Glenn Greenwald: "In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to "domestic military operations" within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.
Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:
"Yoo and torture" - 102
"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73
"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16
"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043
"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)
"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607
"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079 "
Media Matters - Myth: Americans tuned out Iraq Fact: The press tuned out Iraq:
According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's News Coverage Index, reports about the situation in Iraq accounted for just 2 percent of total news coverage from January through March. Eight months ago, Iraq reporting accounted for 15 percent of the total news coverage. Yes, consumer interest in Iraq has crept downward since last summer, but it certainly hasn't plummeted by 87 percent, the way the news coverage has.
The level of commitment to war reporting has been, at times, insulting for a nation at war. For instance, during the week of January 21-27, actor Heath Ledger's death received twice as much coverage as did the unfolding events in Iraq.
Oddly enough, there have actually been weeks this year when a sizable portion of the American public selected the situation in Iraq as the news story they were following most closely, despite the dearth of reporting coming out of Iraq. For the week of January 28-February 3, 13 percent of respondents to a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey said Iraq was the most important story of the week, making it the week's third most-selected topic. What percentage of the total news coverage did the Iraq story actually represent that week? Two percent.
That Americans are able to remain informed about Iraq at all is somewhat remarkable given the paucity of reporting these days. After all, only a few major-market newspapers put news of the 4,000th U.S. fatality in Iraq above the fold on Page One.
In fact, what started all the recent media chatter about Americans suddenly not being interested in Iraq was a Pew poll released March 12 that showed 28 percent of Americans could correctly identify the number of casualties the U.S. military has suffered in Iraq. In all previous surveys Pew had conducted asking the same question, the percent answering correctly routinely hovered around 50 percent. Therefore, according to Pew, awareness of the fatalities had "plummeted."
The survey received widespread attention, including mentions on NBC's Today and National Public Radio and in The New York Times, The Des Moines Register, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Almost all the outlets pointed to the polling data to suggest Americans were suddenly no longer engaged in the still-unfolding war. The BBC, for instance, reported that "only about a quarter of Americans [knew] roughly how many of their own soldiers had died."
It's true the percentage went down to 28, but I think most of the media's dour interpretations of the poll were misleading. If you look at the actual data, the truth is that combined, 86 percent of Americans knew that between 3,000 and 5,000 members of the U.S. military had died in Iraq. It seems misleading to report that most Americans don't know "roughly" how many of our troops have died in Iraq. I'd suggest 86 percent know "roughly" how many have died, which indicates Americans are still very much engaged in the unfolding war story.
Secondly, and more important, it seems perfectly obvious that one of the reasons fewer Americans could pick the actual number is that news reporting from Iraq has essentially vanished; it's disappeared. How else are news consumers supposed to get that information, osmosis?
Glenn Greenwald continues:
"Media critic" Howie Kurtz in the Washington Post today devoted pages of his column to Obama's bowling and eating habits and how that shows he's not a regular guy but an Arrogant Elitist, compiling an endless string of similar chatter about this from Karl Rove, Maureen Dowd, Walter Shapiro and Ann Althouse. Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson devoted her whole column this week to arguing that, along with Wright, Obama's bowling was his biggest mistake, a "real doozy."
Obama's bowling has provided almost a full week of programming on MSNBC. Gail Collins, in The New York Times, today observed that Obama went bowling "with disastrous consequences." And, as always, they take their personality-based fixations from the Right, who have been promoting the Obama is an Arrogant, Exotic, Elitist Freak narrative for some time. In a typically cliched and slimy article, Time's Joe Klein this week explored what the headline called Obama's "Patriotism Problem," where we learn that "this is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what's wrong with America than what's right." He trotted it all out -- the bowling, the lapel pin, Obama's angry, America-hating wife, "his Islamic-sounding name."
Needless to say, these serious and accomplished political journalists are only focusing on these stupid and trivial matters because this is what the Regular Folk care about. They speak for the Regular People, and what the Regular People care about is not Iraq or the looming recession or health care or lobbyist control of our government or anything that would strain the brain of these reporters. What those nice little Regular Folk care about is whether Obama is Regular Folk just like them, whether he can bowl and wants to gorge himself with junk food.
Our nation's coddled, insulated journalist class reaches these conclusions about what Regular Folk think using the most self-referential, self-absorbed thought process imaginable. The proof that the Regular People are interested in these things is that . . . the journalists themselves chatter about it endlessly. In Great American Hypocrites, I described the process as follows in the context of examining the three-week-long media obsession with John Edwards' haircut (to the exclusion of a whole array of revelations about what the government was doing or planning to do) and how they justified that coverage:
Most certainly, the press will pretend to be above it all ("this is not something that we, the sophisticated political journalists, care about, of course"). But they yammer about Drudge-promoted gossip endlessly, and then insist that their own chattering is proof that it is an important story that people care about. And because they conclude that "people" (i.e., them) are concerned with the story, they keep chirping about it, which in turn fuels their belief that the story is important. It is an endless loop of self-referential narcissism -- whatever they endlessly sputter is what "the people" care about, and therefore they must keep harping on it, because their chatter is proof of its importance.
They don't need Drudge to rule their world any longer because they are Matt Drudge now.
Every day, it becomes more difficult to blame George Bush, Dick Cheney and comrades for their seven years (and counting) of crimes, corruption and destruction of our political values. Think about it this way: if you were a high government official and watched as -- all in a couple of weeks time -- it is revealed, right out in the open, that you suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed yourself empowered to break the law, and sent the nation's top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so that you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what you did, and the political press in this country basically ignored all of that and blathered on about Obama's bowling score and how he eats chocolate, wouldn't you also conclude that you could do anything you want, without limits, and know there will be no consequences? What would be the incentive to stop doing all of that?
I know I should edit more, and quote less, but what am I to leave out?
Jay Rosen writing a Pressthink column cannot quite figure out whether to ridicule the liberal blogosphere for its outrageThe Love Affair Between McCain and the Press Sprains the Brain of the Liberal Blogosphere