The Madness of the Mainstream Media UPDATED

If Michael Kelly and Tim Russert were alive today, they would be sickened and appalled to see the shambling madness that has descended upon their profession, most particularly as it manifests in the obsessive and whirling mania regarding Sarah Palin.

When it gets to the point that Jonathan Chait has to marvel at his instincts to defend Palin, that’s a measure of their madness.

Let’s begin at the beginning: on January 8, a madman in Arizona, listening to nothing but his own head–there is not a shred of evidence that anything else is true–aimed point-blank at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, fired, and then emptied his automatic weapon into the crowd.

That story is quite horrible enough.

Within minutes of the event, certain persons with certain political agendas delivered their talking points to the media, declaring–while knowing nothing at all about the shooter or his motives–that Sarah Palin was directly responsible for this mayhem, and had blood on her hands, because she used words like “target,” referenced Giffords and posted an electoral map with what looked like scopes upon it.

The press, as obedient to the stimuli as Pavolvian dogs, instantly ran with those talking points, without taking so much as a second to wonder why their messenger was busily scrubbing similar graphs and Giffords-referencing rhetoric from his own site.

Misreporting Giffords death, unsure of anything about the shooter, mostly disinterested in the stories of heroism that helped to end the gruesome attack, the media lined Palin into their sites and pulled a trigger. They called in all the usual suspects and the narrative rang forth: Sarah Palin–and by extension anyone who agrees with her, supports her, or works in alternative-but-non-liberal-media–was the deliverer of death to America.

With their villain in place, the press was quick to make a hero of the local Sheriff, an elected Democrat who expressed sentiments in support of the narrative (and appears to have something to hide), but was willing to take the back-slaps that were still going unexpressed toward the real heroes.

Many of us who are not emphatic fans of Sarah Palin–and even some who vociferously dislike her–have watched the press with jaws-ever-dropping. A democrat operative who, within hours of Gabrielle Giffords’ entrance into the crucible, pondered about how the Democrats needed to be “deft” in their political exploitation of the tragedy, and no one in the press expressed disgust at his words; his identity–or hers–remains protected.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand–who released a brief, appropriate statement of prayerful support for the victims, and said nothing more–was excoriated in a manner so out-of-control, so wild-eyed and over-the-top that it was reminiscent of the press in the aftermath of her 2008 speech at the Republican Convention, where they had resembled nothing so much as fulminating beasts of rage, unable to hold back their frustrated howls.

Some of them, beginning to realize that the narrative is backfiring with the public, are trying to get to the end-game, which is the putting into place of their long-desired restrictions on speech, gun-control measures the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”

Others, not so savvy, are still trying to beat down Palin with any available rock. Yesterday, they were complaining that she was “hiding” from the media, who insisted on making her part of a story to which she had no connection.

And so, today, Sarah Palin–probably aware that she was damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t–made a statement. It was actually a very good, if a trifle long, statement. Immediately upon her delivering it, the media, like jackals went on the attack. ABC news, in a breathtaking example of cognitive dissonance, wrote: “Sarah Palin, once again, has found a way (!) to become part of the story. ”

The (!) is mine. The press hauls this woman into the story, makes her a focal point of it, and then asserts that she has inserted herself into it. Staggering.

Other talking heads were spittle-spewing over Palin’s use of a very common phrase that had actually been all over media they day before thanks to Glenn Reynolds’ essay in the Wall Street Journal: “Blood libel.”

The press had almost–almost–been forced to put their Palin-toy down, but those two words–which had not offended when used by Reynolds, or by Andrew Sullivan in the past–gave them something new to bite on. “Blood libel!” “Palin still using violent rhetoric!”

And the Palin-madness–a madness unto rabidity–is reinvigorated.

“Today was supposed to be set-aside for the victims,” someone posted on twitter, “Palin decided she is one of them.”

No. Sarah Palin made a statement that was contextual, relevant and appropriate to the day. The press, if they really wanted to put the day aside for the victims, could have simply reported that Palin made a statement, and moved on. In truth, they could have utterly ignored Palin’s statement altogether, because she really is not part of this story.

But they did not, because they cannot. Where Sarah Palin is concerned, the mainstream press and the political pundit class are like 14 year olds obsessing over the social order of the cafeteria, and especially that stupid new cootie girl, ewwww.

They are the spiteful, malevolent and immature teenagers in “Carrie,” armed with pig-blood and just looking for any opportunity to pour it.

They are repulsive in their clique; one wants to take them by their shoulders and shake them and say “grow up! GROW UP!”

They are also stupid. They are stupid because they favor instinctive damnation over intellectual discernment. If they had simply reported the horrific story of Arizona’s chaos, without passion, without prejudice, and followed its course, like professional journalists, Sarah Palin would not be on anyone’s mind today. She would not be garnering the sympathetic defenses of people like Chait, or Charles Krauthammer or Alan Derschowitz or even little old me. This event would have transcended Sarah Palin–and all of their hate–as it should have.

But they are owned by their hate. On the furled lip and malicious smear of one small man, the mainstream media let lose the dogs of their own hellish madness; they have exposed themselves, in a shocking way, as unthinking automatons, incapable of reason, interested only in establishing a framework or a narrative that will destroy those whom they hate, and uphold those they love, and there is no middle-ground for thoughtful wondering.

There is only the pig-blood in a bucket, ready to be released or stayed on instruction. If that metaphor is not true, then the members of the mainstream press should wonder why–in the parlance of the very truthiness to which they subscribe–it feels so accurate.

My first heroes were journalists. With the passing of Mike Kelly and, perhaps, Tim Russert–those departed contemporaries of today’s media, whose memories are shamed by the current crop-on-top–the pickings for real, grown-up, intelligent, curious and reason-processing journalists who have the courage to think and speak beyond the established narrative, has become very slim, indeed.

UPDATE: Kyle A. Roberts on the Christians’ best response to vitrol and violence

UPDATE II: Been waiting for days for the “finally, have you no decency” moment. This might be it

UPDATE III: Neo defends Palin’s use of “blood libel” while pointing out its weakness, and Bookworm says no, she was blood-libeled

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • CTM

    Important article in the Wall Street Journal.

    Daniel Henninger explains what we’re dealing with on the left. They’re in survival mode.

    “Why the Left Lost It”
    The accusation that the tea parties were linked to the Tucson murders is the product of calculation and genuine belief.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703791904576076373704758778.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop#articleTabs%3Darticle

  • http://none ClaudeG

    A few facts, which you you’re entitled to say are unrelated

    1. Gaby Giffords herself said that the “crosshairs” imagery had consequences: concerned enough to suggest that that sort of thing made her fear for her safety.

    2. She had received numerous death threats after her health care vote

    3. Vandalism suggested that people opposed to her vote, and who identified themselves with the tea party’s cause, were fire-up and and angry about it. The febrile atmosphere made those around her think that some of that “fired-up” could be literal

    4. Her grief-stricken husband, right after the shooting, was asked whether she had any enemies. He said the Tea Party.

    There was enough there to justify the media raising those issues in the aftermath of the shooting. It’s how news works, and ignoring all that would have been a dereliction of reporting duty.

    There was, and still is, nothing to draw the conclusions, as some commentators on the left did, that Palin et al had had influenced Laughner, and that part of the right’s ire is understantable.

    The right can’t simultaneously argue that we should wait for the facts to emerge, and then say as you do “a madman in Arizona, listening to nothing but his own head…” (although I respectfully note your qualifier, “there is not a shred of evidence that anything else is true”

    It is perfectly within the bounds of proper journalistic practice to raise those issues, crosshairs included. Going the last nine yards was not.

    The most eloquent statement on the whole affair came from the congresswoman now fighting for life. I’ve heard no one suggest that Giffords was out of bounds to raise it

  • http://www.daniel-in-brookline.com Daniel in Brookline

    Thank you, darwin. That bothered me too.

    The shooter had a Glock 19, a <semi-automatic pistol (i.e. not a revolver). A semi-automatic pistol is sometimes confusingly called an “automatic”, but that does not make it an “automatic weapon”. An automatic weapon, as darwin points out, is one that can fire multiple bullets by holding the trigger down, such as an M-16 (an automatic rifle) or an Uzi (a submachine gun).

    Sorry, Anchoress, you probably know this. It’s a tiny jarring note in an otherwise stellar article. (Part of the reason it’s jarring is because the knee-jerk left-wing media you deplore are exactly the ones who usually make that mistake.)

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

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  • Dismas

    Dagwood,

    ‘Fifth column’ was previously unbeknownst to me. Exceedingly more concise and effective. Thanks for the hat tip!

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  • Sturjen

    Hatred- That’s what I keep reading about the tea party-they’re full of hate. Hate, hate, hate, hate. And I wonder to myself, when did I become so hateful without even knowing it?

    You see, I’m one of those who have joined tea party gatherings. I’ve not seen this hate that the MSM has purported to be rampant at these gatherings. What am I supposed to be so hateful about? I do not feel hatred for those who don’t agree with me, but I’m getting increasingly frustrated and angry at others. Why? I’m constantly told that I am a hateful, spiteful, vengeful person for what I believe in.

    This does have direct bearing on my beliefs as a Catholic. I’m supposed to forgive them for this vitriol against me. But I’m seeing this Christian belief being used against me. Others are allowed to continuously call me evil, question my intelligence, make attempts to force me into hiding, and also expect me to forgive them for this.

    Saints were attacked like this, for their beliefs. I look to their lives and pray every day to be like them and endure the abuse. If this is what it’s like to be just a participant in the tea party, what does the life of Sarah Palin look like these days? I just would like those who constantly tell me I’m a hateful human being to simply shut up, but they just wont.

  • Paul Wescott

    ClaudeG, that was her father who mentioned the tea party.

    In the MSNBC clip where Rep. Giffords talked about the crosshairs, she also said she wasn’t more afraid. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/flashback-gabrielle-giffords-said-of-sarah-palins-crosshairs-ad-theres-consequences-to-that-action/

    Chuck Todd made the point that this kind of imagery and language is, unfortunately, common in politics; Rep. Giffords agreed and suggested that both sides would do well to measure their words more carefully.

    As an engineer with mapping and surveying experience, I’m still a little surprised that the symbol on Palin’s map is taken as a rifle crosshair. We use a similar symbol, circle with X, all the time and, indeed, even google earth uses a similar symbol (but square) to mark places. I hope no one takes potshots at my former clients’ lot corner monuments.

  • http://none ClaudeG

    Paul, thanks for the correction. I realized my error after posting. He had said, “the whole tea party” was her enemy.

    One of the least examined things by the right in their too-defensive response, is failure to examine how people identified with the tea party’s cause (but not necessarily tea party members themselves) issued death threats to and intimidated legislators who supported HCR.

    A previously threatened congresswoman actually gets shot, but we’re supposed to believe it’s off limits to discuss the atmosphere in which those threats had been issued.

    Even a volunteer for the McCain senate re-election campaign was spooked into resigning. He too had been intimidated and had his life threatened.

    Giffords and crosshairs interview… she was concerned enough about it to talk about “the consequences” of such imagery.
    Saying she wasn’t more afraid doesn’t negate the argument that the media were justified in mentioning her remarks in the context of the shooting.

    Thanks again for Chuck Todd context. What it shows was that Todd’s measured analysis was missing from some of the early response after the shooting, but it doesn’t mean that it should not have been raised as an issue.

    Crosshairs themselves… Engineering symbols? Please.

    My point still stands. Media perfectly justified in raising those issues, but there was some reckless joining of the dots.

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  • Bonnie_

    ClaudeG argues that the media should rightfully splash Sarah Palin and the Tea Party with blood libel, because the media lied about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and made them out to be violent and bigoted and hateful and some people actually believed their lies.

    So let me get this straight. I make up a lie, and someone believes that lie, therefore it is now the truth.

    Yeah, ClaudeG, let me ring the register here: No Sale.

  • Steve

    Thank you. You gracefully put into words what I have been wanting to express. I thought of floating the idea of rosary prayers outside of the media buildings just as we do the planned parenthood sites. God Bless to all and let us pray for the souls of the victims of the shooter; and yes; the shooter too.

  • francesca

    ClaudeG, It’s awkward for me to be sitting here defending, of all things, the tea party, I suppose this is the way Anchoress herself must feel sometimes, nonetheless, since I believe in freedom of association, and object to witch hunts and mccarthyism, I have to note that your list of supposed ‘facts’ is short on detail to link real individuals, or ideology for that matter, to any criminal acts. As far as death threats, even any local politician, of either party, will easily tell you that this stuff, as well as the question of security, are standard and have been so for years. Hard to be optimistic that the climate will become more civil when the suspicion and accusations continue to be leveled against some supposed ideological menace. Perhaps better to point out that some in the press, who you concede, stepped way over the line, ought to apologize or get out of the business since they are no longer credible as accurate reporters, journalists, or editorialists of current events, discredit the journalistic profession, and have made the tradition of ethical and objective reporting a mockery. It is hard to defend what happened and has done nothing to help the cause of health care.

  • Joe

    That is a very good summary of what took place. I keep saying I will not get surprised by Palin attacks, and then the left manages (again) to top itself.

    How could one person fire them up so?

  • Mooga

    I’m late to the party, as usual. I’d rather not debate whether Palin was right or wrong to make thar particular statement at that particualr time, I certainly don’t want to comment on the validity of “blood libel” as a metaphor for Palin’s treatment by the media. After all, I’m betting a lot of you old-school Catholics still say novenas to Simon off Trent. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

    Instead, I’d like to point out a remarkable phenomenon I’ve noticed whenever Elizabeth blogs on Palin. Palin’s supporters, who are almost always in the majority, defend her in very predictable talk-radio terms. Palin’s a woman of the people with common sense, traduced by a bunch of elitists, they say.

    This is not what I’d expect to hear from First Things readers. First Things is a decidedly, aggressively highbrow publication. The articles typically take a complex approach to complex subjects, in complex language. In fact, the house style verges on stuffy. None – or at any rate, very few — of the columnists affect a folksy tone by referring to pop culture or using slang. The editorial staff has all but declared free-verse poetry a tool of the Evil One. A theme that recurs in many pieces is how Americans have gotten progressively stupider since schools replaced the cat o’ nine tails with the computer.

    This being the case, I’d expect readers to take a slightly more critical view of Palin than the avergage Real American. Specifically, I’d expect some recognition that she’s a bit…rough around the edges, culturally speaking. This would not have to be a deal-breaker by any means, just a shortcoming worthy of acknowledgement and discussion. But no, Palin’s fans speak of Palin in Palin’s terms. For them, her policy views and her narrative come as a package deal.

    If anything, this should go to Palin’s credit. Something about her makes people want to identify with her, even people who might out-point her in certain respects, given a fair system of measuerment. A good friend of mine is an attorney, a frighteningly well-informed news junkie, and a splendid writer and talker. Her mother’s family has an ennobling particle in its name, suggesting that her ancestors impaled the fourteenth-century equivalents of Joe Six-Pack on stakes, and ravished their daughters — those Jenna Six-Packs — on their wedding nights. If anyone has the right to say, “I like that woman’s views, but my God, she’s a mess,” my friend does.

    But does she exercise that right? As Palin herself might say, not on your nelly. Instead, whenever the subject of Palin arises, she actually lowers her game. Her Missouri twang gets stronger; her negatives start doubling up. In no time at all, she’s speaking the White Man’s Ebonics. I’ve taken to checking her lower lip for a Skoal bulge.

    Truly, this gift Palin has for Palinizing her base, freaks me out. I can’t remember ever seeing its like before. Psychologists may have a name for it, but I prefer to think of it as some black form of magic. Hey, old-school Catholics, how do we get a witchcraft trial started?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Neither ClaudeG nor Mooga get it.

    It’s not about properly “connecting the dots.” I’t not about Mooga’s attorney friend’s mother, or the way Palin “Palinizes”, or her language, or how she “lowers the game” (like politics was ever such a nice, clean game to begin with) or the fact that Mooga’s attorney friend does not like her, or that Claude thinks she should go back to Alaska.

    It’s really not about Palin. It’s about us.

    It’s about silencing freedom of speech. It’s about the Left, and how they’d just love to connect the dots in a way that silences all opposition to them.

  • MN

    Humorous cartoon at http://drawfortruth.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/az-shooting-mental-illness/ on the “mental illness” displayed by the media this past week regarding the Arizona shooting.

  • francesca

    Mooga, “Old-school Catholics”???

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  • Max Lindenman

    I’m teasing, Francesca. But really, sedevacantists believe that the original Blood Libel was no libel at all!

  • Doc

    Look, if the corporate media is this irresponsible, just stop buying what they sell. Don’t watch lousy, dishonest TV news pushing their favorite political party without letup. Cancel your subscription to newspapers and news magazines that make Brezhnev-era Pravda look accurate. Drive ‘em out of business if they can’t report the news without applying their obvious template. I’m tired of the griping. Let the market work, faster please.


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