Interviews Available: Peter Hart on the Troubling Tropes of Campaign '08
NEW YORK - FAIR media analyst Peter Hart is available to discuss the
media-created storylines that derail election coverage.
Hart is the activism director at FAIR, a co-host and producer of
FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin,
a regular contributor to FAIR's magazine Extra!
and the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's
Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed.
In a forthcoming article for FAIR's magazine Extra!,
"Troubling Tropes of Campaign '08," he looks at how journalists have
based their evaluation of the race on shallow image-based narratives that the
media construct themselves:
1. John McCain, Straight-Talking Maverick
Despite a recent voting record that makes him one of the Senate's most
conservative lawmakers, the press has clung fiercely to the notion that, as U.S. News & World Report put it,
"McCain is nothing if not a maverick."
2. Barack Obama, Elitist Snob
The media have singled out Senator Barack Obama, a multi-racial former
community organizer raised by a single mom as an "elitist," rather
than his Republican opponent, who is the son and grandson of four-star admirals
and the husband of a multimillionaire, with New
York Times columnist David Brooks going so far as to question
whether Obama "know[s] anything about the way American people actually
3. The 'Smearing' of Sarah Palin
The nomination of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin has given right-wing pundits the
opportunity to perfect their well-worn technique of "working the
refs" by complaining about liberal media bias in order to cow journalists
into backing off.
4. John McCain, 'National Security Pro'
Despite the fact that Sen. John McCain's judgments and predictions about the
key foreign policy issue of our time--the Iraq War--have frequently been way
off base, it is widely accepted in the media that McCain has "vast foreign
policy expertise and credibility on national security," as NBC anchor Brian Williams put it.
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5. Shifting to the Right Is 'Smart Politics'
For years, the media's advice to Democratic politicians has remained the same:
Move to the right to win. Much of the media enthusiasm for Obama has come when
the candidate has made real or perceived rightward shifts, on issues like FISA
wiretapping or trade policy.
6. Obama Wins, Sharpton/Jackson Lose
Since Obama emerged on the national political stage, some media figures have
looked favorably at his ability to sideline African-American political figures
the pundits just don't like. As Peter Beinart put it in the New Republic (2/5/07): "For
many white Americans, it's a twofer. Elect Obama, and you not only dethrone George W.
Bush, you dethrone Sharpton, too."
7. No War (in Campaign Coverage)!
With the media having adopted the notion that the troop "surge" in Iraq has worked, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have all but disappeared
from the media's campaign coverage.
8. False Balance
Media "fact-check" reporting often bends over backwards to choose an
equal number of falsehoods or distortions from each side--which can give voters
a misleading impression of the prevalence of political lying when one side is
obviously more guilty of exaggerations.
9. Misreading the Polls
Corporate journalists are notoriously obsessed with largely meaningless
horserace polls that attempt to predict the outcome of elections; at the same
time, they seem to have little interest in using polls for the one purpose they
could actually serve--to check their own speculations about what people are
10. Fundraising Double Standards
Obama faced a significant backlash from the press over his decision not to
accept public financing, but reporters were far less interested in the details
of McCain's campaign fundraising.
11. Obama's Dubious Associates
When it comes to Obama's dubious
"associates," it would seem no connection is too peripheral--or even
nonexistent--to merit national media attention.
Full article is available at: http://www.fair.org/index.php?
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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled.