A Test of the Media

>> Sunday, September 14, 2008

John McCain lies. A lot. So does Sarah Palin. I know it, you know it, they know it, and the media knows it. Palin and McCain continue to brazenly lie in the faces of millions of Americans. They feel that they can do so with impunity. When the the lies became egregious and the idea of calling them out as liars came up i was someone who thought that tactic would not work. The main reason for this was Biden and Obama's continued insistence on what an honorable guy John McCain is. It was really cutting into that point. Since i wrote that Obama and Biden seem to have stopped with this and are instead calling a lie a lie. So now it becomes a test of the media.

For most of his career the media has loved McCain. As Chris Mathews once said, they are his base. There comes a point however when even the base is going to walk away from you. If the media and the people who populate it have any integrity now will be that time. It is a true test of their willingness to adhere to ethics and morals. John McCain is lying around the clock on every subject under the sun. When confronted he refuses to admit they are lies. So the media has a choice. It can do the correct thing and develop a meta narrative that paints mccain as a serial liar willing to say anything to get elected or it can do nothing and let McCain castrate it.

That is really what this comes down to. It has been building to this for years as the GOP pushes the envelope a little farther each election cycle. They try and get away with more an more, becoming less and less discreet about the lies. They are at the point now where they will say anything with the belief that they can get away with it. The media has so far facilitated this type of blatant falsehood tactic by adhering to the strict "balance" idea of journalism.

The balance idea is really the crux of the issue. Right now the press is bending over backwards to find it. Creating false equivalences between the McCain lies and some minor Obama overstatements. They treat the facts as though they are subject to debate. News paper reporters try to avoid including the actual truth at all costs when it would clearly go against McCain. Instead they will couch the article in the classic he said she said terms. They rely on third party fact checks to carry the truth burden.

Now they are in a place where they are ridiculed from both sides. They have ever shrinking credibility. The McCain campaign is hoping to prove that the press is willing to just take anything in order to preserve the current system. McCain is counting on the dedication to formalism, tradition to keep the media from simply hammering him day after day on his tuzla like lies.

The flip side of this is that here the press has a chance to really redeem themselves and to make a statement about their commitment to democracy. Really thats what they fail when they refuse to simply get the truth out there without the caveats and false balance. By making sure that people know, unequivocally, that McCain and Palin lie about everything they can take a big step back towards being a venerable institution.

This situation tests the media in another way. If they do choose to go after McCain we should be able to see the changes in a number of places. His poll numbers are very high right now, including his personal favorable unfavorables. If the media hits him, and hits him hard, those numbers should drop if you think that the media cycle is really important. If they launch a sustained barage on McCain's honesty and the polls don't move then we know that the media cycle is not that important. That would really benefit the Obama campaign as their strategy is not based on the media cycle.

So the media has the test in front of them, passed out by the McCain campaign. Will they take it and Get an A by jettisoning this fake balance and bringing truth to the masses? Or will it be an F continued capitulation to McCain on his numerous and abhorrent lies? My own prediction is a D+. Some media people will discover integrity but the vast majority will continue the path to media impotency.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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