Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Reelect Barack Obama. David Freddoso, Editorial Page Editor at The Washington Examiner. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2013. 250 pp.
When Jared Loughner shot U.S. Rep. Gabbie Giffords, R-Ariz., the media rushed to blame Sarah Palin. She had “targeted” Giffords’ seat, and others, and shown them on a map using crosshairs. The Atlantic’s James Fallows summed up the general tone of the media coverage when he asked whether there was a “connection” between such “extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery” as that published by Palin and “actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be.”
No one had any evidence tying Palin to the shooting. But they did have the back up of the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet when the shooter who attacked the Family Research Council revealed that he used the SPLC’s “hate map” to choose his target, the media barely mentioned it. That the same press that blamed Palin for her supposed role in a murder spree didn’t think to mention a political group’s map having a role (albeit unintentional) in a culture war shooting is a pretty good example of the media double standards we see on a day-to-day basis.
David Freddoso’s Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Reelect Barack Obama documents not just double standards like these but also how the media ignored or buried big stories – such as Obama’s support of the death penalty for minors, the weakness of Obama’s economic recovery, and his attacks on religious liberty.
Despite the Fox News-friendly title, Freddoso has plenty of criticism for conservatives (they whine too much) and some of their candidates (they’re mush-heads). But as he notes, “The problem isn’t that journalists are too hard on Republicans. The problem is that they often won’t do journalism at all unless they are covering a Republican.”
President Obama must have enjoyed seeking reelection without having to defend his first-term failed promises and shortcomings. But, Freddoso asks, was it good for the Republic?
According to opinion polls during the campaign, people were most concerned about jobs and the economy. They were least concerned about abortion and birth control. Indeed, while New York City and D.C. are withstanding the recession better than the rest of the country, unemployment is a serious problem for families throughout America.
But this public concern about the economy – and lack of concern about birth control – wasn’t matched by the media. Freddoso plays assignment editor: How about a story on how much of the recovery was reliant on dirty fuels? How most of the new jobs went only to the oldest workers? How the new jobs had low wages? How the new jobs were for part-time positions – and for a sidebar, how Obamacare created the incentive for part-time jobs? And why are even low-wage, part-time jobs so hard to find after Obama promised that the unemployment would drop to five percent?
President Obama gave reporters plenty of news hooks for covering his response to the recession. In 2010, he went to Holland, Michigan, to give a speech about his $151 million stimulus grant to build the LG Chem electric car battery factory. Obama said the plant was a “symbol of where America is going.” By late 2012, the factory had still not shipped a single battery. It turns out the Obama central planners had wildly overestimated consumer demand for electric cars, according to the book.
Workers were instead playing board games in the factory and volunteering at charities on company time just to feel useful. Even though a local NBC affiliate produced this story, it was never picked up by NBC News and saw no national media play!
“If you rely on the mainstream media for news, you would have gotten the impression that this centerpiece of Obama’s economic plan – the waste of billions of dollars creating a vanity industry with no jobs to speak of – was a minor matter, of far less significance than say, Mitt Romney’s tax returns or his dog Seamus,” Freddoso writes.
Perhaps the most important and saddest part of Freddoso’s book is working through the DNC talking point that became the media’s favorite story of the last year: the “War on Women.”
You remember when George Stephanopoulos asked the weirdest question at a Republican primary debate — the one about banning birth control? It came, seemingly, out of nowhere, and the first candidate to handle the question – Mitt Romney – was clearly taken aback.
Freddoso provides the back-story: Bill O’Reilly interviewed candidate Rick Santorum, asking whether states have the right to ban birth control. Even though Rick Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic (meaning, among other things, that he accepts his church’s position against artificial contraception), he said “Well, the states have a right to do a lot of things. That doesn’t mean they should do it.” In the same breath, he said, “they shouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t vote for it if they did.”
Here’s how Chris Matthews characterized those remarks: “Let me tell you what he said. He’s said, “My religion should dominate, should trump issues of the Constitution . . . we should deny a woman’s constitutional right to buy birth control . . . And that’s what scares me. He thinks we should have a theocracy.”
This distortion – which is really a generous word for what Matthews did there – was dutifully perpetuated in various forms by the rest of the media. After Stephanopoulos absolutely hammered Mitt Romney on contraception, the stage was perfectly set.
In fact, the only real news – or aggressive government action – taken with regard to contraception last year was Obama’s unprecedented requirement that nearly every employer in the country be forced to fund insurance policies that provide birth control at no cost to the employee – even if those organizations have conscience objections.
How did the mainstream media take this serious threat to religious liberty? Well, when Notre Dame and 42 other religious-affiliated institutions sued Obama for violating their religious freedom, they got 19 seconds of coverage in one segment over the first three and a half days. When U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., made his asinine comment about “legitimate rape,” that gaffe was shown for 96 minutes in 45 segments over the same time.
By the end of the book, any reader with a pulse will be outraged at the way the media covered these and countless other stories, from the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scheme.
Freddoso’s concluding chapter is his weakest. The book begins with Joseph Pulitzer saying “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.”
After spending 200 pages demonstrating that the media is cynical, mercenary and demagogic, his assurance that good ideas will win the day is unconvincing.
His solutions aren’t bad ideas – he suggests, for instance, not craving elite media approbation, adapting to the double standards by showing more discipline than the other side in how you think about and discuss the ideas, and picking strong candidates. But is it enough to save the Republic?
I might be with Pulitzer on this one, but it’s a small criticism of a well-done book on the infuriating state of the media today.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Hadley Heath