Monday, April 21, 2008

Has Political Journalism Become a Farce

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters thinks so, at least in the case of MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

As Boehlert points out the media coverage of the Democratic Primary Campaign has been peppered with a measure of misogyny that has given many Americans political heartburn. Chris Matthews certainly wasn't the only purveyor of the misogynistic rhetoric but without a doubt he has become the poster boy.

Here's a sampling of Matthew's brand on political analysis

When the primary campaign began (over a year ago) I announced that Hillary Clinton was not my candidate of choice. I disagreed with her Iraq policy, I felt that she was too indebted to special interests, and I thought ( still do ) that even though this country clearly wants to kick the Republicans out of the White House, Hillary Clinton would provide a rallying point for the far right. However, all of the reasons that I chose not to support Senator Clinton were political and had nothing to do with the personal, vicious attacks on her character that have been bandied about by the media.

At the same time that the Democratic Presidential Primary Campaign has given us so much for which to be hopeful, the coverage of the campaign has given us so many reasons to dismay about the state of journalism in America.

When the campaign began in 2007 the media all but coronated Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Shortly after Barack Obama joined the race and Oprah went public with her endorsement, the media christened the Illinois Senator as a "rock star". Going forward the corporate media decided that only coverage of Clinton and Obama could compete with coverage of Lindsey, Britney and Paris. To maintain the appearance of providing balanced infotainment, the media occasionally covered "America's Mayor", "a bonafide war hero", and a "wealthy businessman who by the way happened to be a Mormon".

By the time 2008 rolled around and the voters had a chance to speak, there were a few unanticipated events ( Ron Paul's internet fundraising success, Mike Huckabee's primary upsets) but for the most part, the media stayed on message.

I, for one, was prepared for FOX News to shovel their rhetoric but who would have thought that CNN and MSNBC would be shoveling too. And, as if to make sure that all "I"s were dotted and "T"'s crossed, we were served last week's ABC debate.

Tomorrow is primary election day in Pennsylvania and regardless of the outcome, the biggest loser will be the American electorate who, instead of being provided with substance, has been fed a diet of journalistic junk food.

excerpt from:
For Chris Matthews, Misogyny Pays

by Eric Boehlert
Tongues are still wagging over The New York Times Magazine's cringe-inducing cover story about MSNBC talker Chris Matthews. The cringes came courtesy of the name-dropping Matthews, whose raging insecurities danced across nearly every page of the piece. As Digby noted after reading the opus, "He fulfills every single Village media cliche: obsessive social climbing, deep personal insecurity, primitively sexist and racist and just plain dumb."

Question: Is Chris Matthews the Michael Scott of political talk show hosts? And if so, does that make MSNBC the Dunder Mifflin of cable news?

Matthews has harvested a bumper crop of outrageous remarks during this extended primary season. Specifically, fueled by his obsession with the Clintons (he can't recall attending a single Beltway party where the couple has not been discussed), Matthews has unleashed a flood of sexist commentary.

On that front, of course, the Hardball host has not been alone. This election season, we've seen a cavalcade of white, middle-age men express their deep, personal contempt for the first serious female contender for the White House. Contempt, of course, that has nothing to do with Sen. Hillary Clinton's policies or her beliefs. Instead, it's been an oddly personal disdain dressed up as political analysis.

The way Mike Barnicle on MSNBC said Clinton "look[ed] like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court."

The way Bill Kristol on Fox News said that among the only people supporting Hillary Clinton were white women, and "[w]hite women are a problem, that's, you know -- we all live with that."

The way CNN's Jack Cafferty likened Clinton to "a scolding mother, talking down to a child."

The way Fox News' Neil Cavuto suggested Clinton was "trying to run away from this tough, kind of bitchy image."

The way MSNBC's Tucker Carlson announced that "when [Clinton] comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."

The way Christopher Hitchens on CNBC described Clinton as being "sort of alternately soppy and bitchy.'"

That's all taken place in open view. And while a blog swarm did engulf Matthews in January, followed by a forced, pseudo-apology by the host -- and his attacks did prompt some women activists to carry picket signs outside the MSNBC studios -- the openly sexist comments have produced very few condemnations from within the industry and even less soul-searching from the (mostly male) press corps. In fact, in Matthews' case, the sexist outbursts have helped propel his career. That's how he landed on the cover of the Times magazine.

Why? Because misogyny pays.

Question: If Chris Matthews had been forced to apologize to Sen. Barack Obama for divisive, personal comments the host had made about the candidate, and if the comments had prompted civil rights groups to protest outside the MSNBC studios, do you think Chris Matthews, three months after the fact, would be photographed on the cover of The New York Times Magazine with an uproarious grin on his face?

For me, there were two key takeaways from the Times opus. The first was that Clinton-bashing -- and specifically, misogynistic Hillary-bashing -- pays off in the form of magazine cover stories. And second was that political journalism is a farce.

Related posts:

Let's See if Chris Matthews Can Really Play Hardball

and from Political Voices of Women

The Democratic Debate in Philadelphia

1 comment:

  1. I'll read the whole article when I stop shaking my head.


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