Precisely four years and one month ago, after seeing an unknown state senator from Illinois electrify the Democratic convention floor with a keynote speech that set him on what seemed clear to me at the time was a direct path to the presidency, I wrote the following words:
"Last night, while the networks slept, the cynics wept and the future revealed itself. The occasion was the extraordinary keynote speech by Barack Obama, a formerly obscure Illinois State Senator who is poised to become the most important Democrat in America."
I note this, not to break my arm patting myself on the back -- others on the floor of the Fleet Center who heard Obama's speech came to the same instantaneous conclusion I did:
"I'm not alone. Certainly the many hardened members of the media hunkered down in the press filing room watching agreed with me, unanimously, and that's an unusually tough and unsentimental crowd to sway. Certainly my house-host this morning, who said she's ready to drop everything and move to Illinois or D.C. or just about anywhere to work for Obama. And certainly Jesse Jackson Jr., whom one might expect to be competitive with Obama, but who gushed that 'we always knew he was fantastic, but now all of America has seen what we've seen!'"
No, I look back only in order to look ahead, and to remind us that in 2004, as now, the mainstream media -- which in covering the convention dedicated countless hours of airtime to self-congratulation and aggrandizement while ignoring most of the deep, meaningful political content and profound signals of change emanating from the convention floor - totally missed the real story.
In my post entitled, "Networks Sleep While the Fleet Center Burns," I noted then, as now, that:
"Sometimes the mainstream media is so bad it's good...Not good, of course, for the public they should be and often falsely claim to be serving, but certainly good for under-resourced sloggers and bloggers like yours truly, in that despite their massive technological and financial resource advantages, hundreds of employees, and "We Want to Own this Story" special convention sections, the mavens of the mainstream consistently miss the biggest and best stories staring all of us straight in the face. Case in point: The First Black President."
And I look back to make a few necessary points about the corrupt nexus of Big Media and Big Politics, and the climate and conditions we face heading into our most important national election in decades.
The first is simply this: change is possible.
Obama's extraordinary story--and the unprecedented speed of his rise to prominence -- should be all the proof one needs... But if you remain unconvinced, consider as well another extraordinary speech, the one given by our last "First Black President" Bill Clinton at this year's Democratic convention. As Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times, in Clinton's speech "one heard the fundamental difference between the two parties." And simply in seeing and listening to the man who spoke, as Krugman noted, "so eloquently , so seamlessly, that there was no sense that he was giving his audience a lecture," one couldn't help but reflect-- what a difference he represented from the stumbling clown who replaced him! Was it really only eight years ago that our leader was clearly intelligent and articulate, the country was at peace, and we enjoyed record prosperity and a half billion-dollar annual budget surplus?
Change is possible...
After all, we've seen it with our own eyes. More important, it can and does often come in an astonishingly short period of time...eight years since Clinton left office...four years since Obama emerged from nowhere to radically alter the very possibilities of American political life...and in that brief time, we've moved to a leader who can barely think or speak, total, seemingly unending war, and record annual deficits and an economy in a shambles except for the fat cats who have been skimming the cream off the top for eight years as the rest of us waited in vain for a few drops to 'trickle down... "As President Clinton brilliantly delineated, "Our nation is in trouble on two fronts: The American Dream is under siege at home, and America's leadership in the world has been weakened....They took us from record surpluses to an exploding national debt; from over 22 million new jobs down to 5 million; from an increase in working family incomes of $7,500 to a decline of more than $2,000; from almost 8 million Americans moving out of poverty to more than 5 and a half million falling into poverty - and millions more losing their health insurance."
Change is possible.... Figures like those underscore the change you can -and must - believe in, because it's real. But it's not too late to change it back...
Of course, those who still rely on the media meant to serve them--but intent instead on serving corporate masters and boosting their own careers - might miss the possibility--no, the reality - of change. After all, despite 'Flooding the Zone' with literally thousands of reporters, they still somehow end up 'Missing the Story!' At Obama's coming out, I wrote:
"The forty-two year old multi-culti pol with the Harvard Law degree and appealing, articulate manner would have stolen the show last night -- had there been a show to steal. Instead, the networks took the night off, and judging from the morning coverage, so did the major newspapers, which trumpeted instead Ted Kennedy "leading the attack" (as the Boston Globe phrased it.) The Globe and the Times, in particular, seemed to be drowning in minutia while "flooding the zone" with massive coverage of every possible party, personality, profile, sidebar, feature and folly, Meanwhile they missed the biggest story of the night: The First Black President."
It seemed glaringly obvious that, "Twenty years from now -- or less -- we will all be watching clips of Obama's keynote last night, as he accepts his party's historic nomination. Shout Obama-Lama!" Little did I know that my prediction would come true in the very next presidential cycle,
Change is possible...
Ironically, however, it may yet prove more difficult to change our media than to change our politics.. Despite using our licensed public airwaves, Big Media feels no compulsion to serve the public -- and so far Big Politics has let them get away with this anti-democratic rip-off.
So while it may be good for those of us adrift in the eddies of the Internet blogosphere. such as yours truly, it's unfortunate for the public that the mainstream media is so bad. Because four years ago, when "the story of the night was the ascension of Barack (which means 'blessed") Obama -- and Big Media, working hand-in-hand with Big Politics, missed the story."
Let's not let them miss it again this time. Here's the story - do what you will with it: Change is possible...but it's certainly not mandatory. It's in your hands now--not those of politicians and certainly not those of the media.