"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

File This Under "Why Fewer and Fewer People Watch Network News"

By now you have heard of the epic failure of ABC News correspondent Brian Ross in reporting that a Jim Holmes living in Aurora, CO was a member of the Colorado Tea Party, only to recant hours later upon finding that that Jim Holmes was a fifty-something law-abiding citizen, while the perpetrator was a 24 year-old grad student.   Gabriel Malor provides useful context of the series of failed attempts by the MSM to pin violent acts on the Tea Party or conservative Republicans:

* September 2009: The discovery of hanged census-taker Bill Sparkman in rural Kentucky fueled media speculation that he’d been killed by anti-government Tea Partiers. In fact, he’d killed himself and staged his corpse to look like a homicide so his family could collect on life insurance.
* February 2010: Joe Stack flew his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. The media immediately suggested that the anti-tax rhetoric of the Tea Party led to the attack. In fact, Stack’s suicide note quoted the Communist Manifesto.
* That same month, a professor at the University of Alabama, Amy Bishop, shot and killed three colleagues at a faculty meeting. The gun-loving Tea Party came under immediate suspicion. But Bishop was a lifelong Democrat and Obama donor.
* March 2010: John Patrick Bedell shot two Pentagon security officers at close range. The media went wild with speculation that a right-wing extremist had reached the end of his rope. Bedell turned out to be a registered Democrat and 9/11 Truther.
* May 2010: New York authorities disarmed a massive car bomb in Times Square. Mayor Bloomberg immediately speculated that the bomber was someone upset about the president’s new health-care law. The media trumpeted the idea that crazed conservatives had (again, they implied) turned to violence. In fact, the perp was Faisal Shahzad, an Islamic extremist.
* August 2010: Amidst the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, Michael Enright stabbed a Muslim cab driver in the neck. It was immediately dubbed an “anti-Muslim stabbing,” with “rising Islamophobia” on the political right to blame. In fact, Enright, a left-leaning art student, had worked with a firm that produced a pro-mosque statement.
* September 2010: James Lee, 43, took three hostages at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland. The media speculation was unstoppable: Lee was surely a “climate-change denier” who’d resorted to violence. Oops: He was an environmentalist who viewed humans as parasites on the Earth.
* January 2011: Jared Lee Loughner went on a rampage in Tucson, Ariz. Again the media knew just who to blame: the Tea Party and its extremist rhetoric. In fact, Loughner was mostly apolitical — a conspiracy theorist who, to date, has been judged too mentally incompetent to stand trial.

For me, I don't really consider these examples to be conscious propaganda.   Perhaps some of them are the result of the media's suggestiblity -- liberal Democrats might effectively plant a story of right-wing extremism as the possible source of violence, and then the MSM will run with it.   But I think in most cases the real cause of these serial mistakes by the MSM is simply that reporters like Brian Ross aren't very smart.   These are people who have lived their lives within a very small cocoon of the news/entertainment industry, and who for the most part now live within a very small cocoon of liberal elite New York/Los Angeles/Washington.   They have almost no experience being friends with normal Americans who run small businesses, go hunting and fishing, own firearms, go to 4th of July parades, have family members in the military, and who struggle to do things like send their kids to parochial school when the government is taking 30-40% of everything they earn.   They are strangers, not fellow Americans.   And so they are easily demonized.   Thus, when a demonic act occurs, it's easy to blame it on people who are already demons in your world-view.  

On the other hand, why should people like me -- roughly the half of America who are conservative -- watch a news program delivered by people who aren't very smart who hate me?   Doesn't really seem like a feasible business model for a TV network. 

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