John Kerry may have conceded the White House to George W. Bush, but millions of Americans have not.
My inbox is engorged with some of their emails claiming that the election was hijacked. There are appeals to "bombard" the Ohio secretary of state over the provisional ballots, pleas for "emergency funds" to force state recounts plus entreaties for "first-hand'' anecdotes for a book on election irregularities.
But you wouldn't know anything was out of the ordinary from most of the mainstream media (MSM).
Since Nov. 2, they've produced plenty of post-vote pontification over "moral values," predictions on future White House appointments and premature speculation on who will run against whom in 2008.
Meanwhile, there's practically nothing on the issue consuming my bandwidth and clogging my computer.
The Nation's David Corn feels my pain.
"The election's been stolen! Fraud! John Kerry won!" he writes in the latest issue. "In the (post-election) days, these charges flew over the Internet. The basic claim was that the early exit polls — which showed Kerry ahead of George W. Bush — were right; the vote tallies were rigged. Could this be? Or have ballot booths with electronic voting machines become the new Grassy Knoll for conspiracy theorists?"
Yes ... and no.
No because, in many jurisdictions, including the contentious Ohio and Florida, real problems have been reported. Some local MSM (e.g. the Cincinnati Inquirer) and all kinds of websites (http://www.votersunite.org, to name one) have documented incidences of machine malfunctions, discrepancies between exit poll results and actual votes, "disappeared" votes, "extra" votes and other problems.
Yes because, thanks to a patchwork system of machine and paper ballots, a vast and confusing array of irregularities are turning up in many different counties. That means little coherence and much chaos, propelling wild rumours around the cyberspace, along with legitimate accounts of trouble.
But is that any reason to discount the story? What little MSM reporting there is of the irregularities is done with the intent of discrediting any potential case, however flimsy, against certifying the election results.
"Mocking us as `spreadsheet-wielding conspiracy theorists,' (Washington) Post reporters Manuel Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating signalled their determination to put questions about Bush's victory outside the bounds of responsible debate," noted Sam Parry of http://www.consortiumnews.com on Friday, before launching into a post-mortem of the paper's "sloppy mistakes and untrue assertions."
lso on Friday, the New York Times took a crack at the votejacking charges only to conclude that there is no there there.
"I'd give my right arm for Internet rumours of a stolen election to be true," David Wade, a Kerry campaign spokesperson, tells the paper. "But blogging it doesn't make it so."
This brings us to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, host of the best, although not best-rated, weeknight hour on U.S. cable. His Countdown With Keith Olbermann (at 8 and midnight) is a smart and snarky look at the day's events, with little of the spin you typically find on TV.
Not surprising, then, that Olbermann has been almost a lone voice in the MSM's treatment of voting irregularities, earning him hero status in blogistan.
Last Tuesday night, he asked Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford if "every news organization (gave) up on this story the moment John Kerry conceded the election." He got this reply:
"The glib answer, which is part of the truth, is I think everybody was tired after that election. And it was a gruelling one. And so, since John Kerry — and this is the second factor — since Kerry conceded, there wasn't the great desire to run out to Columbus or wherever and try to figure this stuff out. And the concession is the key, because we're often wimps in the media. And we wait for other people to make charges, one political party or another, and then we investigate."
Which once again confirms how journalism is dead while stenography lives and thrives.
Just like they did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the media are not asking the questions they should be asking.
I am not saying that, given all the irregularities put together, the election outcome would be any different. I am just wondering why there's been precious little probing of the problems and how they must be fixed before the next election.
Of course, driving all these charges of election hijacking is a healthy dose of paranoia based on the all-too-real 2000 election mess. Mix in bewilderment over how so many Americans swallowed the Bush administration lies about 9/11 and Iraq with a generous helping of sore loserdom — and you have the perfect recipe for a conspiracy theory.
But this is one cow pie that stinks to high heaven. You have to wonder why the media aren't sniffing around it.
© 2004 Toronto Star