For People Who Think

February 15, 2012

Don’t Believe It…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 5:51 pm

A dozen years ago, during a fit of utter madness, I ran for a seat in the New York Legislature. I was a member of no political party, but the Democrats slated me against a three-term incumbent with a 2-1 enrollment advantage. I came within a few points of beating the guy anyway, but I learned a few things during that campaign.

One thing I learned is that it’s difficult to make reporters part of your marketing operation. And that’s what every political campaign is – a marketing operation. The product is the candidate, and every candidate wants reporters as part of the selling team, only they don’t always cooperate.

Some candidates take that personally. In 2012, one of them is Newt Gingrich. Back in the 1960s, another was Richard Nixon. Nixon hated reporters. Try as he might, he just couldn’t get them to write or air precisely what he wanted them to write or air – which was, essentially, that Nixon was right about everything and that anybody who disagreed with him in any particular was a hopelessly evil person.

That’s why Nixon selected as his vice presidential running mate a conspicuous crook named Spiro Agnew, the governor of Maryland. Agnew’s job as a candidate was to serve as an attack dog. It was his same job after Nixon and Agnew won and took office. Agnew’s job as vice president of the United States was to rail against “the nattering nabobs of negativism” in the news media, and he did that gleefully until he left office after pleading no contest to charges that he’d taken bribes.

Both Nixon and Agnew are long dead, but the evil they did with that nattering nabobs thing lives on. That’s why Gingrich today so loves to attack reporters. He did it to CNN’s John King during a debate in the South Carolina. He tried it unsuccessfully against CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a later debate, only Blitzer was ready for him and refused to back down on national TV, which had the clear effect of unnerving Gingrich.

The first thing you have to understand is that nobody should believe what
any politician says about anything. Politicians are in the selling business. They’ll say anything they think you want to hear. Generally, they themselves believe none of it. With the exception of the occasional True Believer like Ron Paul, these guys harbor no convictions whatever, but they’re perfectly willing to cater to the distorted beliefs of anybody they think they can convince to vote for them.

Gingrich has been around a long time. He knows how things really work. But he also understands that the seeds planted by Nixon and Agnew on media bias have blossomed into a bramble bush over the years. Gingrich is hustling votes from right-wing news media haters. That’s why he says that if he gets the GOP nomination for President he’ll submit to no debate in which reporters get to ask questions. It would be hilarious except for the fact that so many simply-minded people swallow this crap and have for years now.

Look, I’ve spent decades in the news business. It’s divided into two parts – news and opinion, even though too few ordinary people seem able to distinguish between the two. At the moment, I’m in the opinion business. That’s what you’re reading now – opinion.

I’ve also covered political campaigns as a reporter. I’ve been a questioner in a number of televised political debates. And I can tell you that, unlike John King, there’s no way I would have taken that abuse from Newt Gingrich when he threw a televised temper tantrum over a question he didn’t like.

My response would have been, “Are you refusing to answer that question, Mr. Speaker? Are you afraid to respond honestly to that question? And by the way, Mr. Speaker, you’re a candidate sucking up for votes for the most powerful job on the planet, and you owe the voters an answer. Now, live up to the obligation you’re so eagerly taken on and answer the question, Sir.”

This BS has been going on for a while now, but nobody has been as blatant about it as Gingrich. Some reporters find it amusing for its sheer outrageousness. I’m not one of them. I’m also not a fan of either Fox News or MSNBC – news media outlets whose primary purpose is to savage one party or the other in the name of ratings and advertising cash. Those networks exist and prosper as recognition that too many people in this democracy don’t want or understand real news. They don’t want a fair and accurate recitation of what’s going on and the best available version of the truth.

Instead, they want a news operation that’s blatantly biased and that reinforces their particular political sentiments. They adopt the fiction that any news operation that tries to fairly deliver the news is clearly biased against them and their party because it fails to echo their one-sided political viewpoints.

One of the most common responses I receive from readers of these posts boils down to, “You’re biased because what you write doesn’t mirror my opinions.” It’s usually phrased as, “How dare you say something with which I disagree?” My response to that is to trash the comment. Address the issue I’ve written about on its own merits or spend a few decades busting your butt to get your own media voice, as I’ve done.

But, as I’ve said, I write opinion these days, and anybody who expresses opinions publicly has to endure that sort of nuttiness. John King and Wolf Blitzer are not in the opinion business. Regardless of Newt Gingrich’s pandering to the totally blind media haters, King, Blitzer and other straight news reporters are working hard to provide you with the best, impartial version of the available truth, even if that means asking your candidate to answer a question that the candidate finds embarrassing.

At this point, deep into the 21st Century, the hopelessly gullible people who’ve bought this media bias BS, whether they’re on the far right or the far left, can only be described by a single, harsh, pretty uncomplimentary word.

Suckers.

Be sure to visit my Web site at forpeoplewhothink.com.

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3 Comments »

  1. I liked the article and tend to agree about Newt and his whininess. And for the record, I miss your show. I’m without much to listen to in the afternoon. So, if you were to be on the air for a few months once the candidates are decided I would listen and call in.

    It’s been said, “A wise man is quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath”. What I see is a slowness to hear considerations for actual problems (runaway spending & healthcare cost), Quickness to speak (usually with platitudes, bumper stickers & answers unrelated to the question) and a lightning quickness to express indignation (outrage, offense or the relable ad hominem)

    So while some read a variety of news sources and weigh out the candidates, most don’t. There are those who will vote republican or democratic regardless and the decision is left to independents and those just left or right of center. I can only a hope that good reporters will ask the important questions and continue asking until there is an answer. And not let candidates get away with the “I’ve answered that before” response. Quite frankly, with the income of some of the top reporters they should be able to stand up to the haranging and obsfucating of the candiates.

    When the general election comes the questions should be strong & specific of both candidates. After all, President Obama has a record this time and it’s not pretty. There are many things he needs to explain. Among them is why there has been no budget during his administration. He can’t blane republicans since he had both the house and senate for two years. Romney or Santorum (I don’t think Newt will be the nominiee for a host of reasons) will also need to answer questions. Many will be the same as the primaries but there is a different audience. One question would be how any reasonable person can expect to reduce the deficit much less the debt without increasing taxes on all and reducing spending.

    I don’t know who the next president will be. But I fear the old adage about people in a democracy getting the government they deserve may be true.

    Comment by Ed Holt — February 20, 2012 @ 2:47 am | Reply

  2. I have always said Fox News and others are PT Barnum and you know what the viewers are…. just as you said the SUCKERS!

    Comment by CMC — February 22, 2012 @ 2:18 am | Reply

  3. Trying to avoid saying much these days, but fyi – it wasn’t a fit of utter madness, Dan. You gave it a shot, which is more than most of us do. Wasn’t the right time, might not be for awhile.

    Comment by DCWhatthe — February 22, 2012 @ 9:27 pm | Reply


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