Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Media's Left Thumb is Always on the Scale

"Once again," notes Walter Russell Mead, "be very glad we don't have a Republican President right now."
If we did, we would be treated to a merciless media pounding, night-and-day, on the series of strategic failures, mistakes and false starts that have characterized America’s war strategy in Afghanistan since 2009. We’d be getting constant reminders of how the President, who repeatedly said that this was a just war that America had to win, and who told us that we should vote for him because he wouldn’t let anything distract him from the vital task of winning said war, hasn’t managed to win it, or even end it, after six long years.

Fortunately for us, there is a Democrat in the White House who, by and large, the press likes and wants to succeed. Thus our newspapers and television screens are blessedly free from invective, derision and snark when it comes to news from Afghanistan.
Indeed. Besides ignoring and not covering important details or events (which they're definitely guilty of with Democrats, and especially with Obama), the media lets its bias shine most clearly in the way they often cover news that unfavorably impacts Democrats as isolated incidents, rather than explicitly connecting the dots between unflattering or controversial news stories, the way they do with Republicans.

Professor Mead again:
[T]he heavy media bias against Republicans and for mildly to solidly left-of-center Democrats isn’t just a question of conscious and malicious bias. When the press puts Republicans through the wringer while giving Democrats the best deal it can, it’s often a reflection of the groupthink that comes naturally and almost inevitably to those who’ve spent their lives as bubble babies in the ultra-liberal world of the contemporary American campus where intellectual homogeneity is considered a virtue.

There are, of course, ideologues and warriors in the mainstream media who consciously see their mission as changing the country they are writing about rather than keeping it informed. These people are not exactly rare, and while they are following their consciences in their own way when they actively twist and distort the news in the service of a pre-existing agenda, they are activists with press cards rather than objective journalists. Many of their colleagues, however—genuine journalists—are so steeped in a worldview, and so profoundly convinced that there is no viable or decent alternative to it, that they simply go with the flow. The news articles and opinion pieces they write aren’t biased in the sense that they are consciously telling untruths or twisting facts. They are reporting the world as they see it. And in that world, Obama is a master strategist, a visionary diplomat, and an innovative thinker out to change the way the world works.

The war in Afghanistan makes Obama look like a mix of a panderer—telling Americans what he thought they wanted to hear in 2008—and a bungler—struggling unsuccessfully with the ugly realities of the war ever since as plan after plan falls short of its goals. The fact that the President’s plans for an end to a combat role for the U.S. seem to have fizzled is noted in the Times piece without any reference to the unbroken string of failed U.S. strategies in Afghanistan since 2009, or to the battles between the White House and the Pentagon over strategy that filled the media back when President Obama was developing his master plan for Afghanistan. This seems more like unconscious cocoon-spinning than a deliberate attempt to make the President look good; past Obama failures don’t strike liberals as important. They are noise, not data, and it’s the job of the press to separate the two.

The New York Times would almost certainly not cover this story the same way if a GOP president had won an election promising to win the war in Afghanistan, had imposed his personal vision and strategy on the Pentagon’s war plans, and after six years had made announcements that the Times believed to be inaccurate about the end of a combat role for U.S. troops. It would be termed a scandal, a national tragedy, and the brightest spotlights the media owned would be riveted on the sad spectacle of a hapless, flailing, incapacitated White House. We would hear a lot more than we do about career officers who disagree with the administration’s strategies being ruthlessly sidelined, and a hostile press would be scrutinizing the Joint Chiefs for signs of toadyism and opportunism.
Read the whole thing.

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