Yesterday I was reading an excellent Rick Perlstein essayabout how lying became such an effective tool for the right over the last 40 years. Essentially, his thesis is that the media have abandoned their quest for truth and replaced it with a quest for “balance,” with a little help from profit-minded executives, and a little more from Republicans who successfully rebranded truth as uncivil negativity.
The end result is that most of the media are now unwilling to take a stand for truth or reality. At best, they present both sides even when only one has merit. At worst, they present only the side with no merit at all.
Personally, I think Perlstein lets the media off too easy: All the monetary concerns and ref-working pale in comparison to the political interests of corporate and right-wing ownership. The media use “profitability” as an excuse to gut investigative reporting, and the figleaf of “balance” to obscure naked untruths.
All this reminds me a lot of Barack Obama and the Democratic establishment. They too depend on corporations for their present and future job security, and need to deliver for them without being too obvious about it. So what do they do? They “compromise.”
Even after back-to-back landslides delivered them the White House and huge majorities in both houses of Congress, they refused to take a stand for sound policy or Democratic principles. Instead, they sought common ground with the Republicans no matter how wrong and cruel they might be, inching ever rightward until they achieved a suitably pro-corporate outcome. And now that they have a Republican House and an almost-Republican Senate, that inching is even easier.
The media and the Democrats are playing the same game: Regardless of what truth or good policy may be, compulsively seek out a midpoint (or rather, rightpoint) between that and far-right lunacy and then pretend that the resulting mess somehow serves the public interest.
If Paul Ryan released a new “debt-cutting” plan that let all of America’s poor people starve and eliminated taxes on rich people and corporations, Obama would denounce it at first, but eventually announce a grand bipartisan “compromise”: Let only half the poor starve, and reduce the corporate and upper-income tax brackets to 15% instead of zero. And the media would praise him for his great courage and seriousness.