Ron Paul is getting more publicity out of not getting publicity in the wake of his virtual tie with Bachmann in the Ames poll than he’s gotten to date. Suddenly everyone’s noticing the “mainstream” media is trying very hard not to notice the twelve-term Texas congressman and libertarian icon, despite his success in quadrupling his previous Iowa showing and barely being edged out by Bachmann. Jon Stewart’s takedown of the Ron Paul media blackout is devastating, and, for the most part, funny. Barring that crack about Paul being “the ‘Patient Zero’ of the Tea Party” – likening tea partiers to HIV-positives is offensive on so many levels, I don’t know where to start – Stewart’s critique of the anti-Paul bias in the mainstream media is 100 percent accurate. Roger Simon, writing in Politico, found it “amazing” and “disturbing” that “Paul almost wins the thing and he remains poison.”
To us long-time Paul-watchers, who have witnessed this media blackout in operation for years – and are way beyond being merely “disturbed” by it – there is nothing in the least bit amazing about the media’s hostility to Paul. The latest snub is merely a repetition of what has been the Party Line, a line that – like Paul himself – crosses ideological boundaries, and Stewart’s takedown – which spliced together footage of both CNN and Fox News anchors, wearing identical smirks, disdainfully dismissing Paul – showed this red media/blue media united front in action.
Claims of media bias come from both sides of the political spectrum: the left has its Chomskyite analysis of the important role played by the media in “manufacturing consent,” and the right has been crying – with some justification – “liberal media bias” since time immemorial. Journalists used to not take any of this seriously, because they, after all, are objective observers – or at least they used to be, before the advent of advocacy journalism in the style of Fox News and MSNBC. The cable news industry still hides behind this disinterested façade, but with the changes in the news media itself this pretense is getting harder to defend.
I think Ron himself had the right analysis of how and why the media blackout is so brazen: As he told Simon:
“’They [the media] believe this guy is dangerous to the status quo,’ Paul said, ‘but that is a reason to be more energized… In his interview with me, Paul stressed his ‘peace’ message — he wants our troops brought home from foreign soil — and believes that and his fiscal conservatism will gain him supporters. ‘We are trying to reverse 100 years of history, the change from a republic to an empire, the change to tax and spending, who wants to admit that?’ Paul said. ‘Who wants to admit we don’t have to be policeman of the world?’”
Paul is correct to home in on his foreign policy views to explain why the “analysts” and Washington know-it-alls insist he “has no chance of winning the Republican nomination,” as the Wall Street Journal averred. The conventional wisdom is, as Aaron Blake put it so succinctly in the Washington Post:
“Despite his strong showing at Ames, Paul is still given virtually no chance to win the Republican nomination as his libertarian-leaning brand of politics and distance from most Republicans on foreign policy matters make it difficult for him to win over mainstream GOPers.”
A few lines down, however, and we read:
“Paul’s vote total was also three and a half times as large as his showing four years ago and almost 40 percent of the total vote he got in the 2008 Iowa caucuses – where turnout is usually more than 10 times as high as the straw poll. Paul also appears to be benefiting as the most full-throated opponent of U.S. involvement abroad from an increase in anti-war sentiment in the GOP.”
Either Paul’s anti-interventionist views virtually rule him out as a potential GOP presidential nominee, or else his views benefit him – Blake can’t have it both ways. That he’s desperately trying to is evidence of some confusion, as well as an ingrained bias. Confusion because journalists are not omniscient: they’re just ordinary people, who often don’t have the foresight to see new trends developing even as they are occurring – although you’d think that would be the core of a reporter’s job, especially one who specializes in politics. The breakdown of the right-left, red-blue, Fox-MSNBC paradigm is an ongoing process, one bound to take unexpected turns – and take many by surprise, up to and including those, like Paul, in the forefront of this trend.
I don’t think anyone has been more astonished by his success than Ron Paul. He is clearly thrilled at the sight of thousands of young people cheering him on and chanting “End the Fed!” at campus rallies across the nation. I don’t think he expected the outpouring of support that greeted his announcement: in fundraising capabilities alone, he’s a top tier candidate no matter what the Beltway pundits say.
The media’s refusal to report Paul’s growing support, beyond grudging acknowledgement that he’s come in from “the fringe,” reflects its institutional bias in favor of the right-left red-blue narrative that has, up until now, dominated American politics, and in which so much of the news industry is heavily invested. This narrative doesn’t allow for any significant deviations, and certainly not on the presidential level: all must submit to its tyranny, in spite of its archaic and increasingly obstructionist character. What it obstructs is any meaningful challenge to the functioning of the Welfare-Warfare State. If one party is in power, welfare is given more weight than warfare, if the other takes the throne, then welfare is given the axe. In any case, these two aspects of the modern American state are inextricably intertwined, as “defense” spending in the age of empire becomes just another dollop of pork to be ladled out to corporate and political interests – and welfare becomes a way to keep the disgruntled quiescent in wartime.
Think of the media as the Greek chorus to the two “majors,” with different media actors cheerleading one party and razzing the other – but never straying outside the bounds of the red-blue narrative, with its rigid definitions and litmus tests. This mindset is encoded in the two-party system, and institutionalized in our ballot access laws, which privilege the two “major” parties – the very same two parties that have led us down the path to endless war and imminent bankruptcy, and are now running away from their dual responsibility for the present crisis.
In this indirect but not insignificant sense, then, the “mainstream” media is an arm of the State, and, indeed, not only acts to police the political discourse, but reports government propaganda as if it were fact. We saw how this worked during the run-up to the Iraq war, when the Bush regime played the New York Times and its “mainstream” colleagues with ease, using the front page of the Times as a veritable bulletin board of government talking points. The Bush administration may have lied us into war, but the supposedly “liberal” media facilitated it in every possible way, acting like stenographers taking dictation rather than journalists out to discover the truth.
That these same people have a real problem reporting on a growing anti-war, anti-Washington movement fast taking hold in the GOP and in the general population is not at all surprising. That’s because the mainstream media is the enemy of all these things, invested as they are in sucking up to power and vaunting their role as court “intellectuals.” No one should be either amazed or disturbed that they’re downplaying the success of the system’s foremost opponent: after all, that’s their job.
Our job, here at Antiwar.com, is precisely the opposite. Our job is to expose the schemes and debunk the lies of the War Party and the apologists for Power. Back when the mainstream media were “reporting” Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” Antiwar.com reported the real facts: that there were no such weapons, as President Bush was forced to finally admit. The media fell for it because they wanted to fall for it: it made their job easier, it made them friends at court, and it gave them something exciting to write about. Doubters were sidelined as cranks, or Saddam sympathizers.
The media is a reliable instrument of government just as surely as if it were an official agency, like the Voice of America: it is owned by corporate entities entirely dependent on the good graces of government officials, and whose natural inclinations are to cozy up to Power rather than challenge it. That’s why the new internet-based media is so disturbing to these mandarins, whose opinions are no longer automatically elevated to holy writ. Antiwar.com is in the forefront of this new media wave – but we need your help to capitalize on this success and subvert the red-blue media narrative.
The “mainstream” media apologists for the status quo have deep corporate pockets, while we upstarts have some ways to go before we catch up, to put it in considerably understated terms. We depend on you, our readers, for the support we need to continue the kind of independent journalism so woefully lacking in the “mainstream.”
Yes, I know the economy is bad, and everyone is hurting – but this is important. This is our chance – our only chance – to break through the media blackout and take back our country from the War Party. Our job is never done, and yet we must interrupt it to raise the funds we need to carry on – because we have creditors demanding payment we couldn’t have put off launching our current fundraising drive another day. We must make our goal of $100,000 – a pittance compared to what the War Party spends. But then again we don’t have to spend millions, like they do, because we have the truth on our side.
No, we don’t need millions, but we do need thousands – one-hundred thousand, to be exact, and we can’t do it without you. For fifteen years, our readers have been our sole source of support. We don’t have any big foundations or eccentric billionaires giving us six-figure contributions: hundreds and by now thousands of individuals from every part of the political spectrum have sent in their tax-deductible contributions, and sustained us up until this point. This has guaranteed our editorial independence, but it makes us work harder in order to retain your support – support which, in my humble opinion, I think we’ve more than earned.
Now we’re asking our readers and supporters to come through again – and the need has never been greater. We’re working to undermine – and bypass – the same media bias that has sent news of Ron Paul’s success down the Memory Hole. They can’t bear that he’s rising in the polls because they can’t bear a world where their opinions and prejudices are not the received wisdom – so won’t you help us make life just a little bit more unbearable for them?
Please – give as much as you can, as soon as you can. The media is our enemy: this much we know. The question is: will we have the intelligence and perseverance to forge our own media, and take our case to the American people?
Our fate – the fate of peace and liberty in our time – is in your hands.