This morning, I spent a few hours channel surfing, curious about the tone that would be adopted by our major "news" networks in covering this first day of the Democratically-controlled 110th Congress. Surely, I told myself with naive anticipation, the interchangeable on-air automatons who gushed and cooed and positively fawned over Republican electoral victories in past years, would afford the same courtesy to this historic shift in Legislative power.
A guy can dream, can't he?
I mean, today is the day that officially puts into effect the demands of American voters that were handed down two months ago. You remember, don't you? That loud, angry, overwhelming repudiation of the "course" on which Republicans have kept this nation for six disastrous years. So, hey, if these same, influential TV "journalists" were so quick to describe Bush's squeaker in '04 as a "mandate," then I certainly expected to hear the word "tsunami" repeated this time around - if only to keep things fair and balanced.
Not to mention the fact that this date marks the first time in America's history that a woman has (finally) risen to the position of House Speaker. Third in line to the Presidency itself. Surely, I figured, a media machine that for months had elevated Katy Couric's coronation as Network News Anchor to a lead story on the order of Christ's second coming, would spend considerable time today giving Congresswoman Pelosi her due moment in the sun. Last time I looked, her accomplishment seemed a wee bit more momentous than simply snagging the main desk at CBS' still-sinking news division.
Instead, what I saw this morning forced me to turn off the set and walk away, lest I put a well-aimed shoe through my television screen or burst a major blood vessel. I witnessed first-hand the insidious effectiveness of the GOP propaganda campaign that's been hammered home since the morning of November 8th (which culminated in grandstyle the past few days), and received a crystal-clear preview of the misleading, corporate-controlled tenor of "reporting" for which we apparently should brace ourselves over the next two years.
On a morning which should, in all fairness, have been all about Ms. Pelosi's historic promotion and the need for Republicans to adopt an immediate attitude of contrition and cooperation with their new Democratic masters, I was instead exposed to:
- Repeated interviews with GOP representatives and mouthpieces, whose primary mantra centered on achieving "victory" in Iraq (i.e. the War On Terror). Whatever that means.
- A lengthy and openly skeptical discussion of ethics reform that featured a cutesy "man on the street" roundtable at a Baltimore diner, during which the hand-picked group "surprisingly" claimed that Democrats are just as corrupt - if not more so - than the actual group of indicted felons and strongarm thugs they're replacing. Offered up to the viewer without critical comment. In the interest of "objectivity," I'm sure.
- An extended whine-fest concerning the unfair tactics of House Ds in excluding Rs from legislative participation - mind you, this unchallenged accusation happening before the new Congress had even been sworn in - which was visually framed over the screen caption "Dems Accused of Reneging On Their Promise to Include Republicans in Discussions." Or some such pejorative drivel.
- Endless replays of our Hypocrite In Chief's call for "bipartisanship" and an end to "politics as usual" - with no mention that the "usual" in that phrase refers to the divisive, arrogant, corrupt, self-serving, dictatorial Washington slime pit that Bush himself has been instrumental in creating since 2000.
- A thinly-disguised attack on Ms. Pelosi's managerial skills, a plethora of hint-hint wink-wink references to San Francisco, and a host of unsupported doubts about her ability to exercise control over a Democratic party divided against itself.
That was about as much as I could stomach.
It occurred to me that waaaaaaay back in November, after the belated awakening of the American voter appeared to have delivered an unmistakable message to the White House and its circle of disciples, I worried for a moment that our purpose, our value, our "job" in the blogosphere might actually have diminished. With such an obvious rejection of this President's errant policies staring the MSM in the face, it seemed logical to me that whatever fears had led the Fourth Estate to neglect its duty for six years were now, essentially, erased, and that we would at last see some aggressive evaluation, investigation, and criticism of the horrid reign of George the Younger in the vein of a Murrow or Cronkite.
The truth is, I was looking forward to becoming somewhat "irrelevant" (though, considering the number of regular visitors at my home site, you could convincingly argue that I am already). Not that I mean by that a return to some state of apathetic bliss. Staying diligent and informed should be the first patriotic duty of every person who fancies him- or herself a responsible American citizen.
I just hoped that, for example, digby wouldn't remain the only source of consistent, factual reporting on Republican incompetence. That kos and David Corn wouldn't seem to be the lone voices still decrying election fraud. That riverbend or Juan Cole wouldn't be the primary trove of accurate information about the real Iraq. That Glenn Greenwald wouldn't have to tirelessly expose the Right's stranglehold on the press.
Because that stranglehold would no longer exist.
Oh, I know that list is just a facile generalization, because there are hundreds of us (including everyone at this vital site) who've played that same watchdog role, each in our own small way, all motivated by the relative absence of critique in the hilariously labeled "Liberal media." But I wanted desperately to believe that year after year of indisputable proof concerning the lies, the cronyism, the greed, the ineptness, the abject failure of the Republican agenda - most of which was first exposed in the blogosphere - might finally prompt our traditional media to wake up and simply do its damn job.
And, in so doing, lift some of that burden of watchfulness from the backs of amateur columnists everywhere. Not because I'm tired, but because that's what a truly advanced society should automatically be able to expect from its professional news gatherers and analysts.
Of course, it's obvious that that was just a pipe-dream. If anything, I know now that the underground oversight provided by Progressive bloggers will be more necessary than ever over the next two years, if for no other reason than to counter the GOP PR offensive that we already see in full swing. And it seems to me that we must double our energies to demand, once and for all, some genuine effort on the part of our traditional media machine to help the public differentiate between demonstrable fact and Presidential fiction, honest critique and partisan smear, truth and lie.
Mr. Bush and his Congressional lapdogs have had six years to get something, anything, right, aided in no small part by the shameful complicity - and, in some cases, overt cheerleading - of the MSM. And with their abysmal track record so far, the Republicans have abdicated their right to equal consideration, equal treatment, equal time, be that in crafting legislation or in controlling the tone of reporting by the traditional press.
A press that seems conditioned to root for Democratic failures, whether real or imagined.
The TV performance I witnessed this morning showed that mainstream "news" teams are a bit reluctant to stare reality in the face, admit the truth about what 12 years of Republican "governance" has done to America, and simply wish the new majority "bonne chance" in accordance with the will of the people. Guess it's still up to us to make sure that the change of direction demanded by voters in November doesn't get spun, or co-opted, or misrepresented, or lost completely in what promises to be a continuing stream of absurdly deferential - and conservatively biased - reporting.
After 25 years as a Post-Production Specialist in the greater New York/New Jersey area, Bob recently relocated to Orlando to continue his editorial business and begin Art Directing high-end commemorative magazines. He's been extensively involved (more...)