Forget last night’s debate; this could prove way more interesting.
This week, while a conservative group was launching a $5 million campaign against the so-called “left-wing” media, Rush Limbaugh has advised Newt Gingrich to ease up on his offensive against the media.
The conservative Media Research Center (MRC) will use a campaign it’s calling “Tell the Truth 2012” to push back against “an onslaught of character assassination against anyone who dares to challenge Obama.” The group’s founder, Brent Bozell, promises a multi-platform campaign TV, radio and Web ads, hundreds of thousands of bumper stickers, signs and buttons (similar to their 2010 campaign), and “the largest social media effort ever undertaken by conservatives.”
Bozell said the effort will be in the spirit of Newt’s South Carolina debate rant against CNN’s John King and the ABC News report on that open marriage story. And yet, Rush Limbaugh warned on Monday that Newt’s theatrics may play well with some conservative voters but it’ll only get him so far in his quest to be the next president.
This is the same Rush Limbaugh who routinely bags on the so-called liberal media while peddling his own brand of bias, cautioned listeners:
“The days of being able to keep this momentum going by ripping on the media are over. The standing ovations for taking on the media are over, or they have very short lifespan… You can only go to the well so many times on this stuff.”
Interestingly enough: The Gingrich camp now admits their candidate was less than truthful in his memorable South Carolina debate tirade –and in a follow-up interview with CNN— about who, exactly, he offered to ABC to refute the story. You may recall that he claimed to have offered sources to ABC News and that ABC News wasn’t interested. He was lying.
CNN reported yesterday, Thursday, that after “persistent” questions on the topic, Gingrich spokesman R-C Hammond now says the only people the campaign offered to ABC were the former House speaker’s two daughters, Jackie Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, who regularly appear on the campaign trail and who wrote a letter to ABC News defending their father –a letter widely circulated in the media.
Sounded like a lot more, the way Gingrich sold it in that debate, no? But Hammond’s admission backs up ABC’s on-the-record denial of Gingrich’s original claim, even though two days earlier, Tuesday, Gingrich continue to stick with HIS claim, deeming the ABC statement “just plain baloney… If they’re saying that, then they’re not being honest,” Gingrich said then. “We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that, and (ABC News) wasn’t interested.”
“Several people,” as Gingrich claims, or “his two daughters,” as his campaign spokesman later conceded, which is it?
Erik Wemple of the Washington Post perhaps put it best: “What CNN pried out of Gingrich & Co. was something akin to a correction. And like most corrections, it hits the public realm with a much smaller splash than the original erroneous accusation.”
Meanwhile, Mr Bozell, who says CNN has generally done a good job hosting debates, has set up his own internal contradiction: He’s launched a PR campaign called “Tell the Truth,” inspired by a Gingrich debate tirade with an allegation the Gingrich camp now admits was false.
–Well obviously Newt told his daughters the truth, because we all know he’d never deceive a family member, or… um, never mind.
–So lemme get this straight: This campaign is designed to reach out to people who’ve never heard right-wingers whine about the media being biased against them? And they’re spending $5 million for that? I guess the five people left in the country who’ve never heard their whining would be happy to be bought off for $1 million apiece. Heck, if they’re willing to split it six ways, I’ll take my share and join in the whining. I’d be more than happy to pretend to be a crybaby for $833,333. (Although Newt just got a $5 million-dollar Super PAC donation for all his crybabying, didn’t he now.)
–It’s on a bumper sticker? Well, it MUST be true!
–Watching a clash between Gingrich and Limbaugh is like watching two Macy’s parade balloons colliding. And man, if Rush has to tell you to calm down…
–This is sort of like the Chinese “year of” calendar. Ever election, the GOP goes after some fictitious bogeyman and when that tank is exhausted, they create a new one. The Year of the Gays, the Year of the Illegals, the Year of the War on Christmas, and now, the Year of the Media.
–When will Republicans stop pretending to be victimized by media and admit that they use media as a platform to spread misinformation, all the while pretending that they stand for actual democracy?
–Well, if trust in the media is a problem, you could always put your faith in those anonymous e-mail forwards from Auntie Crabtree.
–The real irony here is that high-profile corporate performers within the Mainstream Media (Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly) build a career criticizing the Mainstream Media, all the while pretending they’re some kind of renegade outsiders. Meanwhile, career politicians and Washington insiders (Gingrich) campaign on a platform that promotes disdain for “government.” A candidate spends tens of millions of dollars are spent trotting around the country advancing the idea that “government” is bad, all the while imploring people to send him to Washington and put him on the government payroll.
While you’ve got the details above (and a few jokes, I suppose, because how can you not laugh about politics?), I have a personal pet peeve that adds an important twist to stories like this that we rarely contemplate: Isn’t it possible that the problem with media bias is that the people whining about are the ones who have the bias? Aren’t we calling the media biased because they didn’t report what we wanted to hear? It’s not the media’s job to report what you want; it’s their job to report what is. But voters aren’t interested in “what is,” they’re interested in what they want things to be. Look at how many voters are so poorly informed, or who never think about issues beyond their own opinions. Why does this happen? Because more and more, they are rejecting the objective and seeking out only sources that agree with them. Voters have their own spin, and as a recent Washington Post article documented, voters are only interested in sources that deliver that same spin.
Think about that for a moment. With the Internet, we have access to more sources than ever before, and yet, we’re as ill-informed as we’ve ever been. Why? Because consumers only zero in on sources that tell them what they already know or wanna hear. They tune out anything at odds with their views, or they attack it and call it bias. And then we’re stuck with a chicken and egg situation: Cable news, ever-pressured by the need for ratings and profit, become less about providing news and more about selling a product. You want conservative? Right this way to Fox News and talk radio. You want liberal blowhards. MSNBC is at your beck and call. CNN, which, in recent years, tried to sell itself as an unbiased, straight-down-the-middle news outlet, did so at their peril; their ratings tanked. Why? Because we don’t want information; we seek affirmation. This singular weakness in our electorate has done more to impact our discourse and ultimately our choices at the ballot box than anything any candidate uttered or outlet has broadcast.
As you can imagine, that is not healthy, but when that’s the reality of the consumer, it doesn’t matter what the “media” does. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you that the news isn’t nearly as biased as its critics say it is, and that the greater bias is harbored by its spoiled brat critics who are made because they didn’t get to hear what they wanted to hear. What do they want, anchors to tell them that Obama is a Kenyan, or that George Bush was a puppet?
Being informed is work, but that requires time, and who has time for hours of research if that isn’t their profession? And how many of us are just plain too lazy to bother? I’ve no doubt that PACs and politicos, lobbyists and pundits, special interests and blowhards all depend on this kind of ignorance –that doesn’t mean people are stupid; they’re just poorly informed, but that makes it a heck of a lot easier for a candidate to snow voters and get elected. It happens all the time. And then we sit around with buyer’s remorse and wonder why things are so fouled up in Washington? To begin to find an answer, you need only start by looking in the mirror.