Rush Limbaugh and the Blue Bubble Narrative

I wondered how the mainstream media would attempt to extricate themselves from the dilemma posed for them by Rush Limbaugh's political jiu-jitsu. Yesterday we got our answer from Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: report the auction result and minimize the damage by presenting as fact at the top of the piece the Media Matters spin:

After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as "phony soldiers," he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators.
534 words into a 632 word article Strom notes:
Mr. Limbaugh has said that he was referring only to one soldier, who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army, never seeing combat.
[For comprehensive background on the incident, see this post at Bookworm Room.]

By the time the readers who stick it out through five hundred words-plus learn that Rush Limbaugh actually has a side of the story, they have received several pieces of information contributing to a narrative that this was a publicity stunt, that Limbaugh had shot off his mouth and (again) said something hateful, and that generous Senator Reid is happy to have been of assistance in raising money for a charity, because he supports the troops so much. Strom omits any further coverage of Rush's side.

In typical New York Times fashion, the wording is accurate, because technically it leaves open the question of how many soldiers Rush was referring to. But most readers would also assume from the wording that the category of "Iraq War veterans critical of the war" includes all Iraq war veterans critical of the war, since no qualifications or limitations are mentioned.

The narrative supported by Strom's choice of what to report and what to omit is consistent with the established picture of Rush and other conservative talkers peddled by the Times and other left wing media outlets.

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline and Mark Hemingway of The Corner at National Review Online have done an excellent job critiquing the Washington Post's coverage, written by Neely Tucker. Hemingway notices something that initially escaped my attention:
After detailing all of the political grandstanding involved, the kicker of the article is this:
"But we're not political at all," [James Kallstrom, chairman and co-founder of the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation] said.
The implication here seems to be the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation - an all volunteer organization independently rated one of the best charities in America by the way - is disingenuous when it said that it wasn't political because of Limbaugh's fundraising efforts. Yes, too bad they didn't refuse $4 million for the children of deceased soldiers, because all of the attention might make Harry Reid have to publicly defend his claims against Limbaugh. Unbelievable.
So what does this teach us about stupid media tricks?

There is a substantial and powerful subculture in America that lives in what might be called a blue bubble. They wouldn't be caught dead listening to Rush or any other conservative talkers, and have not a bit of interest in the conservative blogosphere, Fox News, or any of the other outlets which provided coverage of the issues raised by an official letter from the majority caucus seeking to influence the federally-licensed employer of an important media figure.

I know of plenty of highly educated, very hard-working, intelligent liberals who live within the blue bubble. I am related to some of them. According to the information set on offer to the blue bubble, the whole incident has been cleverly rationalized away.

Of course, this sort of maneuvering only works so long as the blue bubble remain impermeable to information from outside sources. That's a losing bet in the long run. Especially if the subject remains on the public agenda. And is that likely to happen? Strom of the New York Times concludes her article with this fascinating account of an issue that could lead to a public re-examination of the issue of the Senate Democrats' abuse of power:
Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who headed the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees charities and foundations, said the Casey foundation might incur taxes on its purchase because it would have difficulty demonstrating that buying the letter furthered a charitable purpose. "They'd have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech," Mr. Owens said, "and that's going to be tough."
Would the MSM be willing to avoid covering a legal dispute over the tax status of the documents? Perhaps the NYT and WaPo are smart enough to not take the bait. But, the blue bubble loses effectiveness as a shield every day, as public trust in the MSM continues to decline and alternative media continue to flourish. "The truth will out," as Rush frequently says.