Don’t hate the game, hate the players

Honestly, the biggest problem with media coverage of politics is not any sort of liberal or conservative bias, it is the fact that reporters treat politics as one big game with embarrassingly little concern  for policy and underlying questions of healthy democracy.  E.g., not “should America torture suspected terrorists?”, but rather “is this a winning issue for Democrats or Republicans?”  Glen Greewald (who writes a great blog I am embarrassingly late in discovering), spotlights an absolute perfect example of this problem with a recent episode of Hardball covering the DOJ “purgegate” scandal.  You can watch the Hardball clip here.  Though I think the clip is quite notable for focusing on the events entirely in the “game schema,” Greenwald strongly emphasizes the clubby, don't-rock-the-boat nature of the inside the beltway Washington Press Corps:

Whatever one thinks of how convincing the available evidence is thus
far, nobody who has an even basic understanding of how our government
functions could dispute that the accusations in this scandal are
extremely serious. Presumably, even those incapable of ingesting the
danger of having U.S. attorneys fired due to their refusal to launch
partisan-motivated prosecutions (or stifle prosecutions for partisan
reasons) at least understand that it is highly disturbing and simply
intolerable for the Attorney General of the U.S. ? the head of our
Justice Department ? to lie repeatedly about what happened, including
to Congress, and to have done so with the obvious assent and (at the
very least) implicit cooperation of the White House. Even the most
vapid media stars should be able to understand that.

And yet so many of them do not. They continue to defend the administration by insisting that even if the accusations are correct,
there was no real wrongdoing here. Add Fred Hiatt to that list, as he
defends the Bush administration's prosecutor firings in his Washington Post Editorial today by insisting that Gonzales appears “to have tried to cover up something that, as far as we yet know, didn't need covering. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president . . . .”

These are not journalists who want to uncover government corruption or
act in an adversarial capacity to check government power. Rather, these
are members of the royal court who are grateful to the King and his
minions for granting them their status. What they want more than
anything is to protect and preserve the system that has so rewarded
them — with status and money and fame and access and comfort. They're
the ludicrous clowns who entertain the public by belittling any facts
which demonstrate pervasive corruption and deceit at the highest levels
of our government, and who completely degrade the public discourse with
their petty, pompous, shallow, vapid chatter that transforms every
important political matter into a stupid gossipy joke.

Anyway, you really should watch as this is just a terrific example with what is so wrong with mainstream political coverage. 


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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