THE BLOG

Conservatives Play the Media for Fools

06/20/2005 05:07 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are the people in the mainstream media this dumb or are they complicit? All weekend long, all you could hear on the Sunday morning talk shows and on the “news” was whether Dick Durbin should be punished for what he said about Guantanamo Bay.

Didn’t we just go through this with Howard Dean? Should Dick Durbin be punished for pointing out what’s happening at Guantanamo? Has the media lost its mind? How about asking whether the people responsible for the abuses at Guantanamo Bay be punished for their crimes? And not just the troops, but the people who gave them their orders.

I simply cannot believe that we are talking about what the Senator said about Gitmo instead of what happened at Gitmo. The appropriate question that the media should be hammering away at is, “Did the administration sanction the abuses at Guantanamo? And who should be held responsible for those abuses?”

After Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and countless other prisons with countless other stories of abuse, torture and outright homicide, the press thinks it’s relevant what a Senator said about Guantanamo Bay. Any Senator who doesn’t speak out to condemn what’s happened there should be censured, not the one who actually did speak out.

Yet again, the conservatives set the talking point trap and the media and the Democrats fall right into it. Here’s the simple how to manual for media manipulation:

Challenge the strongest person attacking you from the other side, constantly repeat that he is extreme, get the media to ask over and over whether he is extreme, get his own party to disown him, call him a distraction while you’re distracting from the real issue, and in the end, have your opponents take down their own leader because he has become a distraction that you created to distract from the real issue.

It’s brilliant. It’s easy. And apparently it can be repeated an endless number of times before the other side, and more importantly, the media ever catches on.

So, once again, in this twisted game, the issue isn’t what happened at Guantanamo Bay, it’s what Dick Durbin said about Guantanamo Bay. This is way too easy.

For the record, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), Representative Peter King (R-NY), conservative guru Grover Norquist and, of course, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have all made references to Nazis, the Holocaust and the Gestapo in previous remarks about other U.S. government officials.

Where was the outrage of the media on all of those comments? Nowhere to be found. After all, they had not been primed for outrage by the conservative talk show hosts on television. Again, it must be asked, are they this gullible or are they in cahoots with the right wing media machine?

For the love of God, Rick Santorum just compared the Democrats to Adolf Hitler a month ago. It’s not like it was some long forgotten incident from years past. Why didn’t one single mainstream media outlet ask whether Rick Santorum should be censured?

Senator Durbin referred to outrageous abuses as similar to the Nazis and the Soviet Gulag (although to be fair to him, and to be literal, he said those abuses were not the work of Nazis or the Soviets). Senator Inhofe and Representative DeLay called the Environmental Protection Agency the Gestapo. Senator Sessions compared stem cell research to “Nazi Germany’s abuses of science.” Senator Gramm and Grover Norquist called a Democratic tax plan and the estate tax plan, respectively, the equivalent of what the Nazis have done.

Republicans say people working at the EPA, people who believe in stem cell research, legislators who dare to filibuster and everyone not opposed to the estate tax are Nazis – and that’s not outrageous. But when Senator Durbin points out that reports of abuse from Guantanamo -- that include shackling detainees to the floor, setting dogs upon them, beating them and not giving them any of the rights accorded by international law -- are not the work of Nazis but our own interrogators, that’s outrageous?

Are members of the media this stupid or are they complicit?

Look, I don’t believe in cigar filled rooms where secret conspiracies are hatched. Most conspiracies are right out in the open (Project for a New American Century, every one of Grover Norquist’s plots, Frank Luntz’s battle plan for manipulating the media – all of these have their own websites). So, I don’t believe the mainstream media is working in concert to get the Democratic Party or to conspire with the administration.

But since the media is not complicit in a conspiracy, that leaves only one other option. Let’s be charitable, and call them gullible.