Friday, May 11, 2007

Radicalizing Moment

In the post below I had meant to prominently include the 2000 election recount/selection as a cause of a major online lefty boom. While that was the time when I began to turn to the web for news/perspectives I couldn't find elsewhere, it wasn't actually until the inauguration that I finally concluded that something was seriously messed up, and that the problem was the media. I never had any illusions that Supreme Court Justices were noble people above reproach or that politicians could be trusted. I did at some point, however, have the sense that the mainstream media - CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, network news - while imperfect wasn't completely broken. It was the coverage of the inauguration that did it for me.

You may remember that this was a cold and rainy day, truly miserable. Nonetheless thousands of protesters had gathered. However, most Americans would have no idea this was happening. Switching back and forth between coverage by the television networks, and the somewhat more raw footage carried by C-SPAN, it was apparent just how much effort the networks were expending to hide this fact from their viewing public. They would frequently cut away from the parade, provide odd camera angles, and do anything to maintain the illusion that the coronation was proceeding blissfully. The following day, for its inauguration coverage, the New York Times published a photo of George W. Bush walking the parade route. As discussed in Dennis Loy Jonson's The Big Chill, this was an entirely staged photo. Bush had been unable to follow in the tradition established by Carter and carried on Ronald Reagan, Bush's father, and Bill Clinton. The presence of the protesters prevented this, and it wasn't until after Bush had left the public parade route, and was behind a barrier, that he could briefly hop out of the limousine and wave for the cameras. The Times had established a practice which impacted much of the media's reporting on the activities of the Bush administration. They signaled a willingness to report things not as they necessarily were but as the administration wished to present them.