Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.
May 27, 2008
A Democrat campaigning for the White House must feel like a soldier
advancing through a mine field. At any moment, he or she is one step away
from being blown out of the contest. And the poor wretch is surrounded by a
ravenous mob of media hounds, each of whom is eager to set off the fatal
Still worse, almost all the media volleys are fired toward the port side. If
a Republican or (so-called) “conservative” makes a gaffe, as they do almost
daily, their “misspeak” is usually politely ignored. Or if it is simply too
awful to be ignored, it is shoved down the memory hole after a couple of
news cycles and effectively forgotten by the corporate media. No big deal.
Count on it: John McCain’s belated shedding of the embarrassing Hagee and
Parsely endorsements will be gone from the news and forgotten within the
week. In contrast, the Rev. Wright “Goddam America” uproar is still alive
after several months.
“Gotcha! moments” are often excavated through the sort of diligent
searching that was once the hallmark of investigative journalism – back in
the days when we still had investigative journalists. The Rev. Wright remark
was culled out of thousands of recorded hours of his sermons. Barack Obama’s
“bitter” comment was caught by chance on a cell phone recording.
If the Democrat’s careless comment is insufficiently damaging, the GOP
and/or the media will “improve” it. Case in point: It wasn’t bad enough that
Michelle Obama said that for the first time in her adult life, she was
“really proud of my country.” That word “really” softens the impact.
So out with it!
video clip of a Tennessee GOP ad, the word has clearly been deleted.
Here is the unedited remark.
If culling and editing will not suffice, then there is always whole-cloth
invention – i.e., outright fraud. In 2000, Al Gore was relentlessly pounded
for his “claim” to have “invented the internet.” He never made that claim.
And what of his alleged boast to have “discovered” the Love Canal toxic
site? Never happened.
Gotcha! smears follow the successful Democratic politician into
office. Remember the press ruckus when, in May 1993, Bill Clinton allegedly
held up air traffic at the Los Angeles airport, while he was getting a
haircut on Air Force One? Now that was news! But when the FAA and the LAX
traffic controllers totally debunked the story, the media felt that
correction was scarcely worthy of mention. And the Clintons were hounded by
the alleged “Whitewater scandal” throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency, until
at long last, the Ken Starr inquisition was forced to admit that there was
“no there there,” a finding that was essentially ignored by the mainstream
Then there are those utterly trivial incidents, inflated to national
prominence: Al Gore wearing “earth tones,” Howard Dean’s amplified “scream,”
John Kerry’s preference for swiss cheese (yum!) over Cheez-Whiz (yechh!) in
his philly sandwiches, John Edwards’ haircut, Barack Obama’s disinclination
to wear flag lapel pins.
Meanwhile, glaring issues potentially devastating to the Republican
candidates are kept off the front pages and off the mainstream TV screens:
Bush’s violation of security laws, his desertion from the Air National
Guard, the August, 2001 PDB: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” the
Florida schoolroom on 9/11 and “The Pet Goat,” the lies that led to, and now
prolong, an illegal war. The list is endless. Also McCain: his
numerous “flip-flops,” his slavish adherence to the Bush policies and the
utter inauthenticity of his “maverick” label, his involvement in the Keating
Five scandal, his obvious cluelessness about Middle East politics, etc. And,
above all else, the total failure of the corporate media to investigate and
expose the frauds perpetrated by the privatized election industry.
But for the alternative and foreign media, and the liberal blogosphere, we’d
likely know little if any of this today.
Hillary Clinton and “The A-Word.”
Let’s stipulate the obvious: Hillary Clinton’s reference last week to the
RFK assassination was pluperfectly stupid and insensitive. It could prove to
be fatal to her campaign, though I doubt that it will.
And yet, although I agree with many that by prolonging the contest all the
way to the convention, Clinton might well cause the Democrats to lose in
November, and, while I therefore believe that for the good of the party and
the country, she should quit ASAP, I believe that the significance of her
blunder may have been overblown. At last, the admirable and eloquent Keith
Olbermann may have overshot with his rhetoric. None other than Robert F.
Kennedy, Jr., a Clinton supporter, has downplayed the remark: “It is clear
from the context that Hillary was invoking a familiar political circumstance
in order to support her decision to stay in the race through June... I think
it is a mistake for people to take offense.”
Exactly! Clinton’s essential point: three months is an eternity in
politics. History confirms that a lot can happen before the August
convention: a whopper of an Obama scandal could emerge, Obama could be
diagnosed with a fatal disease, or, God forbid, he could fall victim to a
fatal accident or be assassinated. True enough. But some things, most
assuredly, are much better left unsaid.
In sum, as tempting as it may be to use Hillary’s A-word blunder to push her
off the stage, I suggest that it would be less than honest to do so. And
practically speaking, it would be unwise for any Democrats to encourage the
media “gotcha!” practice of disqualifying candidates due to single, isolated
Also largely unsaid and apparently unnoticed by the punditocracy, is the
simple fact that the uncertainties of the pre-convention summer fail to
justify Clinton’s determination to continue the contest. Should she withdraw
tomorrow and then should some misfortune make it impossible for Obama to
claim his prize in Denver, Clinton would obviously be at the head of the
queue to take the nomination. More so, if she were to withdraw gracefully
soon, rather than further embitter the party with her continuing challenge.
In the meantime, what will be the media’s likely response to Clinton’s
verbal stumble? While they could use it to pummel her candidacy, perhaps
fatally, I predict that the media will soft-peddle the incident and let it
pass into early obscurity, just as if I had been uttered by a Republican.
And why? Because the corporate media and its Republican sponsors are all
determined to see Clinton’s dismal and doomed candidacy continue as long as
possible, best of all on to the convention itself. The continuing drama of
the contest attracts eyeballs to the media while it enhances John McCain’s
prospects for success in November.
So What is to be Done about “Gotcha! Journalism”?
I wish that I had a startling and innovative answer that question. Perhaps
you do, and if so I’d like to hear it. In the meantime, the old and familiar
responses will have to do. Foremost among these: punish the corporate media
for its offenses. Deprive the media of its audience and its sponsors of
their customers. Look elsewhere for news and information – alternative and
foreign media and the internet – and let the corporate media know that you
are doing so and why. The corporate media are businesses with fiduciary
responsibilities to their stockholders, and thus cannot be indifferent to
the financial consequences of their journalistic delinquency. As the general
public continues to wise-up to the fact that the corporate media are no
longer reliable sources of information but rather are propaganda organs for
the military-industrial-congressional-media complex, both the credibility
and the audience of that media dissolves. If a significant portion of the
public accelerates that dissolution, the media will face the stark dilemma:
reform or perish.
At the same time, the alternative media must be supported. Word must go out
that reliable information is at hand to those willing to search for it.
The truth will eventually come out, if given a voice. It is up to we the
people to give it that voice.
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive:
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field
of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at
the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, "The Online
Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,
"The Crisis Papers".
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .