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Media Bites Election

What Really Happened on Election Day

Robert Manis, The Manis Report, November 15, 2002

President Bush was too popular. The War on Terror won out. The Democrats didn’t have an agenda.  You have heard all the analysis and the spin about the  surprising Republican victory on Nov 5th that put them in charge of all three parts of government for the first time in seventy years. Make it all four parts if you count the Supreme Court.

The only thing is that wasn’t what won them the election.  Five days before the election most polls had the Democrats even or ahead, but President Bush’s Election weekend blitz and the new  Republican Get-Out-The-Vote effort turned things around.  The only thing is that wasn’t what won  the election, either.

I am sure that all of those factors had some effect, though possibly quite small.  The real factor seems however to have been the media.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the media -- well, actually, yes I am.

In the last few days, exit polls and other surveys have started to show that one decisive factor was the Paul Wellstone memorial ceremony. 67% of all voters had heard of the memorial where Trent Lott, Senate Minority Leader and Governor Jesse Ventura were booed and Rick Kahn gave a partisan speech, an incredible number considering it was an event carried live only on CSPAN. 66% of those who heard about it responded strongly negatively.  That this was a significant factor in the election outcome, was signified by the fact that fully 74% of the people who waited until the last few days to decide, decided to vote Republican.  The only thing is -  that most people who did not see the actual event got a very biased view of it.

According to Slate’s William Saletan,

                   Two years ago, I saw Al Gore debate George W. Bush in
                   their first clash of the 2000 presidential election. The first impression of
                   most reporters was that Gore had won on points. I agreed but thought
                   Bush had made a more favorable impression as a human being. Neither of
                   those opinions became the consensus, though. The consensus formed
                   around a theory partly validated by Gore and fully promoted by
                   conservative activists: that Gore had shown he was a compulsive liar. He
                   never recovered from that consensus.

                   Last week, I saw it happen again. I was at Paul Wellstone's memorial
                   service. I saw Rick Kahn, the speaker chosen by Wellstone's family,
                   deliver an election rallying cry instead of a eulogy. I thought it was
                   inappropriate, and I said so. But the consensus that formed around that
                   service that the whole thing was a crass political rally was a gross
                   exaggeration.( Slate, November 8, 2002)

Saletan goes on to explain that he thinks the reason for the reporting of the memorial as a rally was basically that it was a “man bites dog story” as opposed to the rest of the memorial which was a humdrum “dog bites man” one.

He may be right, but I think he (as we like to say these days)  failed to connect the dots.

Hillary Clinton was booed by a few at the 9-11 memorial. Partisan speeches have often been delivered in inappropriate venues.  How’s this for a test case: When Ronald Reagan passes away, if a speaker gets carried away, will it become a national scandal?

Yet the image of Rick Kahn’s speech made the nightly news,  was replayed endlessly on the cable news channels, and was the object of an organized offensive on talk radio.

If it was just a “man bites dog” story, why was the squashing of the 9-11 inquiry  days after Bush publicly accepted it (the topic of a previous Manis Report) not one? In fact, only reason Manis Report exists at all is that the media seems to prefer the same old dog bites man. The Republican sponsored riot in Florida 2000, the Enron murder coverup are just the first two things that come to mind.

It is time to be very clear that the mainstream media is setting a biased agenda -- Even the Washington Post which failed to cover the anti-war debate, and the New York Times which failed for five days (until readers protested) to report the largest anti-war rallies in thirty years.  Even CBS News, which failed to follow up its own Enron “suicide” expose after the block-printed and probably forged “suicide note” was produced.

Even all the networks – in failing to question the misrepresentations and outright lies promoted by the current Administration in promoting the Iraq war.

And what’s up with the Fox News Network getting away with calling itself “fair and balanced”, and Bill Reilly’s “no spin zone”?

It should also be very clear that democracy is being endangered by this biased an agenda.

Consider this thought experiment:  Imagine if the media had reported the Enron “suicide”  the way it reported Vince Foster’s suicide in 1993....If they had reported the 9-11 testimony by Minneapolis FBI agent Colleen Rowley instead of letting it get wiped off the screen by the so-called “dirty bomber”.... Imagine if they’d broadcast Al Gore’s  antiwar speech or the worldwide demonstrations against the Iraq war plans...

... Isn’t it possible the election would have turned out another way?

Of course, that is absolutely why the Bush Administration tried to manipulate the agenda. And they have every right to.

The only thing is... the media shouldn’t bite. 
 

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