Signs of the Times?
There is a sort of hoo haw going on about the NYTimes Travel Section, the not-even-remotely-secret adjacent compounds that the Rummys and the Cheneys purchased on the Maryland shore and the publication of names, addresses and phone numbers of the persons involved in the…TRAVEL SECTION…article.
Not even getting into the idiocy of the wingnutosphere bitching about a newspaper publishing information that is in the public record or anything (and frankly, Glenn’s already covered it in spades…) — Billmon is absolutely correct to mock them as the Ministry of Silly Walks and their pals in woof-woof land — I thought everyone would like a heads up that something wicked this way comes.
The Fall elections fast approacheth, and the full on assault of the wingnuts against all things accurate or truthful has begun. It’s election season, and anything they can do to stir up the righteous wrath of the ill-informed and frothing at the mouth will be ramped up over the next few months. Clearly, Wedge Issue June wasn’t the hotbed of base excitement that they had hoped (dang! "hate the gays" isn’t workin’ like it used to…), but that’s what they get for depending on a cat killer with the organizational and motivational skills of a George Bush toady.
Billmon is right on the money (and, may I take a moment to say, how fantastic it is to see regular blogging at the Whiskey Bar…I was having withdrawal symptoms.):
The problem is, I actually wish the Times hadn’t published the SWIFT story — although not for the same reasons as the adminstration and its right-wing squawk box. As Dan Froomkin, Glenn Greenwald and others have already pointed out, much if not most of what the Times reported is already in the public record. That being the case, the benefits of collating it and putting it on page one probably didn’t outweigh the costs. I mean, how many more stories do we need to know that the Cheney Administration regards the Constitution as an inconvenient piece of parchment?
And the costs, in my opinion, could be considerable. The right is getting a lot of mileage, at least with its own partisans, out of bashing the Times. Their reasons for hating the paper are certainly different from mine, but that doesn’t change the fact that the New York Times, like Dan Rather and Hillary Clinton, is a brand name you can always count on to get the juices of hysterical hatred flowing out in woof woof land.
And that sort of hysteria is exactly what the Rovians desperately need as we head around the turn and towards the final stretch of this year’s congressional elections. It’s not that domestic spying is a great issue for them with the electorate as a whole — although it could be if the Dems play it wrong, and since they’re the Dems they can generally be counted on to play things wrong. But it is a big winner with their base, which actually hates the idea that Big Brother isn’t listening in on every phone call in the country (or so we hope) because if he was he’d catch all those filthy liberals conspiring with bin Ladin.
OK, I exaggerate, slightly. But the point is that anything that helps Rove rally the GOP base between now and November helps preserve the Republican Reichstag, and anything that preserves the Republican Reichstag helps the administration go on turning the war against Al Qaeda into the war for unlimited presidential power. (It’s not that the Dems would be much of a brake on the machine, but any brake at all would be better than what we’ve got now.)
So you see, it’s not about accuracy of the articles therein, or whether or not there is any merit to any of the claims against the NYTimes or any other media establishment (although the Times has been the whipping boy for so long, it’s become a sort of brand name frothing tag line for the right-wing silly walkers). It’s about stirring up the wingnut base which has become so Pavlovian in its response to the Mighty Wurlitzer button pushing that you can see the jumping up and the asking of how high as the unthinking, well-trained wingnuts are already on their way.
Here’s the thing, though — occasionally, something breaks through: you know, pesky things like facts, reality, honest truth. A lot of it makes its way into the public consciousness via reporters who do actually their jobs and do them well and via bloggers who dig into facts and then dissect them on the web. This news propagates through the e-mails of various and sundry readers, and then…whammo!…Wedge Issue June fizzles out or the wingnut pushback isn’t so effective.
Which is why the press attacks on the blogs of late have been so monumentally idiotic. While the folks in the press think that left wing bloggers are all after their jobs (as if!), the right wingnut-o-sphere is sitting back and watching the press try to do their job for them– eviscerating one of the more productive means of countering the right-wing Orwellian "up is down" noise machine, and undercutting the entire media establishment’s ability to do its job in the first place by consistently undermining truthtelling in a very potent form. Listen to Digby:
Call me naive, but it sounds to me as if the Supreme Court, the Democrats and the American people are all in agreement. It’s the Republicans who want to continue this fiction that the government should be able to hold these presumed terrorists in limbo forever.
A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated internally, seemed to hint at the potential political implications in Congress. "Members of both parties will have to decide whether terrorists who cherish the killing of innocents deserve the same protections as our men and women who wear the uniform," this official said.
The assumption, again, being that these people are all guilty when everyone knows for a fact that many of them are not. That means that this administration just doesn’t give a shit if innocent people are held prisoner forever. I suppose that there are people who think that’s just the price that must be paid (by someone else) for our "freedom," but moral people cannot believe this.
On a practical political level, you can see by the way the WaPo article is written that the narrative frame for the debate is going to be the same as all the other war debates: will the weak, ineffectual Democrats be able to resist the strong, aggressive Republicans this time or will they give in once again to the presidents’ bold, controversial plans out of fear of being seen as soft on national security?
Can we all see the problems with that?
I said this on the media panel I did at YKos, but I’m going to say it again, because it bears repeating: the right wingnuts want the media to function as Pravda did for the old Soviet regime — echoing only what the State has sanctioned as "news for the masses." What does the left wing want? We want them to do their jobs, tell the truth, and report the facts. That’s it, plain and simple.
Jay Rosen, whose exceptional blog PressThink repeatedly asks the questions we wish we could believe the whole of the media was asking themselves, had a great piece this week on "The People Formerly Known as the Audience." Great stuff, including:
Fithian, Kirschner and company should know that such fantastic delusions (“we own the eyeballs…”) were the historical products of a media system that gave its operators an exaggerated sense of their own power and mastery over others. New media is undoing all that, which makes us smile.
You don’t own the eyeballs. You don’t own the press, which is now divided into pro and amateur zones. You don’t control production on the new platform, which isn’t one-way. There’s a new balance of power between you and us.
The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable. You should welcome that, media people. But whether you do or not we want you to know we’re here.
Amen, Jay. As Eric Boehlert said during our FDL Book Salon chat last weekend:
I don’t think blogs, for now, can supplant the msm’s ability to annoint cw. But blogs can sometimes help correct it or re-direct the cw.
The bad news is in recent months I’ve become even more pessimisitic as we watch the msm again and again simply ignore obvious points raised online and just embrace RNC talking points. i.e. last week I wrote how odd it was the press was protraying dems as the losers in the ‘cut and run’ vs. timetable debate, considering the three previous national polls all showed a majority of americans supported the dems position; setting a timetable.
Yet this week’s newsweek reports the gop ‘won’ the debate on iraq last week, while, of course, conventiently ignoring the fact americans side w/ dems.
It’s like this bad movie that won’t stop replaying itself.
But what does this do for the current pushback — both from right-wing silly walkers and from a frightened media, who have ginned up a left wing bogeyman because they can’t bear to admit to themselves that they are suffering from long-term battered press syndrome from the right? No idea — but when one considers that the Rita Cosby’s of the world keep getting canned, while the Keith Olberman’s of the world have bigger and better ratings…well, that handwriting is on the wall, now isn’t it?
In the meantime, let’s all try to view the media bashing on the right for what it is: a Pavlovian tactic to stir up the masses of non-thinking wingnuts. Here’s hoping they have as much success with it as they did with Wedge Issue June.
(I found this bit of graffiti artwork on a blog from a Montreal-er, and thought it was perfect for this, considering Billmon’s reference to the wingnutosphere as the "Ministry of Silly Walks." Love Monty Python…)
UPDATE: And for extra credit, let’s contemplate the ethical lapses that Atrios finds here.