A Bold New Form of Media Bias
In light of the Washington Post basing its front-page headline on a survey with an astonishingly small sample and an astonishingly high margin of error, it is good to sum up what we’ve seen from the press in recent weeks.
ONE: For about eight days, the Obama administration told the public that their best assessment of the murder of our ambassador in Libya and three other Americans was that it was the result of a spontaneous protest against a tape mocking Islam on YouTube. This explanation sounded funny from the beginning — even in a place like Benghazi, who brings rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to a protest? — and it seemed surprising that so many in the administration, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, seemed to dismiss the idea that a terror attack against American targets on September 11 was a serious possibility. Subsequent reports have revealed astonishingly insufficient security for a site with American lives and American intelligence. The administration’s sustained focus on the YouTube tape seemed to make little sense, outside of a desire to deflect from the continued pervasiveness of anti-American rage in the Middle East and signs of a resurgent al-Qaeda, themes that greatly complicate the argument of the Obama campaign. As of Friday, 17 days after the attack, the FBI had still not reached the consulate site to conduct a forensic investigation.
To their credit, certain places like CNN and ABC News have pursued this story with more vigor than their critics acknowledge.
On a related note, violent protests and threats of violence against American embassies continue, barely mentioned or acknowledged by most venues of the U.S. press. I guess it isn’t newsworthy until someone dies again.
TWO: Univision, a Spanish-language channel, has done an in-depth, detailed, long-form television journalism about the “Fast and Furious” program, showcasing that the violence from the “walked” guns was much worse than previously claimed by the government, and demonstrating the cost in human lives in searing images. (Moe Lane talks a bit about it here.) This report is much more vivid, detailed, and outraged than anything from almost all of the U.S. media, which accepted an inspector general’s report that claimed that repeated warnings and information kept coming up from the field agents but somehow mysteriously never reached the Attorney General. The report claimed that both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were informed about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of fatal shootings and Operation Fast and Furious, but neither believed “the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it.”
THREE: With unemployment above 8 percent for forty-four straight months and GDP slowing to 1.25 percent, BuzzFeed declares “one of the central mysteries of 2012” is “How did we stop focusing on the economy?”
FOUR: Day after day, our troops in Afghanistan are targeted and killed by the Afghan troops they are supposed to be training. This barely merits more than periodic brief mentions in the national press. As Walter Russell Mead puts it:
If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.
Ace of Spades observed something we’re seeing in this cycle that is different even from the hope-and-change euphoria of Obama’s 2008 coverage:
Let me explain why this is different than previous bias.
Previously, the press has been both biased in a partisan way and an in an ideological way, but usually the partisanship was driven by ideology. As you may have noticed, the press are great fans of gay marriage and abortion, and they shape their coverage to put the best possible face on these positions, and the worst possible face on opponents. (To the extent they feature contrary voices at all.)
That’s bias, of course. We’ve gotten used to that.
But in the Benghazi debacle, there is no possible ideological grounding to explain their bias.There is, I trust, no ideological movement that advocates for intelligence failures and the deaths of good-guy diplomats. There is no ideological movement in favor of reckless incompetence bordering on malice in providing security for consulates abroad (which, as a legal matter, are considered US territory).
There is no ideological movement — or at least there was not before — championing the government’s right to lie to the public about its failures in order to avoid accountability.
There is no room here where one can say, “Ah well, they can’t help but be pulled a bit to the left by their own beliefs.” Because no one champions the right of government to let people be murdered and then lie about it.
This isn’t ideological bias, then. This is pure advocacy for a political party. Obama’s embarrassment is not an ideological issue — or should not be. I hope we can all agree that a president should attend security briefings — especially as 9/11 approaches — and provide adequate warning and security for US government personnel. I hope we can all agree that the government does not suddenly gain a Right To Shamelessly Lie about its failures, simply because it finds it politically advantageous to do so.
But, as Nina Totenberg’s chuckle indicates, the press now in fact believes exactly these things — so long as the president we’re talking about is Democrat, and Obama in particular.