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Hardball Scandal: Bin Laden = Michael Moore (plus a note to Howard Kurtz)

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A blogswarm has erupted over Chris Matthews' comparison of Osama Bin Laden to Michael Moore. John Aravosis, DarkSyde at Daily Kos, Crooks and Liars, Jane Hamsher, Matt Stoller, Digby, Dave Johnson, and others have pointed out that this is not just about Chris Matthews or Michael Moore or Osama Bin Laden, it's about the willingness of a prominent media figure to slander an opponent of the war. John Kerry has weighed in with a strong statement. And an apology from Matthews is surely in order.

Equating a prominent conservative activist to a murderous terrorist would bring the wrath of the rightwing machine on Matthews' head. But in today's political environment, Dems and liberals are fair game, either through insidious pro-Bush narratives like "Bush is firm" and "Dems are muddled," or through blatant and vile comments like the one Matthews so glibly foisted on us.

A few days ago I wrote that Democrats need to go after the media institutionally, they need to understand that the deeply-etched storylines that are perpetuated by trusted media figures like Tim Russert and so many others damage them and stifle their message. If myths such as "Bush is likable" or "Bush is firm" or "Democrats don't have a message" or "Democrats are weak on national security" or "Republicans are corrupt but everybody does it" are repeated enough, Americans will internalize them. And they have. Breaking that cycle is exceedingly difficult.

It's obvious to bloggers, who are unabashed media critics, and it's obvious to the right, for whom "liberal media" is virtually a war cry. But it's alien to the Democratic establishment. Who knows why.

Howard Kurtz wondered out loud what I meant by "go after" the media:

"Salon blogwatcher Peter Daou says television blew it:

"A former Vice-President of the United States delivers a major speech accusing George W. Bush of breaking the law. What do all three cable news nets cover under the 'Breaking News' banner? An overturned tanker truck on a New York highway. THIS is the problem for the left. And as I've said a hundred times: if the Dem establishment doesn't go after the media institutionally, things simply will not change. It's astonishing to me that they haven't gotten it yet."

Hmmm . . . I wonder what he means by "go after."

Well, Howie, here's an example: a Democratic outcry over Matthews' disgusting comment would certainly be a start.