Our political Quote of the Day comes from Eric Boehart of Media Matters, writing on the Huffington Post. He asks when Fox News’ and talk show host Rush Limbaugh become a news story? Here’s the key chunk of his post:
Fox News (aka the Opposition Party) openly and proudly engages in jaw-dropping episodes of demagogic race-bating, as they depict the president of the United States as a hater of white people who’s quietly assembling his progressive army for a “race war,” yet the press sits quietly, watching from a distance, and decides uniformly that there’s no story there.
You can practically hear the audible justifications: “Well, it’s just Fox being Fox.” Or, “It’s just Rush being Rush.”
I’m sorry, but when the most-watched cable news channel relentlessly depicts the president and his administration as being the home to get-whitey racists, it’s news. And having the most listened-to radio talk show host in American claim that our first African-American president purposefully keeps the unemployment rate high in order to exact revenge against white America — that’s news too.
There are some reasons why this is not considered a news story these days. First, perhaps it’s due to what a journalism professor at the Medill School of Journalism told me back in 1972, when I was going for my masters. He said that to decide what’s a relevant news story you need to ask the question: “Who cares? So what?” There would have been a bigger who cares and so what response to that in the 60s — but this isn’t the 60s anymore:
The sea change has been in the assumptions of today’s political culture. It’s now indeed assumed that these kinds of suggestions will come from Fox and certainly from Limbaugh, whose goal seems to be to obliterate any possibility of parties cooperating or conservatives engaging in a respectful dialogue with liberals or moderates.
Plus, there is a political ju jitsu in the way issues are discussed. It becomes “They’re accusing us/our supporters/people who agree with us/of being racists — and because they’re talking about racism this means they’re racists!” if the charge of race baiting is used. And partisans are looking for any chance to twist something into something to negativel: defining and discrediting is now our political style while passionate, even aggressive debate on actual issues is receeding into our political culture — just as compromise and consensus have receeded in our political culture. It’s no longer about an issue of policy or law — it’s about characterizing a politician or a group in the worst possible way.
You can listen to, watch or read any number of discussions of issues in any info venue now (news stations, talk radio, magazines, and most notably on weblogs) and you can see how defining the other side is used and dominates versus discussing an issue or even recounting the details of an event or recapping the content of news stories. Attack mode=discussion.
Just think if the political ju jitsu argument that someone is a racist because they say or suggest they see racism was used during the early days of the civil right struggles by those opposing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr or some of what LBJ and Presidents of both parties did to alter America’s civil rights landscape.
That kind of argument would have been summarily dismissed in those days by the mainstream media which would probably do stories bout how absurd it was unless the charge of racism came from the Black Muslims or some other group considered way out there anyway in those days and automatically deemed not worthy of prominent news placement. But you didn’t hear politicians or political parties labelled as racist if they raised the issue of racism.
Some of the suggestions that Obama and his administration really don’t like white people — perhaps due to fact it is overflowing with such prominent African American leaders such as Rham Emanuel, David Alexrod, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton — have begun to smack of the old rhetoric used by those in the 60s and after to say American needed a “White Power” movement.
So in a sense it really IS no story — today.
America’s political culture has changed. And not, it could be argued, for the better in terms of how the race issue is raised — or raised in away so people can claim its not being raised and go after those who note it and call them racists. (OOPS! Here come the deluge of emails, comments and blog comments now saying I’m a racist, getting money from George Soros, or my favorites — those suggesting with a name like “Gandelman” that means I control all of the banks, Hollywood and the Internet when those of my religion really only control the profits of Chinese restaurants..)
UPDATE: While we’re on the subject…
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.