Thursday, June 4, 2009

Isn't It Ironic: E.J. Dionne's Column on Politics, the Media and Obama

E.J. Dionne's
latest column makes the interesting claim that conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are "winning" national political debates because the right-leaning media regularly reports conservative criticism of Obama, while failing to give equal airtime to left critiques of the president. Dionne argues that this unbalanced news coverage legitimizes rightwing portrayals of Obama as a leftist, socialist, Maoist, Lenninist, Marxist, terrorist, . . . .[Dionne did not really say all of this, but it sounds familiar for some reason].

I describe Dionne's column as ironic because until recently, Dionne himself was an unwavering fan of President Obama. For over a year, Dionne, along with liberal columnists such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Eugene Robinson could not find any fault in Obama from a liberal perspective. Meanwhile they heaved loads of critical commentary towards Hillary Clinton and, naturally, John McCain. Now, Dionne criticizes the media for making the same mistake that he and other columnists made in their past coverage of Obama.

I have always doubted and challenged the notion that the news media is liberal. Instead, I believe it is centrist and opportunistic. When Bush was popular, the media bashed Gore and, later, Kerry. When Clinton was popular, the media raked Bush, Sr., Gingrich, Dole, Limbaugh, and the "vast rightwing conspiracy" over the coals. When Reagan was popular, it knocked Carter and Dukakis. While Obama rode (and continues to ride) a wave of popularity, it trashed Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Sarah Palin.

The media follows Nielsen ratings and money -- not ideology. Because unquestioned adoration of Obama has fallen in popularity, the media wants to stir up attention by citing to and covering conservative critiques of the president. It's all about the dollar, Dionne.


Kansas City said...

The MSM is obviously liberal. Whenever the politics of a major MSM news person are exposed, they are liberal. Anyone who has worked in the media or attended journalism school knows the profession is predominatly liberal.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

And how do you reconcile your argument with the media's back and forth over history from attacking conservatives to attacking liberals? This does not sound like an "obviously liberal" media. Instead, it sounds like a profit-centered media, that aims for the middle of public opinion. Depending on the issue, that could lean left, right, or center.

Obama got so much attention because he sold (and continues to sell). They made tons of money from him and "his story." But that does not mean they actually care about progressive values.

James H said...

"They made tons of money from him and "his story." But that does not mean they actually care about progressive values."

They are liberals in the media for the most part. I think that is different than being "Progressives"

Sort of like how many people on the right are conservatives but they are not Ron Paul Libertarians

The Gaucho Politico said...

"Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Eugene Robinson could not find any fault in Obama from a liberal perspective."

While im sure that they were more often with him than not i think its slight hyperbole to say they couldnt find any fault. Dowd especially seems less likely to be an obama apologist. I cant link anything right now,mostly because i dont have desire to search their archives, but i would be surprised if this claim was strictly true.

as to your larger point about the leanings of the media, i think if you toss out the high and the low of ideology, fox news and some msnbc hosts, you would find a media that is simply status quo oriented. thet favor the entrenched power system, stability over change. These things also align with how large media corp make money.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

James H: Uncommitted liberals at best. Popularity drives them more than anything else. What liberal cares about a nonpartially exposed for a fraction of a second nipple more than the economy and justice?

Gaucho - Of course the statement contained hyperbole, but not much. If you measured the time from the primaries until inauguration, you will find about 98 percent of their articles favoring Obama and/or trashing his opponents.

Fox and MSNBC are clearly partisan. MSNBC has not always been so deeply liberal. Favoring the "status quo" is centrist. Rightwingers and leftists are the only people who want REALLY want to change society (just in opposite directions).

katiebird said...

"Instead, I believe it is centrist and opportunistic."

I agree. The only think I don't remember is the media ever favoring Clinton. It seemed to me they were always looking for a chance to pull him down.

Kansas City said...

Darren ignores the fact that when the political beliefs of major media figures are revealed, they are almost always shown to be libera. We are to think that their liberal beliefs do not affect their coverage?

Darren also is mistaken in assuming liberal bias and "profit centered" motivation are mutually exclusive. Look at Newsweek's effort to financiall survive as a liberal commentary magazine. Look at CBS hiring prominent liberal Katie Couric to try to revive the evening news. Look at MSNBC going liberal for profit. Look at the NY Times becoming more stridently liberal as the red ink flows. In terms of the media, there is nothing inconsistent between wishing to advance liberal causes and seeking profit.

A liberal media organization would move right only if they concluded they could not combine financial success with liberal views, which would be a very hard thing for a liberal to conclude (as it would be for a conservative).

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