In the 1990s movie Wag the Dog, a self-absorbed US president seemed destined to lose an imminent election to his rival. Desperate to restore his sagging popularity, the incumbent politician cynically manipulated Big Media by faking a war.
A decade later, a self-absorbed Big Media also seems destined to lose to its rival, the new media. Employing a mirror image of the movie plot, Big Media is trying to stay in power by cynically manipulating politics, stoking a culture war. Life seemingly does imitate art -- this time in reverse though.
One of Robert De Niro's lines as the movie president's spin-doctor was, "What difference does it make if it's true? If it's a story and it breaks, they're gonna run with it." In contrast, as part of today's mirror image of the movie, Big Media frequently refuses to "run with" negative news about the Left -- even when the journalists know it's true.
Ethically challenged Big Media journalists seem to be employing a line repeated by Dustin Hoffman, another player in the movie. Hoffman's character responded to every setback by proclaiming, "This is NOTHING." As if they were auditioning for Hoffman's part in a sequel, Big Media has trivialized Democrat scandals ranging from Barney Frank's Fannie Mae malfeasance to ACORN's offer of taxpayer funding for underage prostitutes.
However, in an unscripted plot twist, fewer and fewer Americans are willing to be manipulated by Big Media. Forty years ago, Big Media icon Walter Cronkite might have been America's most trusted man, but according to a recent national survey conducted by Sacred Heart University, 89 percent of Americans suspect that Big Media played a strong role in getting President Obama elected.
As the study also showed, the public has become substantially more suspicious of Big Media in just the past few years. Wag the Dog offers some insight into that as well.
In the movie, the manipulators inadvertently jeopardized their own cause when they plucked a lunatic from obscurity to be the face of their fake war. The character, played eerily well by Woody Harrelson, became a liability, rather than the asset they expected him to be.
Big Media also plucked the unknown Barack Obama from obscurity to become the public face of the culture war they were stoking. And, as in the movie, things didn't go as planned. Like the Harrelson character, Mr. Obama is not what his supporters thought he was. Furthermore, by cloaking, rather than vetting Mr. Obama, Big Media has exposed the president and the nation to blackmail by sinister characters. Here are just a few of Mr. Obama's friends and foes that potentially could destroy his presidency simply by revealing some dirty laundry: The people on that list have no incentive to reveal the truth as long as they continue to benefit from a friendly or blackmail relationship with Mr. Obama. Therefore, it is possible that Bill Ayers is driving education policy; Reverend Wright, Pakistan, and Indonesia might be influencing America's stance toward Israel and Iran; and perhaps Russia is dictating Mr. Obama's actions on US and foreign missile defense systems.
Even worse, few of those relationships are stalemates in which Mr. Obama possesses equally incriminating evidence against his potential blackmailers. Therefore, he has virtually no negotiating power, other than giving his blackmailers whatever he can loot from the national treasury and Defense Department. And like most blackmail situations, the stakes will continue to rise until Mr. Obama has nothing left to offer.
It appears that at least one of the players on the list already has reached that point. Big Media no longer is benefiting from its relationship with Mr. Obama. Granted, there are bills in both the House (HR 3602) and Senate (S 673) to bribe it with tax breaks, but such legislation can't possibly help Big Media's already-dismal public image. And the Left no longer seems close to censoring new media outlets such as talk radio or the Internet.
To Big Media, Mr. Obama has become the embarrassing Woody Harrelson character from Wag the Dog. In the movie, the politicians fretted over the situation until an unforeseen event allowed the manipulators to turn the loose-cannon Harrelson character into a fallen hero in their fake war.
If Big Media wants to mimic the screenwriters, it could choreograph its own "unforeseen event" by feeding incriminating evidence about Mr. Obama surreptitiously to the new media. Then it could feign outrage as the "racist" new media players help remove Mr. Obama from office. The culture war would survive -- perhaps even escalating to race riots -- even though its puppet leader wouldn't.
While that might get Big Media out its current debacle, it also would give the new media competitors even more credibility. So it wouldn't stop the death spiral that Big Media entered before it ran the Obama scam. On the other hand, one Big Media player, ABC News, has a unique opportunity to redeem itself when Diane Sawyer replaces retiring anchor Charles Gibson. Yes, TV news anchors typically are little more than actors reading teleprompters, but they want the public to believe that they run their newsrooms. ABC could exploit that illusion by having Sawyer announce sweeping changes to "her" newsroom, and then begin to report true stories that incriminate Obama.
For maximum impact, perhaps she could open her first newscast with the John Dean line, "There is a cancer growing on the presidency". ABC's credibility (and news show ratings) would rise almost instantly, despite howls, threats, and charges of racism from panicked Democrat Party leaders.
Will ABC or any other Big Media outfit have the courage and integrity to do that? Probably not, but can any Big Media outfit save itself if it doesn't do that?