Thursday, December 14, 2006


At some point over the last couple of years I actually gained a bit of grudging respect for the conservative Christian critique that the media didn't reflect their views. It's certainly the case that the media is overly deferential to religious views generally and conservative religious views specifically. But I came to understand that mere deference wasn't enough. There is a conservative Christian worldview which no matter how much deference or respect it receives is still not quite reflected in contemporary news coverage. The story, as they see it, is not being told.

I'm not suggesting that the mainstream media has an obligation to tell that story, which may or may not have much to do with reality, but I came to understand how this group of people could feel that the story as they saw it was not being told.

Other claims to victimhood I don't have much tolerance for. Unlike godless liberals like myself, their views are given respect, so the claims that the news media has contempt for them are ludicrous. Still, even given that, I can understand how their antagonism towards the media exists. Their version of The Story of current events isn't being told.

But, frankly, neither is ours. The story which is being told is the story as understood by the beltway media. It isn't specifically liberal or conservative, though it's highly influenced by the conservative media. Ultimately, those in the Washington political journalism game are writing the story as understood by their kind. Their own presumptions and assumptions are difficult to challenge. As Stoller writes:

My guess is that journalists are no longer communicating in a way that makes sense to voters. For instance, if you look at most Connecticut papers, you would find almost no coverage of the fact that Lieberman misled voters on his main campaign promise to bring the troops home as soon as possible, or that Lamont's claim that a vote for Lieberman is a "vote for more war" happens to be true. The campaign is over, so it's apparently not relevant that Senator Lieberman just called for more troops, which simply cannot be taken as anything but a call for more war. This isn't just sour grapes; it would have been incredibly tough for Lamont to win regardless, but the fact that Lieberman was able to utter statements in the post-primary which are now revealed as lies, and have basically no coverage in local papers, is remarkable. It's shallow. It disempowers Connecticut voters, who are not told the truth about what they voted for.

I don't really have an answer for irresponsible lack of follow-on coverage, or the boring scandal-driven untrustworthy nonsense that passes as news. At this point we still need the press, I suppose, and we need them to dig up credible information so that we can consider public discourse reasonably and responsibly. Still, it would be nice if journalists considered a lack of trust from the public as an identity crisis rather than an opportunity for snark. In the meantime, the press will continue to lose relevance and other more unpredictable social structures will take its place.

I think many members of the press think they inhabit an imagined center, and take pride in the fact that people on the left and right often object to the way in which they tell the story. Both sides complain, they must be doing something right. But this imagined center has nothing to do with any kind of actual "political center." It is, instead, the dominant narrative as expressed by an elite class and subculture who inhabit the world of Washington journalism. It isn't left or right per se, and certainly is not "the center," but simply the reflection of the values and worldview of the self-appointed but largely out of touch arbiters of sensibility.