Friday, September 04, 2009

(and I do mean "elephant")

I'm probably making an obvious point, but I've noticed that we're accumulating more and more stories based in anti-Obama hysteria -- and, at least in the mainstream press, the source of that hysteria has utterly disappeared from sight. This is a problem the press isn't going to solve. The White House and other Democrats are going to have to fill in the gaps.

For instance, if you read Jake Tapper's story about the horrified reaction in some quarters to President Obama's upcoming speech to students, or watch the story as it was broadcast on ABC last night (sorry, ABC still won't allow video embedding), you get the feeling this is a spontaneous outpouring of outrage. From the text story:

...Some parents are talking about keeping their kids from school on tuesday to avoid the president's remarks....

In the Douglas County School District in central Colorado, the phones have been ringing off the hook with with upset parents.

"We've probably had about 40 to 50 calls today and probably about 10 or 12 emails today from parents," said Susan Meek of the Douglas County school system.

Some school districts in Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota are even refusing to show the president's address....

The text story mentions Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer's "socialist agenda" remark, and the video story briefly mentions outrage on talk radio (using a brief clip of an unidentified talker or caller) -- but there's no mention of the generators of this hysteria, the Malkins and Becks and other agenda-setting A-list rabble-rousers. There's no hint that this is a manufactured outcry. (Greer's remarks were seen as the genesis of this outcry, but Malkin was all over it first.)

Also on ABC last night was a story (sorry, video only) about Standish, Michigan, which faces (in guest anchorman George Stephanopoulos's words) "a painful dilemma": whether to let the unemployment rate in the town remain sky-high ... or allow dangerous scary superpower-wielding Guantanamo suspects into their local prison, which is now scheduled to be closed.

Again, we have no idea where these people got the idea that Gitmo detainees are orders of magnitude more dangerous than the brain-eaters and other garden-variety psychopaths who would be in the Standish prisons if it were filled now. There's a brief clip of Congressman Pete Hoekstra, but there's no sign that this is a manufactured crisis, The work of people with a partisan agenda. It just seems like a spontaneous outpouring of fear.

Mocked as they were in some quarters, James Carville and Hillary Clinton at least added one notion to the mainstream debate back in the 1990s:

[Carville] disrupted a sleepy breakfast club for Washington pundits in April 1994 to rail against the media's coverage of the Whitewater scandal, as well as the emerging Paula Jones sex scandal. Over bacon and eggs, he presented his homemade chart depicting a "media food chain" -- the folksy Carville prefers to call it his "puke funnel theory," but nobody printed that term -- in which anti-Clinton stories were funneled from tabloid newspapers into the mainstream with the help of right-wing media partisans like Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal's Robert Bartley. Eight years later, Carville says his food-chain chart was the first attempt to document what Hillary Clinton would famously call "the vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband.

Somebody -- or, rather, somebody other than dirty-hippie bloggers, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow -- has to find a vivid way to inject into the debate the idea that whenever you hear one of these stories, you should trace it to the source and see who's ginning it up and why.

I'm not sure who could do it -- the White House tried to describe the town-hall thuggery as manufactured and failed at that, which suggests that, shockingly, the Obama administration has less credibility, less ability to inject a notion like this into the debate, than the then-reviled Hillary Clinton a decade ago.

But somebody has to do it, because the generation of this crap is central to the every one of these stories, and yet it's not part of any of them.


UPDATE: I see that Joe Klein went to a town hall meeting and is appalled that so many participants think the Obama administration is riddled with communists. (Cass Sunstein??) Yeah, I know: Joe Klein. But I give him some credit for being upset at this, and for trying to get his readers, including his non-lefty readers, upset about it. However, there's this:

I was later told by a local observer that many of these vomitous, disgraceful notions were the fruit of Glenn Beck's fruitful imagination. "We are living Glenn Beck's fantasy life," said this audience member.

Why do mainstream journalists -- not just Klein; practically all of them -- have to be told this? The crazy-base noise machine is the the center of the political opposition in America right now. Why doesn't everyone in mainstream political journalism regularly check in on Beck and Malkin and Limbaugh and Free Republic and Fox Nation and Why is this seen as some ignorable sideshow?

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