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Robin Koerner

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MEDIA: Mainstream-Embracing Disappointingly Ignorant Advocates

Posted: 08/16/11 12:23 PM ET

My first choice for the "A" word in the title was not "Advocates," but I settled on it because it is more conducive to intelligent discussion than the word I wanted to use.

There is nothing more tiresome than the imputation of intent where none exists. Since becoming a political writer, for example, I have often had to defend a publication against someone who follows my work and suspects that my articles are delayed because of some nefarious editorial intent to suppress my political views. The truth, I tell them, is much less exciting: when volunteers work with little oversight at a large publication, balls get dropped and things fall through cracks and there really is nothing more to it.

I am also skeptical when intent is imputed to something other than a single person. How, for example, does "the media" -- in all its heterogeneous forms, conspire to be liberal or conservative, to spin a story one way or another, or even to ignore one story and push another? Sure, any institution can become a victim of groupthink, but that does not mean that anything covert or even purposeful is going on.

And yet, and yet... the extraordinary lack of coverage of Ron Paul following his statistical tie for first place in Iowa is a remarkable story in itself -- worthy of the best efforts of serious investigative journalists.

Here are a couple of headlines that I saw today, a couple of days after the Iowa Straw Poll, which are very typical of the type of coverage the event has generated.

Pawlenty exits GOP race; leaves Romney, Perry, Bachmann to duke it out (CS Monitor)

Bachmann, Perry Shake Up GOP Field (FOX)

Dr. Paul, who everyone knows represents something new and culturally challenging -- two criteria for newsworthiness -- is conspicuous by his absence.

As another example, in the story, "The post-Ames, post-Pawlenty GOP field", from CNN, the only reference in the whole article to the man who gained almost as many votes as Bachmann, was the line,

Pawlenty finished a distant third in the poll, behind Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who finished within one percentage point of each other.

The remarkably strong and suggestive showing of Dr. Paul does not, apparently, warrant even the use of his name as the subject of a sentence in an article that purports to describe the post-Pawlenty field. And this is despite the fact that he near-as-damn-it tied with a woman who couldn't put any clear water between her and him even though the poll was held in her home-state.

The dereliction of service by the media is truly remarkable. I don't know how or why it has come about but it demands investigation -- as an extraordinary incident of either massive group-think or institutional corruption.

It is hard to believe that journalists are being instructed from their corporate overlords to misrepresent a hugely important political event and trend, but it is also hard to credit the idea that an entire profession of thousands of free-thinking individuals have decided to ignore the elephant (read libertarian doctor), in the room -- especially when it is obvious to anyone with an internet connection or the ability to read that Dr Paul's success in Iowa is not just a story -- but is really the only story here.

"Mainstream congresswoman wins in her home state" is not a story.

"Humble peace-loving congressman who has often stood almost alone for 30 years against the greatest changes wrought upon this country in the areas of war and economics, who has been regarded as a marginal character for most of this time, and whose views completely subvert the prevailing Left vs. Right, two-party paradigm of the most powerful country in the world": that IS a story.

I happen to believe that if Ron Paul wins the GOP nomination, he is likely to beat Obama to the presidency. But the evident failure of the media en masse to cover the Ron Paul phenomenon post-Ames does not depend on my being correct. Even if I am mistaken, what has already been achieved is itself important per se as reflective of a profound shift in the country's political consciousness, and even identity.

Consequently, the shift that Dr. Paul represents and was confirmed to be real in Ames should be front-page news even if Obama, Bachmann, Romney, or anyone else for that matter, ends up as our next president.

If so-called political journalists were doing their job, they would point out that the Ron Paul revolution phenomenon is all the more newsworthy because it has been achieved almost entirely by grassroots activity: armies of Americans are making endorsement videos, unpaid and unsolicited; designers and artists are making logos, posters and signs; webmasters are setting up websites to promote their candidate; neighborhood organizers are bringing people together; students are setting up campus organizations all over the country to promote the ideas of this one candidate.

Moreover, many of these people, united in a rising political cause, used to be political opponents -- some from the left, others from the right -- and are as demographically diverse as any political movement you can find. Now, however, they share a determination to expend their own resources -- time and money -- out of a simple belief in, and indeed passion for, the message that their candidate espouses. Some of them have been consistently doing it for years and are finally hitting pay dirt.

This is not only extraordinary in American politics. It is almost unique on a global scale. What exactly are the media for if not to reflect back to us -- let alone help us to understand -- currents of such depth and import in our own nation?

Collectively then, as a national institution, the American media, are delinquent. Forget the old saw of reporters' presenting the first draft of history: the large corporate media are currently presenting only a lack of intellectual curiosity and integrity.

It is not worthy of a nation with the standing, the history or the spirit of the United States.

In a broader historical perspective, it may turn out that the only story of our times that will be as politically and culturally important to the future of the USA as the ignored rise of Dr. Paul and the liberty movement, is the story about how a multi-billion dollar media industry that pretends to serve a nation by providing basic, relevant information can continue to avoid doing so.

And that latter story -- which should scare people as much as the former story should inspire them -- brings me, at last, to my chosen word in the title -- "advocates".

Of course, there are some excellent journalists in the industry, who are driven by a desire to help their audience see and understand events that affect our fellow American and global citizens without fear or favor. And we are blessed to have them as they do truly important work.

Nevertheless, whether intentional or not, the media as an institution is clearly advocating a status quo in which a tired two-party system dominates a nation by agreeing on most things while appearing to oppose each other.

It is shameful. It is sad. It is pathetic. If you are a journalist who is freely generating this black-is-white nonsense, then you have no journalistic integrity. If you are peddling this informational snake-oil because you are under pressure to do so within the corporation for which you work, then you have no spine - and what's more, you have a moral duty to inform your readers or listeners that that is what is going on.

To all Mainstream-Embracing Disappointingly Ignorant Advocates of the status quo, my hope is that America continues along its restorative path to freedom in spite of you.

 

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