Friday, August 19, 2005

phillip ii of macedon is on the case

In a private communication to me, phillip ii of macedon applied his wicked pen to the MSM [Main Stream Media]. I offer it here.

There are two main reasons that the MSM is having such difficulty covering the Sheehan story.

The first is that, after the first few days, there was nothing very "new" happening. How does one cover a stalemate? The MSM’s traditional recourses when there’s no news are to speculate, frantically dig for dirt, and "cover the coverage." In Sheehan’s case, there is not much to speculate about. This is not a horserace or an election; either Bush will meet with Sheehan or not, and the answer already seems pretty clear. So the press is left to either not cover the story, or to cover ancillary (if not artificial) aspects of the story. And pursuing the latter inevitably creates distortion and imbalance.

Imagine that we landed astronauts on Mars, who, once there, just sat on their hands (which they could do comfortably for extended periods due to the weak gravity). The trip would be a media sensation, until perhaps the 3rd day on the red planet. At that point, unless our astronauts actually did something (look for life, collect rocks, etc.), the story would wane. Although Man on Mars would be the story of the century, in the absence of new events, the media would quickly resort to secondary stories ("How are the families of the astronauts holding up?").

Now imagine that the Mars trip had been funded by the Democratic Party. Don’t you think that the MSM would be desperately trying to cover any negative aspects of the Mars trip, in order to create an appearance of non-partisanship?

Of course, the MSM is free to pursue the real, worthwhile story, which is, "How would President Bush answer Cindy Sheehan’s questions, and how might Sheehan respond?" I believe the sad, second reason for the MSM’s ineptitude is that there is no answer to this speculation that would adequately feed the media’s fever to represent two sides to any political story (especially the Republican side). The fact is that neither Bush nor his supporters have a water-holding answer of Sheehan’s challenge to justify our presence in Iraq. The media could not tolerate the discomfort of having private citizens counter, like shooting fish in a barrel, the Bush Administration’s ineffectual attempts to articulate our "noble cause" in Iraq (and, at the same time, revealing the media’s complicity in giving the Iraq War a free ride).

There are a dozen other reasons (mostly business-related) why the MSM botches stories. Consolidated ownership, mostly by conservative executives. Dependence on the good graces of the Administration for access. Fear of alienating 40-60% of their audience who perceives a bias, whether or not the bias is justified (i.e., spinelessness). Catering to the lowest common IQ of the American public in the proverbial Dumbing-Down of News. Increasing advertising revenues through manufactured drama and controversy, even if it means grossly distorting priorities, or misrepresenting opinions, statistics, and even facts, to do so.

But the distinguishing feature of the Sheehan story that confounds the MSM is the lack of viable, mutually-effective action on the front line of the protest: Sheehan has hit the ball to Bush’s court, and not only hasn’t Bush hit the ball back, he doesn’t even have a racquet to play with.


I don't think this story is over. Puck


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