Sometimes, it seems like there are only two groups on earth that don't grasp the importance of media the American Left and some tribe in Borneo, though the word is that the tribe may have just bought a radio transmitter, leaving only one group that doesn't get it.
Indeed, part of the reason for the dangerous media imbalance in the United States tilted heavily to the Right, especially in cable TV and talk radio is that the American Left has made media a very low priority, underfunding or closing down its own outlets even as the Right poured billions and billions of dollars into a vast media infrastructure.
Yet, even as the Left has undervalued media, two other groups may be overestimating its power to control public perceptions and thus may be failing to adjust to new realities. Those two groups are the U.S. Republican Party and Israel's Likud government.
Both appear to be holding onto past recipes for success, relying on the ability of friendly media to manipulate public opinion even as the ground shifts under them. But perhaps no one should blame them, since it makes sense to keep doing what works at least until it doesn't work anymore.
For their part, the Republicans are seeking a replay of the 1994 elections when a newly built and highly energized talk radio apparatus stirred up enough grassroots anger against Bill and Hillary Clinton that the path was opened for the GOP to win control of Congress. Recognizing the important role that media played, House Republicans made talk radio host Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their caucus.
Today in Israel, the Likud government is behaving as if it expects a repeat of previous cases in which Israel waited out or undermined U.S. presidents trying to push Israel into peace talks with the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors. This time, on top of the peace initiatives, President Barack Obama also is applying indirect pressure on Israel to acknowledge its undeclared nuclear weapons program.
To negate Obama's efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is counting on Israel's legendary clout in Washington from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (sometimes called simply The Lobby) to neoconservative allies in the U.S. news media.
Yet, despite Israel's formidable defenses, Obama has proceeded, slowly ramping up pressure. Israelis didn't miss the fact that Obama embraced the view of Gen. David Petraeus, who has blamed the Israeli-Palestinian impasse for increasing the risks faced by American soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere.
On Tuesday, at a press conference ending the 47-nation summit on nuclear security, Obama outlined his attitude toward Middle East peace, saying that "the United States can't impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism. "
"What we can make sure of is, is that we are constantly present, constantly engaged, and setting out very clearly to both sides our belief that not only is it in the interests of each party to resolve these conflicts but it's also in the interest of the United States.
"It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure."
Beyond his evenhanded comment about the need "to break out of old patterns of antagonism," Obama further irritated the Likud government by holding the security summit amid demands that all countries rein in nuclear ambitions and increase transparency for their programs.
Fearing demands to finally declare Israel's nuclear arsenal, Netanyahu balked at attending the summit in Washington, sending instead his deputy, Dan Meridor, who expressed relief at the end of the conference that Israel had not become "the central topic here."
However, Israel's secret nukes did come up at Obama's press conference when the Washington Post's Scott Wilson asked, "You have spoken often about the need to bring U.S. policy in line with its treaty obligations internationally to eliminate the perception of hypocrisy that some of the world sees toward the United States and its allies.
"In that spirit and in that venue, will you call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if not, why wouldn't other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to the treaty that you say is important to strengthen?"