The previous President, after the attacks of 9/11, engineered a war with a state which, though abysmal to its own people, had had no direct or indirect link with any terror attack on the United States. It was, if anything, a mortal enemy of the group which carried out the attacks, as that group saw the ruling regime as corrupt and un-Islamic. As the history of that war is being written, the regime sought to stave off war, willing to give the previous President anything he wanted, save for the regime’s destruction. Of course, the regime as it existed stood in the way of the grand plan to remake the Middle East; its destruction, not its containment, was the goal. Anything short of political—and literal—suicide would not suit the ultimate purpose. So the country and the world were lied into a war, which cost nearly 5,000 American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths; a war which was supposed to last a few weeks and pay for itself instead dragged on for nearly a decade, costing over $1 trillion. And the Middle East, far from being remade into a collection of benevolent American satrapies, teetered on the edge of all-out war for the eight years of the George W. Bush administration.
That President, however, was never asked to apologize for the disaster he had wrought. And if ever he had been asked to apologize in a face-to-face interview, he never offered one: no apology for the countless dead, for the treasure wasted, for the lives destroyed. It’s just not the done thing.
Well, it used to not be the done thing.
Barack Obama’s signal achievement was, finally, bringing health security to the world’s richest, most powerful nation. A health system teetering on collapse due to the crush of uninsured is, finally, being put on a sounder footing.
Its roll-out this autumn has been laden with problems. Many of those problems involve Americans who bought subpar, almost worthless insurance on the private market, now being dropped from those plans because they don’t meet the requirements of the American Care Act.
Mr. Obama’s constant assurance during the run-up to the Act’s passage was that if you liked your insurance plan, you wouldn’t have to drop it. And as most Americans receive their health insurance from the workplace, that was an easy assurance to make.
But now insurance companies, which made quite tidy profits off of these junk plans, are throwing people off of them, and blaming Obamacare.
And the media has latched onto this subterfuge as some great promise broken, trumpeting the “broken promise” without reporting that the vast majority of those being dropped were in subpar plans, which were no longer legal under the ACA. These consumers would now have the ability to go on the exchange and purchase cheaper, better insurance.
But, for some people, better an awful insurance policy than a much better one brought about by “that man”. And the media, in the form of an interview with Chuck Todd, finally got its symbolic pound of flesh, in which Mr. Todd asked the President if he wanted to apologize to Americans for his “broken promise”.
George W. Bush: brought about the country’s worse geo-political disaster, and has never been asked to apologize. Barack H. Obama: worked to ensure that Americans would never again have to face the threat of destitution because of medical bills, and has been tarred and feathered by our media.
We can be angry. We can be saddened. But what we mustn’t be is surprised.
One can argue that there never was a “liberal media”. But it’s safe to say that there used to be a more balanced media, one in which factual reporting and accurate analysis were the linchpins of the industry. If the reporting on Vietnam was rosy at first, by the end of the war its full horrors were being reported on honestly.
But that was also in an era when media ownership was far more diffuse. NBC and MSNBC are owned by Comcast, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. ABC is owned by Disney Corporation. Fox News is owned by News Corporation. CNN is owned by Time Warner. CBS has remained “independent”; but it too is a large multinational.
Corporations may be many things. They may be the most efficient means to organize economic activity. They may give their employees a somewhat remunerative working environment. But one thing for which they can never be mistaken are altruistic institutions acting for the public good. By law, publicly held corporations must return maximum value for their shareholders. And when the political winds start to blow against that basic dictum, no one should be surprised if corporations direct their media arms to wage a scorched-earth campaign against a President who is trying to bring back some commonsense regulation to a capitalism run amok, a capitalism which almost brought the world to its knees in 2008-9.
Corporations are not altruistic. Corporations are not “liberal”. They are engines of profit. And they will turn against anyone who wants to in any way curb or redirect that engine.
Of course, the humorous thing is that Wall Street has never seen profits as it has under the Obama administration. There is a very real possibility that the DJIA will close at over 16,000 to end the year. If Barack Obama is a socialist, he’s a very poor one.
But what Barack Obama is is a believer in the American dream. Not the nightmare vision of a nation of John Galts, thinking they’re world conquerors but actually under the heel of rapacious corporations, fighting for the scraps. It’s the dream which has sustained this Republic for its entire history: that we can make progress, that we can continually work to perfect the Union, that the next generation will do better than the last, and that we are a community, bound together by common ideals and common goals, the greatest of which is to live a good, human life.
That dream has never been more imperiled. And the laughably named “liberal media” is handmaiden to the attempt to destroy it. People like the Koch brothers are the epitome of silent movie villains, tying the citizens of this country to the train tracks to be run over by the train they conduct. Any truly independent mass media could make massive profits by exposing them and those like them.
But the media is a loss leader. News has never made money. At one point in our history, that was fine. And it still is, but now the media serves to drive a narrative: America is in decline, Obama is a failure, we need a new direction. And as President Obama scores successes in spite of the media, and as the country continues to move in a direction which frightens the corporations, the attacks get more shrill, more vicious, more unhinged. George W. Bush wasn’t asked to apologize for sending thousands to their deaths. Barack Obama was asked to apologize for, essentially, bringing good, affordable healthcare to millions who either didn’t have it or were underserved by the existing system.
The media is not interested in truth, but in driving a narrative. The media is not interested in analysis, but in coming to predetermined conclusions.
But with every tweet, with every blog post, with every conversation we have, WE become the media. And we can be more powerful, because we retain something it has lost: trust. No one trusts it, and rightly so. There’s a vacuum which we have to fill. If we do, then perhaps the American dream will continue for another generation.
Comment from EricFive:
Great essay LL. Spot on. I especially liked your reference to how increasingly “unhinged” and desperate the MSM is becoming in its propaganda. Truly effective propaganda is subtle, and not obvious. The hate and desperation are serving to force the MSM to unmask itself. More and more Americans are seeing the MSM for what it is, the communications arm of the GOP. This is why ratings are in free fall at CNN and MSNBC (most people don’t like being lied to or mislead on a regular basis).
All MSM seem to be peddling lies and spewing propaganda to achieve four goals: hurt PBO politically, prop up the GOP, depress Democrats and energize the GOP base with fake scandals. Not exactly what one should expect from the “Fourth Estate”, but this is the situation in which we find ourselves.
Each of us, in our own way (via conversations both online and offline, calling out lies and spin) can do our part to educate our countrymen of what is going on. Sometimes all it takes is one comment or one conversation to change a person’s perspective (especially if that person has not been paying close attention).
The myth of the “liberal media” must be destroyed, the “messenger” must be discredited and shown for what it truly is. The rise in propaganda and aversion to truth we are witnessing are not accidental. That is why Jonathan Karl was not punished AT ALL for basing reports on doctored emails delivered straight from the GOP. This is why Lara Logan will not be fired or punished for her sloppy reporting.
The MSM does not want to discourage its minions from spewing baseless propaganda against PBO. As a point of comparison, Dan Rather was FIRED for making lesser mistakes in reporting on GWB’s National Guard service. We must not forget that Dan Rather was the face of CBS news, and for them to take such drastic action against someone of his stature and tenure must have had a “chilling effect” on other reporters trying to take on GWB. The message was clear, if you come after GWB, you better come correct.
The message the MSM is sending its reporters today is that you can use what ever means necessary to harm PBO politically and you will face no consequences (your job is safe so long as you play the corporate dictated game).