Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Now That Everything Glows So Brightly IV:
Insufficiently General?

Glenn Reynolds suggests another reason why the liberal mainstream media missed the Trent Lott story:

But that's the folks at Old Media: presented with real "racial insensitivity" -- as in Trent Lott's case -- they don't even recognize it until someone else points it out. That's because they're too used to it as an invented item to even think about the real thing.

It's worth keeping a couple of points in mind here.

I don't think it is completely accurate to write that "Old Media" missed the story so badly. The Wall Street Journal [OpinionJournal/Best of the Web] is "Old Media" - but recognized the story's significance early (although not as early as some bloggers). It seems to have been the liberal Old Media that really tripped up.

InstaPundit's observation that Old Media people are "too used to [racial bias] as an invented item to even think about the real thing" does not explain why bloggers and the Wall Street Journal, on one hand, and liberal Old Media, on the other hand, had different sensitivities to the topic. Everyone in this country- Old Media, bloggers, the kid waiting on the corner for his mom, you name it - is inundated with racial bias as an invented item. So why is it only "Old Media people" have become so numb that they can't "even think about the real thing?" Moreover, not every kind of media - new or old - "invents" racial bias at anything like the same rate. "Invention" of racial bias to discredit public figures or institutions can crop up anywhere, but in fact it is overwhelmingly a liberal and Democratic practice. For example, one does not see such invention on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal the way one does in the New York Times. So when one does see accusations of racial bias in the Journal one pays attention.

Put another way: The racial coverage in every media outlet does not glow with racial invention to the same degree - and it's much easier to see the real thing when it appears in an outlet that doesn't emit so much background radiation generally.

Nor does this InstaPundit explanation do much to explain the Old Media reaction to Senator Patty Murray's bizarre comments, even though many people - including InstaPundit - sense that the Lott and Murray situations have a fair amount in common. As InstaPundit puts it:

PATTY MURRAY'S REMARKS ON BIN LADEN are reportedly causing a "groundswell of anger" on talk radio and the Internet, while being ignored by major media. I wonder why? Of course, the Trent Lott story started out that way, too.

But the "major media" are not generally ignoring Senator Murray's comments. The liberal major media are ignoring it. The Wall Street Journal, which I think most people would consider "major" as well as "old" media, has covered the story (as far back as December 20), with Best of the Web even raising the same question and providing another partial explanation:

Murray's remarks have not brought anything like the national outcry that Lott's did. In part that's understandable, since Lott as majority leader was a more important figure than Murray, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (i.e., architect of her party's loss of the Senate). It's also probably bad news for the Democrats. Whereas the furor over Lott's comments forced the GOP to do the right thing and demote him, Murray's ode to Osama is likely to come back to haunt her in 2004, when she faces re-election. In a state that leans Democratic but not so far that it tips over, she ought to be beatable.

A search for "Murray" in the New York Times shows a rather different approach.

One problem here is that having focused on the media response to racial issues, the InstaPundit explanation of the Lott story does not generalize easily to explaining media response to non-racial issues such as Senator Murray's comments.

There is another explanation noted here and here and here, that does generalize in a way that helps one understand the Murray case: The constant racial "invention" of the liberal Old Media in their ordinary news coverage is a special case of the constant pro-liberal/anti-conservative invention in that same coverage. Failure to cover the Murray story adequately is just part of the constant liberal background radiation emitted by the liberal Old Media all the time.

Comments: Post a Comment