The Slow-Witted Beast
Jon Stewart lectures reporters on coverage (CNN)
As Comedy Central's "Daily Show" descends on Denver for four days of coverage, Jon Stewart took after the "established" media for getting too cozy with candidates and regurgitating campaign spin when it comes to political coverage.
In a breakfast with reporters, Stewart directed most of his ire at the 24-hour cable news networks, which he called "gerbil wheels," and said the media at-large had "abdicated" to what he called the "slow-witted beast."
He said the never-ending television news cycle creates a "false sense of urgency" and forces reporters to "follow the veins that have been mined," instead of pursuing serious and in-depth reporting.
Stewart said politicians in recent campaigns are "animatronic" because all of the "humanity has been managed out of campaigns." He referenced the back-and-forth during the Pennsylvania Democratic primary over Obama's lack of bowling skills.
"It's stunning what this election is going to be decided on," he said. "Or what we allow it to be decided on."
No Joke: Jon Stewart Takes Aim At 24-Hour Cable News 'Beast (Washington Post)
Jon Stewart ripped the cable news networks Monday as a "brutish, slow-witted beast" and castigated Fox News in particular as "an appendage of the Republican Party."
The "Daily Show" host told reporters at a University of Denver breakfast that Fox's "fair and balanced" slogan is an insult "to people with brains" and that only "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace "saves that network from slapping on a bumper sticker. . . . Barack Obama could cure cancer and they'd figure out a way to frame it as an economic disaster." "I'm stunned to see Karl Rove on a news network as an analyst," he said of the Bush White House aide turned Fox commentator.
Stewart included CNN and MSNBC in a far-ranging indictment of what he called "that false sense of urgency they create, the sense that everything is breaking news. . . . The 24-hour networks are now driving the narratives and everyone else is playing catch-up."
The Comedy Central funnyman touched a nerve when he criticized journalists for having off-the-record dinners with politicians, such as a barbecue in March at John McCain's Arizona ranch. "That colors your vision of them so clearly and so profoundly," he said.
When New York Times columnist David Brooks and others protested that there was value in getting to know candidates privately, Stewart stood his ground: "I don't say access is useless. But the more you get sucked into it, the more you become part of that machinery." And when another reporter accused him of courting the press at the breakfast as skillfully as any officeholder, Stewart called the comparison "crazy."---------------------------------------------------------------
a good example of the "gerbil wheels" at work:
by Eric Boehlert
Writing at his Atlantic blog, Marc Ambinder, who seems to enjoy regular access to Obama sources, noted that "reports of strife between negotiators for Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are exaggerated" and that "multiple sources in both campaigns have described the negotiations as relatively free of acrimony."
The next day, Ambinder returned to the topic perplexed, wondering why so many members of the press were pushing the clearly inaccurate story line that the Obama and Clinton camps were practically at war over the convention schedule.
Ambinder was either being naïve or playing nice with his Beltway colleagues. (My guess is the latter.) Because it was obvious the press didn't care whether the rift about Clinton's speech was real or imagined. The story helped journalists advance their beloved narrative that Clinton is a political-party wrecking ball and that Obama is too weak to control her. So even if the evidence ran counter to that, the press was sticking with its story line.
This newly manufactured media attack on Clinton is just the latest in a long line of press grenades thrown her way this year. But this time, she's not the only victim, because the media's concocted story line is being used to unfairly skewer Barack Obama, too.
Consider New York magazine: "Obama Agrees to Roll-Call Vote for Clinton. Does That Make Him a Sissy?"
What's so startling in watching the coverage of the Clinton convention-speech story has been the complete ignorance displayed about how previous Democratic conventions have dealt with runners-up like Clinton. It's either complete ignorance or the media's strong desire to painstakingly avoid any historical context, which, in turn, allows the press to mislead news consumers into thinking Clinton's appearance (as well as the gracious invitation extended by Obama) represents something unique and unusual. Something newsworthy.
Based on previous conventions, if a candidate had accumulated as many delegates and votes as Clinton did during the primaries and then did not have her name placed into nomination, that would represent a radical departure from the convention norm.
But, boy, in 2008, an awful lot of media outlets have played dumb. When covering the August 14 announcement about Clinton's role in Denver, they miraculously forgot to make any historical reference to similar names-placed-in-nomination at previous conventions.
Instead, readers and viewers were left with the obvious impression that what was scheduled to happen in Denver was remarkable, an anomaly. And I suppose if you look at the events through a soda straw, it does look unusual. But if you include the slightest bit of context, the story changes into something normal and routine.
But that's not the story the press wants to tell (the Clintons are not normal!), so the press simply erased the context and stuck to its preferred story line that Clinton's appearance in Denver and the placing of her name in nomination are one for the record books.