I have, thanks to Stacey McCain’s Championing, finally broke down and bought a copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. So far it’s better than the Las Vegas drug trip, because it’s actually about something of general interest (what, Vegas was square in ’71? Say it ain’t so!) and thus the purple-toned yammering is held by the need to actually tell what went down as the Democrats mounted that quixotic, ironically-unecessary challenge to Nixon.
But more importantly, the book underlines the bizarre relationship between journalists and political operatives, a relationship that seems to beg for neologisms to describe. I’m going to go with “hate-incest” myself. No two professions so deeply need the counterparts that they so deeply despise. Journalists need stories, politicans provide them. Politicans need communication with the public, journalists provide it. Each ends up fighting the other for control of the medium, but neither can walk away.
Which is why McCain’s theory of how Soledad O’Brien is getting her “news” fed to her by the Democratic Party is not only plausible, but almost certainly true:
- Democrats know from experience which network personnel are most amenable to regurgitating their partisan spin. Democrats employ analysts to study and evaluate coverage, and have compiled dossiers/databases on all potentially influential media personnel, including the behind-the-scenes producers, editors and executives.
- Known “friendly” personnel are targeted with key messages, including oppo-research, which they use in their broadcasts without revealing the partisan source.
- Competitive pressures help spread these messages rapidly. For example, if a certain oppo-research item is first reported by MSNBC, then CNN feels compelled to “match” the story.
- Democrats reward favorable coverage with access. You want to get a one-on-one interview with Obama or Biden? You’re gonna have to earn it, sugar.
- Conversely, negative coverage is punished by witholding access and by other means. Because the news industry votes Democrat by margins of at least 7-to-1, those who don’t cooperate enthusiastically with the Democrat messaging operation may be subject to career-damaging reprisals.
And it is the myth of the Objective Media which allows this this cheerleading to pass as fact-based, neutral reporting. If O’Brien could simply state what everyone knows, that she and CNN are in Obama’s corner because she and they have that very human habit of forming their own opinions, she could name whoever gave her the press release and the public would have the opportunity to make up its own mind. But she can’t, so the public instead gets the opportunity to treat partisan rhetoric as Confirmed Truth, and so transmogrify said leaden emitance into Propaganda Gold.