Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The biggest "missed story" of the 2012 campaign?


Hey guys, you're not the only ones paying attention.

I'm really not sure how to read this story, which, before I weigh in, I should explain. Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post references a couple of guys who have been around the political scene for some time thusly:

Post-mortems of contemporary election coverage typically include regrets about horserace journalism, he-said-she-said stenography, and the lack of enlightening stories about the issues.

But according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital's media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

With all due respect to Mann and Ornstein, I don't think many critical-thinking observers missed the drift of the conservative movement. Yes, some mainstream news outlets did truck in the whole false equivalency thing, but a lot a people screamed about it and criticized, for example, CNN for exploring right-wing idiocies on things like climate change and evolution as if these really were credible alternative views. 

And Steve Benen at MSNBC listed hundreds of instances in which Mitt Romney was flat out lying about everything and being treated respectfully for his lies. Hell, if we can toot our own horn here at The Reaction, we have been hollering at the top of our lungs since before the 2010 midterm elections about how nutty the right-wing had become and how Mitt Romney would have to distance himself from that craziness if he were to have a chance to win. He didn't distance himself from it, and he didn't win. 

Let me grant Mann and Ornstein this much: there is a tendency in mainstream journalism to treat all ideas espoused by the mainstream political parties as reasonable by definition, worthy of serious consideration.

That's a problem for the so-called big players in media. But since the presentation of information has become so fragmented through the uses of "new media," it's ridiculous to say that the story of right-wing extremism was missed. 

Maybe the biggest story was that as long as mainstream media continue to treat their viewers as idiots, those viewers will increasingly look for news from more diverse sources. It's not the radical tilt of conservatism that was missed, but that it wasn't missed because of the changing nature of the media. That's the story.

Good thing, too. 

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