After the first couple of weeks of the newly installed Obama administration a question occurred to me: What is the difference between a media controlled by the government and one that willingly does the government’s bidding without controls?
In totalitarian countries the public gets the news the powers that be (usually in the form of a single person) want them to know about. Inconvenient facts, events and embarrassments never see the light of day.
This is accomplished by press controls, censorship in the strict meaning of governmental editing and spiking of stories.
Reporters and editors with some backbone and principles in these societies attempt to get needed information out to the public. Unfortunately, the more compliant journalists are the ones who rise to the tops of the mastheads in these societies. Do you think the editors of Pravda and Izvestia were anything but party hacks during the Soviet era?
Consequently, the world, as explained and defined by Presidium-approved journalists, bore little resemblance to the world as it really was.
No government bureaucrat is telling editors in the Obama era what stories to print or spike, or what photos to run or kill. Instead, a media that is demonstrably and even admittedly on the Obama bandwagon is doing a pretty good imitation of a media under the government’s thumb.
The mainstream media have made no secret of their elation over the Obama win. Their fawning coverage of the post-election Obama activities and over-the-top inauguration coverage, is rationalized as appropriate given the historic nature of the first black president taking office.
It’s one thing for the media to document a historic event, but it’s quite another for them to become cheerleaders and lose any objectivity in favor of doe-eyed — even teary-eyed — hero worship.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, here’s what George Stephanopoulos’s wife, Ali Wentworth, said on a recent “Oprah” show, describing Inauguration Day: “We watched everything and George was still doing all the anchoring for ABC and as soon Beyonce said ‘At Last...’ George called me at home and he went, ‘Honey?’ and I said ‘I know!’ and we both started crying.”
When top network news folks cry like little girls when their guy is inaugurated, it is fair for a viewer to wonder if that network’s coverage of the Obama administration will be fair and balanced, as they say.
Helen Thomas, the long-time UPI reporter who covered the White House for decades, revealed what many conservatives have known for years, but what journalists have tried to deny just as long.
Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and possibly thinking that we here below the 49th parallel would never hear it, she said: “I’m a liberal. I was born a liberal and I’ll be one until I die. What else should a reporter be?”
The media have made it plain that they don’t want Obama to fail. In fact, they are actively invested in helping him succeed.
Witness the way the Obama transition has been portrayed. Despite the numerous mini-scandals that surround some of his appointees, the media insist on calling it, in the words of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “arguably the best transition that anyone in our lifetime has ever seen.”
Matthews also expressed what is undoubtedly the sentiment of many of his MSM colleagues when he said, “I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, ...Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.”
Unless the media snap out of their lapdog posture (an unlikely prospect, from the looks of it), what is the chance that the public will be given accurate, skeptical and objective reporting for the next four to eight years?
Sadly, unlike those Pravda and Izvestia editors, they can’t even claim the government is making them do it.
Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and the publisher of Carolina Journal.