“News” and Republican health care plans

Loved this take from Brian Beutler on how McConnell so adroitly used the media’s actual bias against it on health care coverage.  Among, the actual bias, is that for news that is actually new.  And by keeping it secret, Republicans did their damnedest to give them the sort of new, daily details that typical reporting craves.  Beutler:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t lock down the bill-writing process in order to block liberals from going over the bill with a fine-tooth comb. His chief insight was in recognizing a bias—not among liberals, but within the news industry—toward what you might call “new news.” Things we didn’t know before, but do know now. [emphases mine] It is that bias, more than anything else, that has brought us to the brink of living under a law that almost nobody on the planet has seen but that will uninsure millions to pay for millionaire tax cuts.

Exactly.  I even have a “news bias” bullet point in my Media lecture that talks exactly about this fact.

What ultimately got Trumpcare a modicum of mass coverage wasn’t a critical mass of liberal outrage about secrecy, preventable deaths, or bloodless, soak-the-poor, right-wing ideology. It was that Democrats, responding to grassroots pressure, stopped cooperating with Republicans to run the Senate in an orderly fashion, and made Republicans actively reject requests to open up the process, protect children and veterans and so on. Which is to say, Democrats made a little bit of news.

The reason the Affordable Care Act debate was so thoroughly covered eight years ago wasn’t that the reporters who covered it were better, but that the debate then was like the Sutter’s Mill of news. Reporters had a surfeit of hearings, drafts, amendments, CBO reports, speeches, symposia and votes to cover, and those stories commanded prime media real estate…

This is what makes Republican denunciations of the debate over Obamacare so outrageously dishonest. While Republicans fakedhysteria over the supposed secrecy of the process, what McConnell recognized about the 2009 debate is that nearly all of the Democrats’ struggles and setbacks stemmed from its openness. It wasn’t Democrats who set the template for Trumpcare; what Republicans are doing now is a through-the-looking-glass adoption of the lies they told about Obamacare…

All of this underscores the importance of treating the coming bill text, and next week’s Congressional Budget Office analysis, as if they were vaguely-written letters from James Comey. There will be mere days if not hours to distill the contents and effects of the secret bill to the public before senators cast their final votes.

But it would be better in the long run for the news industry to migrate toward a more nuanced standard of newsworthiness that doesn’t cede all agenda-setting power to people who can commandeer front pages with misleading information just because it’s new, or escape scrutiny for moral crimes whenever they want to, simply by going dark.

Yes, yes, yes.  Just another example of how McConnell has so effectively used the actual biases of the news media to effectively further his agenda.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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