I’m glad Howell Raines wrote a Washington Post op-ed excoriating his fellow establishment journalists for failing to “(blow) the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history.” But the op-ed itself is somewhat weak tea. When he decides to pick out a bit of egregious Fox up-is-downism, here’s how he does it:
This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.” Fox repeats this as gospel. But as a matter of historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News, this assertion ranks somewhere between debatable and untrue.
He then goes on to note that, in fact, Americans have repeatedly shown broad demand for reform of the health-care system. This just isn’t a really great example of Fox outrageousness. I’d guess Glenn Beck says stuff that’s more disgusting and more clearly contradicts factual reality approximately every ten minutes.
What Raines does do, and what I think is novel, is accuse establishment journalists of being cowed into meekness by Fox News’s money, and by its ability to destroy their careers in a collapsing news-media environment where revenue is gradually trending to zero. There’s a pretty radical analysis hiding in there somewhere. What Raines is essentially saying is that the mainstream for-profit media is dominated by the need to make money, and that what it feels able to say is determined by constraints set by corporate power. I wouldn’t have thought the Howell Raines who did so much to undermine mainstream liberalism in the ’90s would be taking up that line, but maybe he’ll end up on Bill Moyers’s side of things yet.
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