE of the mainstream media's power is Cindy Sheehan, the left-wing mother of a soldier slain in Iraq. She showed up in Texas last summer demanding to see the president, who was on vacation at his ranch. The mainstream media elevated her stardom, rarely mentioning that she had already met once with Bush and had allied herself with far-left activists.
Cindy Sheehan was created out of whole cloth. Having talked to Bush in person since her son was killed, she had no special claim on his time. Nor, as an antiwar protester, was she representative of parents of slain GI's--quite the contrary. But the media embraced her. Sadly for Sheehan, her protest near Bush's ranch over Thanksgiving was a flop. Why? Because the mainstream media had moved on, presumably without informing her.
The conservative alternative media has vigorously challenged the mainstream media's take on many stories, but has rarely changed it. Consider the CIA leak case. The conventional story line is that the Bush White House sought to punish a brave whistleblower, Joseph Wilson, for publicly refuting a Bush claim about Iraq by outing his wife, a CIA agent. In truth, the Bush White House merely sought to knock down Wilson's story because it was false.
The mainstream media line has survived. We see it repeated endlessly. The alternative media has cataloged Wilson's numerous lies--with little effect. When Wilson appeared recently on 60 Minutes, he was treated a man who spoke truth to power and suffered for it.
On Iraq, the mainstream media have been relentlessly negative. And this has had a clear impact on the public, whose support for the president's Iraq policy has nosedived. The alternative media has played up the many examples of good news and optimistic assessments of Iraq. It's not difficult to see who has been the dominant force on that issue.
Last year, the mainstream media went into a frenzy after the president was accused of being AWOL during his National Guard duty. But the same media was uninterested when scored of Swift Boat veterans who served with John Kerry challenged his heroic account of his Vietnam service. And when it finally took up the Kerry story, the mainstream media's focus was primarily on discrediting the vets, not Kerry.
This year, the same double standard applies to the Democrats' attempt to market the story that the president lied about Iraq intelligence before war. With rare exceptions, Democrats are not required to justify their charge with evidence. Bush, though, is being called on to defend his innocence.
On top of all that, the mainstream media likes to throw its weight around, often at Bush's expense. When he attended the Summit of the Americas in Argentina earlier this month, Bush met with American reporters to answer a few questions. The first four (of five) were about whether he would fire senior aide Karl Rove, apologize to the American people, combat the notion he's untrustworthy, or try to give his presidency a fresh start. Only one dealt with his policy toward Latin America.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
I am encouraged when I see the New York Times laying off 500 people. The hey days of the dinosaur media are gone. Night is coming fast for them.
No.....they managed to hide it.
No Fred, it didn't. This column of Fred's points out the reason that I will never take the Weakly Standard. Reason #1 is Bill Kristol.
But #2 is Fred Barnes trying to hang on to separate himself from the "mainstream media" while being a very apparent part of it.
Which means that the MSM may still have the power to deceive, but (as I posted on another thread) the period of effectiveness for their deceptions is shorter and shorter because of the alternative media. Their credibilty suffers with each exposure of their bias, and revelation of their tactics. Their periods of deception are only setting them up for a more devastating blow from the power of the truth when it finally comes out.
What conservatives need to do, rather than creating networks that pander to the converted is to take over the MSM and insure that way of getting impartial news. As things stand now, only conservatives watch alternative news and read alternative papers and magazines. Conservatives still account for aproximately 25% of the population, the rest are still being branwashed by the MSM.
There really is a Republican professor! Amazing. 8)
Read your bio, you are one smart cookie. [Perhaps why you are a Republican.]
You will be happy to know that I survived a four year liberal arts education [majoring in sociology, no less] at a neighboring school and managed to find my way to the conservative side, after a few years detour on the dark side. 8)
This was done in LESS than ONE YEAR after George Bush was re-elected by some 3 million votes. I for one beleived the IRAQ opposition and the lack of finding WMD was a CLOSED CASE after the election.........it seems as though I vastly underestimated the MSM's continuing influence on the American public.
To a degree, yes. But not nearly to the degree the polls would suggest.
If the Democrats really believed in the MSM's polls, wouldn't more than three Democrats have voted in favor of quitting Iraq?
But they knew better than to trust the skewed results.
bump to the top
I know, but the way you set up your thread, a good article wasn't going to get the exposure it was due.
Freddo is right. As usual, his analysis isn't very deep.
But this time at least, he's right. Face the music, people: The right-blogosphere, talk radio, etc., are mostly just conservatives talking to themselves. The people who matter most in this country are the "independents," "moderates," etc., and their minds are stocked with MSM crap. That isn't about to change.
Barnes is flat on here. The MSM is still dominant, but they are no longer a monopoly. It has been enough of a shift that the outcome of elections are in our favor. They do still shift opinion and drive the news.
As newspapers cut jobs and lose ad revenues, this will continue to change.
The best thing in the world would be to have a synication network that is not marxist in nature like AP and Reuters.
Yes, and even in Massachusetts, where the fight is pretty lop-sided.
I have to admit I've made some political mistakes in the past because of my arts connections, but I saw the light some time ago.
Are you working in a sociology field, waging the same kind of battles that I do?
The comparison I like to make there is The Bush National Guard story vs. the Kerry/VVAW meeting where they voted on whether to assassinate seven U.S. senators who disagreed with them about the war.
Does anyone anywhere believe that if GWB had something like that in his background he would ever have been allowed to become governor of Texas much less POTUS? Yet the average American has never heard the story about Kerry's involvement in that Kansas City meeting, or that such a meeting even occurred.
He's also correct that the Old Media makes and reports news, breaks stories, factual or not, whereas the New Media reacts to those stories.
We need a conservative news outlet with a team of investigative journalists who will dig up the stories and report them.
Not if we throw up our hands in defeat, it isn't.
We're making progress. It's slow and steady, but it's progress. These kinds of things don't change overnight. It's got to be incremental. So we take heart in the progress we've made and keep striving to incrementally take more ground in the media wars.
True. I heard boortz say the other day that everyone needs to subscribe at least to their hometown paper. But that's ridiculous because except for micro-hometown 12pg papers, they are all just reprints of AP this and Reuters that. Garbage.