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May 31, 2006

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Two Words:

Howard Dean

Yes, there were many good reasons to not have Howard Dean on the Democratic ticket, but that scream was not one of them. The media flatlined that campaign.

The media are arrogant weasels, but people seem to mindlessly cram whatever they're serving down their gullet.

Of course you're right that the media's influence is limited in a general election campaign. But things are totally different in our post-McGovern Commission primary system-- a system where the media is indeed, by default, "the dominant political force." Thomas Patterson discussed this a decade ago in "Out of Order"-- when you have several unknown candidates, intraparty competition, and voters who aren't really paying attention, the media takes on the job of "teaching" voters about the candidates. This is where narratives are created. These narratives have less power in the general election, of course-- but would Election 2000 even have been close if the media hadn't invented the narrative "Al Gore = liar" out of whole cloth and hammered it into our heads since mid-1999? (I wish Spinsanity existed back then-- but there was only the Daily Howler to document this amazing malfeasance.) If the public repeatedly hears not just the Bush campaign but also almost every mainstream journalist say that Al Gore has a problem with the truth-- well, it seems plausible to me that 1-5% of centrist swing voters might be swayed, and that a tossup election was the result.

I think that it should be said as well if you include the internet as part of the media--and surely it is--it is the dominant political force of our time. Because the internet is interactive, rather than the static reactive nature of traditional media, it better reflects the pulse of America.

Wonkette, there's a source for trenchant analysis.

Journalists produce content that is heavily shaped by commercial incentives and the political balance of power.

Shaped by the political balance of power? Not in my voting lifetime (the last 20 years.)

If it were, things would be a whole lot hotter for the current administration. The Globe, a trusted source for the "deans" of American pundits if the target is a Democrat, can't even gin up a Bush divorce scandal anymore.

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