Mitt Meets Mainstream Media Mindset
With one voice, the mainstream media proclaim Mitt Romney's overseas tour a disaster, hoping to damage his standing. To the surprise of no one, shameless double standards are being applied. But does it matter anymore?
The current iteration of the American mainstream media has often been referred to as the "dinosaur media" for its inability to adapt to the changing landscape of news delivery -- be it the internet, talk radio, or social media. However, the traditional mainstream media outlets are failing not because of their inability to fully take advantage of changing technology, but because their mindset is mired in the 1960s and '70s.
The seminal achievements of the media over the past fifty years were the shaping of opinion regarding the Vietnam War and the forced resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 after his mishandling of the Watergate scandal, coupled in both instances with the breathless, and in many cases erroneous, reporting by journalists who became instant celebrities. The liberal bias of the media had been in place for many decades prior to the 1970s, but it had been kept under some semblance of control, as there were many old-school reporters who did try to report the news as fairly as possible. But the old-schoolers were primarily print journalists working for newspapers and news magazines, unaware of the potential power of pictures and words projected into American living rooms through the televisions in virtually every home in the country.
Television journalists such as Walter Cronkite, through incendiary reporting and on-screen images -- such as the totally inaccurate portrayal of the Tet Offensive -- were able to turn the nation against the Vietnam War and foster the subsequent marches and riots that eventuated in an ignominious retreat and the sentencing of millions to death and oppression. The media thus became obsessed with their self-perceived power to shape, not just report, the news. But their greatest coup was yet to come.
In 1969, Richard Nixon, while he did not initiate the Vietnam War, was saddled with either winning the war or finding a viable withdrawal process. Nixon, never the darling of the media over his career, became the focus of all that was wrong with the war as well as the violence triggered by innumerable demonstrations and riots. Further, Nixon was a Republican representing a party and voters who were overwhelmingly conservative and opposed to many of the socially progressive ideas of the liberals -- concepts embraced by the majority in the media.
The old façade of journalistic integrity began to crumble as the same media that turned the nation against the Vietnam War trained their guns on Richard Nixon. As fate would have it, the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate complex and the fumbled attempt at a cover-up provided the media with the means to destroy the Nixon presidency. Coupled with the never-ending drip of sensationalistic reporting and the constant images on television of various congressional hearings, Nixon's fate was sealed.
Afterwards, the media had become, in their minds, the caped crusader to save America from those evil Republicans and conservatives (when in reality ideology, self-aggrandizement, and membership in the in-crowd were the driving forces). The mainstream media have never gotten beyond that mindset. They have tried mightily to destroy and marginalize every Republican presidential candidate or president while comparatively ignoring problems or giving a pass to every Democratic candidate or president.
Ronald Reagan was portrayed as an amiable dunce, a has-been Hollywood actor, and above all a dangerous right-wing ideologue with his finger on the nuclear trigger. The media's attempt to recreate Watergate with the Iran contra imbroglio utterly failed as the Reagan presidency became the most successful in nearly three generations.
George H.W. Bush was the constant butt of ridicule as being the silver-spoon patrician totally out of touch with the people, an evil oil man, a callous rich guy, and denigrated for his speaking ability and use of various clichés. His administration was subjected to constant searches for scandals or implications of scandalous behavior with the obligatory and never-ending calls for independent prosecutors.
By comparison, Jimmy Carter was portrayed as an extremely intelligent graduate of the Naval Academy, a "nuclear physicist," though a man of the people, as he was a Georgia peanut farmer, someone admirably involved in all the minutiae in the White House and without a breath of scandal. Never mind that his administration triggered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and America's world stature plummeted disastrously, culminating in the Iran hostage debacle.
Bill Clinton, if he had been a Republican, would never have survived the primary process had it not been for the media covering for him, excusing his innumerable "bimbo eruptions." Upon becoming president, he assumed the usual media portrayal of all Democratic presidents: highly intelligent, a man of the people, well-spoken, could deliver a good speech, cared for the little guy, and had the misfortune to work with those Neanderthal Republicans in Congress. Unfortunately for this comfortable arrangement, during his second term, the alternative media reared its head, and the mainstream media could not ignore the Lewinsky scandal and the associated perjury. However, they rallied to Clinton's defense by claiming that one's personal life doesn't matter and proceeded to destroy Ken Starr, the independent prosecutor investigating the matter.
With George W. Bush, the media reprised the now-threadbare image of another dumb, ill-spoken, out-of-touch, knuckle-dragging conservative Republican -- this one not only uncaring, but also a war-monger. Over the eight years of his administration, the media turned over as many rocks as possible in the search for potential scandals, succeeding in creating one with the Valerie Plame affair, which turned out to be a non-event but which caused irreparable damage to many in the administration and personal ruin for a good man.
But the high-water mark of this myopic mindset was the campaign of the "messiah," Barack Obama. It was heralded by the media as if a savior had descended from the heavens to save the country. The English language did not contain enough adjectives to describe the wondrous attributes of the man. Pundits even noted that there was nothing funny about him -- he could not be mocked. Certainly there was little need to investigate or find out who he really was. In his presidency, the Fast and Furious scandal has been virtually ignored, as have the worst national security leaks since the end of the Cold War -- leaks deliberately engineered for political reasons by the Obama White House. Despite the wreckage Obama has wrought to the nation's economy, health care system, and energy production, as well as the lowest international standing for the United States since the 1930s, the mainstream media remain infatuated.
Mitt Romney is now learning what it is to be the Republican nominee for president. He has already been cast as unethical, perhaps a felon, certainly out of touch, not too bright and gaffe-prone, willing to throw Granny off the cliff, and worst of all, an evil rich guy. The media is still in the process of rummaging through Romney's elementary and high school years as well as his business and political career to uncover any incident that could be cast in an unfavorable light, or deviously imply there could be scandals in his past.
The only problem with all this is that the behavior of the mainstream media has become boringly juvenile, predictable, and comical. It is beneath what would be expected of a high school newspaper reporter still wet behind the ears. Frankly, it is beyond childish for a group of people who consider themselves among the best and brightest to act as if incapable of an original thought and more concerned with being part of the in-crowd than having any integrity. That is why this once-proud industry is facing not only bankruptcy but, as with the dinosaurs, inevitable extinction.
It is now at the point that the only salvation for the mainstream media is a bailout by the government. Perhaps that is why they kiss the ring of the Democrats and Barack Obama. But whether Obama is re-elected or Romney wins, there will be no rescue for the mainstream media, as the nation cannot afford it, nor have the people the inclination to rescue an industry so willing to become irrelevant and foolishly banal. Particularly as this fifty-year mindset spawned an alternative media soon to overwhelmingly dominate the media landscape.
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