Friday, November 12, 2010


At the end of Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal column today (available at her site for non-Journal subscribers), there's a dire warning: the new class of GOP warriors may be sabotaged and undermined by that most sinister of forces -- liberal media bias. As proof, Noonan recalls a bit of history:

Media bias is what we all know it is, largely political but also having to do with the needs of editors and producers. The media is looking for drama. They are looking for a colorful story. They want to do reporting that isn't bland, that has a certain edge....

The mainstream media this January will be looking for the nuts.

I saw this in 1994, when the new Republican Congress came in. The media had a storyline in their head then, too: These wild and crazy righties who just got elected are ... wild and crazy. They focused their cameras on people who could be portrayed as nutty, and found them. The spirited Helen Chenoweth, freshman from Idaho, talked a little too much about "black helicopters." She was portrayed as paranoid and eccentric. Bob Livingston, from New Orleans, went to his first meeting of the Appropriations Committee wielding a machete. The new speaker, Newt Gingrich, was full of pronouncements and provocations; he was a one-man drama machine.

It was a high spirited group, and one operating without a conservative media infrastructure to defend them. They and others were caught and tagged like big wild birds, then released into the air, damaged.

The point is when they want to paint you as nuts and yahoos, don't help them paint you as nuts and yahoos.

So, see, it was "largely political," and a sensationalist hunger for drama, that led the press to report the actual words and deeds of actual Republicans.

For instance, it was bias, in the days before the election, to report this public statement from the possible incoming Speaker of the House:

Mr. Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who is the House minority whip, said on Saturday in an appearance for his re-election campaign, "The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change." He added that "the only way you get change is to vote Republican."

... Mr. Gingrich ... was referring to the case of Susan V. Smith of Union, S.C., who told the authorities last month that her two young sons had been kidnapped by a carjacker. The police said she confessed last week to drowning the boys by letting her car roll into a lake as they were strapped inside.

Or this shortly after the election:

... Although Mr. Gingrich said it might take a decade, he promised to bury any remnants of what he disdainfully calls the "Great Society, counterculture, McGovernick" legacy and return America to a more black-and-white view of right and wrong.

"There are profound things that went wrong starting with the Great Society and the counterculture and until we address them head-on, we're going to have these problems," Mr. Gingrich said this morning in an interview at the suburban Atlanta mall....

Mr. Gingrich was stung before the election when remarks he made in a private session with lobbyists were publicized. The House Republican whip had said his campaign strategy was to portray Clinton Democrats as "the enemy of normal Americans" and the proponents of Stalinist measures.

Today, in a news conference, Mr. Gingrich said archly that "if you prefer," the term "middle class" could be substituted for normal because "I was once told, to my shock, that the use of the word normal is politically incorrect."

... Mr. Gingrich said, "There's only a very small counterculture elite, which is terrified of the opportunity to actually renew American civilization...."

Or this, just before the election:

"It's the white, Anglo-Saxon male that's endangered today," said Helen Chenoweth, a Republican trying to unseat Representative Larry LaRocco in Idaho's First Congressional District....

Or this in the spring of 1995, shortly after the Oklahoma City bombings:

The fall 1994 catalogue of the Militia of Montana sells manuals on how to make bombs, tapes explaining a conspiracy of one-world government and a video of a speech by Helen Chenoweth, delivered before she became Idaho's newest member of Congress.

The tape is advertised as one in which "newly elected Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth" explains how more than 50 percent of the United States is now under "the control of the New World Order."

The problem with all this, according to Noonan? It's that the press reported it. It's not that the people who said it actually believed it.

It's not a problem for America to elect people who think this way -- the problem comes when the winning candidates neglect to conceal their nutball opinions, because that damn biased, sensation-seeking liberal media will fiendishly report accurate information about those candidates.

Although, fortunately, such people now have "a conservative media infrastructure to defend them." Because they shouldn't have to suffer consequences once we learn that they believe such things, right?

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