Sunday, October 10, 2004

'Cowardice and Moral Rot' Inform Mainstream Media


October 10, 2004 -- Mainstream media bias against Republican presidental candidates is a fact of American political life.

Rarely, though, has this been so evident as this year; the establishment media seems to have become a wing of John Kerry's campaign.

One unusually candid member of the liberal media mafia admitted as much during the Democratic convention.

Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor of Newsweek, offered this confession on media bias on the PBS program "Inside Washington."

"The media, I think, wants Kerry to win. And I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards — I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox — as being young and dynamic and optimistic, and there's going to be this glow about them, collective glow."

Whereupon his magazine published a — how best to put this — glowing cover story dubbing the Democratic duo "The Sunshine Boys."

This was hardly an isolated incident — though we'll get to Dan Rather and his hatchet work in a bit.

First, consider the latest smoking gun to emerge in the media war on George Bush: The internal memo written by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin that popped up right before Friday night's Bush-Kerry debate.

Halperin, described by the network as "responsible for the planning and editorial content of all political news on the network," issued new orders.

Both sides distort the truth, he said, adding in effect that Kerry's lies don't matter — but that George W. Bush's most certainly do.

"Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win." In contrast, he wrote, "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done" — a point he said was echoed by reporters from such paragons of objectivity as the above-mentioned Newsweek and The New York Times.

Then came the instructions:

"We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

"It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public in- terest, now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right."

That is, voters need skillful, strong "help" evaluating information because they are too stupid, too ignorant or too benighted to figure out the "right" way to vote all by themselves.

They need Mark Halperin and his crew of correct-thinkers to explain things to them.

Such arrogance borders on the incomprehensible — and it is unforgivable at this stage of one of the most important presidential elections in American history.

An ABC News flack said Friday night that "we're not interested in taking sides" — which hardly addresses the issues raised by the Halperin memo.

So here's hoping that network handles its crisis with more honesty, more honor, than CBS mustered in the Dan Rather Memogate fiasco last month.

Rather and an activist CBS producer harboring a five-year obsession with George W. Bush's military record decided to prove that the president had lied about his service — and to do it as close to Election Day as possible.

There was one big problem with this project: An utter lack of evidence.

So they swallowed whole "incriminating" documents that were convincingly discredited by by any number of neutral observers within three hours!

And still it took two weeks for Rather to admit that he — top dog at the once-upon-a-time Tiffany network — had been duped. Almost to the end, he snarlingly insisted that anyone who questioned CBS News was motivated right-wing politics.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and Time magazine were fretting that the Memogate controversy was "shifting the debate away from Bush's questionable record" — and mainstream media mavens were derisively dismissing credible questions about John Kerry's own military record as political "smears."

Again, this phenomenom is not new — though rarely has it be practiced so openly, so arrogantly.

What to do about it?

The fact that Rather still presides over the "CBS Evening News" is an amazement; it speaks, in fact, to the cowardice and moral rot that informs the mainstream media.

Will Halperin be put on the shelf?

For what? For putting in writing the instructions that usually are transmitted in winks and nods?

Don't bet on it.

But don't believe a word any of them say, either.