(Today author Eric Boehlert joins us for the second half of the discussion of his book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush. Part I can be found here .)
One of the questions frequently lobbed at politicians on blogger conference calls is what they feel their relationship is to the mainstream press. Some acknowledge that Democrats have a hard time getting their message included, but the’ll also excuse this as part and parcel of not being the party in power. Others see the press as rather inert, a medium rather than a messenger. I’ve only heard one acknowledge that on balance the press is actively hostile to the Democratic party, to liberals in general, and that the myth of a "liberal media" is just that — a myth.
To all of them I’d like to recommend picking up Eric Boehlert’s book Lapdogs. The blogosphere can be like a fast-moving train, and it can take some time to join the conversation — from a blogger’s perspective, if you’re writing 4 or 5 posts a day it’s just difficult to keep explaining the same stuff over and over again, it’s as boring to keep repeating endless exposition as it is to read it. To all those looking for a quick, concise, funny and brutal textbook on the history of the narratives we are discussing, there is no better tome. And as someone who writes about this stuff every day, I can say that reading it all catalogued like this, condensed into one tight story, is quite daunting.
Boehlert takes many of the salient threads that scatter across the blogosphere on a day-in, day-out basis and weaves them into a tight tapestry with the benefit of hindsight that allows him to organize them with a perspective that we don’t have when we’re sitting in the middle of unfolding events. And he does a remarkable job.
As Boehlert notes, there is great irony in the fact that journalists have been so easily lulled into compliance with right-wing narratives. We on the left may be critical but we’re trying to urge the press into higher standards; the right essentially wants to destroy them. As he says:
Journalists are being actively undermined, yet reporters and editors won’t even put up a fight. Rather than pushing back by pointing out the absurdity of the conservative press attacks (most MSM members politely ignored the Schiavo memo blunder, for instance), or at least ignoring the haters’ endless stream of baseless accusations, MSM jouornalists, anxious to prove they are not liberal, toast the press haters’ tenacity, gloss over their radical rhetoric, and pretend they’re adding something to the public dialog.
I personally go apoplectic when the queen of eliminationist rhetoric herself, Ole 60 Grit O’Beirne, shows up regularly on Meet the Press or Hardball and and she’s treated like her opinion on anything is either reasonable or relevant. It’s a measurement of how far the discourse is slipped that she’s not banished to fulminating about fluoridated water and black helicopters in some remote wingnut ghetto but rather given a rather large megaphone to spout her extremism. Boehlert is absolutely right — this media acquiescence to the radical right is unseemly.
And for all the recent dust-up over liberal bloggers and their relationship to the Democratic Party, few have seen fit to point out the obvious — we are rather blissfully NOT under their thumb, and hence much of the friction. Quite different from the right-wing bloggers, who exist as simply another tentacle of the Mighty Wurlizter:
For instance, during the 2006 confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, the RNC hand-picked right-wing bloggers, including Power Line, to cover the event from Washington, D.C., showering them with access and attention in the process, including an off-the-record interview with Karl Rove. In return the RNC was rewarded with mostly glowing, obedient coverage from bloggers in attendance. "The [Alito] sessions revived, and arguably legitimized, criticism that at least some right-leaning bloggers are tools of the GOP," noted Daniel Glover, writing for the nonpartisan National Journal.
When Bobo Brooks went on his silly anti-blogger rant this morning in The New York Times, he completely ignored the existence of right-wing bloggers, and rightfully so. In the grand scheme of the right-wing noise machine, these Wingnut Welfare Queens are largely irrelevant.
Boehlert goes on to note that the right wing attack on the media is rooted in ignorance, and therefore quite frequently incoherent:
Their work has everything to do with intimidation as well as advancing the conservative agenda, and too little to do with thoughtful media examination. The press haters literally do not understand how journalism works. Or at least they pretend they do not.
One has to wonder how journalists feel good about cozying up to those who neither appreciate what they do nor even desire their continued existence; I guess it’s easier to play nice with the schoolyard bully than it is to stand on principle. But Boehlert’s book clearly outlines the lengths the right-wing has gone to in order to co-opt and neutralize accurate, independent coverage of national politics and any major Democrat who does not recognize that this is what they’re up against should pick up a copy of this book, pronto.