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Morning Bell: Media Watchdog Has No Bark

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Unread 09.15.09, 05:10 AM
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Morning Bell: Media Watchdog Has No Bark

On 09.15.09 04:59 AM posted by Mike Gonzalez

In the age of Obama, the media formerly known as mainstream can remind one of 19th century British literature. Pride and Prejudice sometimes, of course, but more often a favorite Sherlock Holmes story, Silver Blaze. In it, the famous sleuth has the following exchange with Inspector Gregory:
Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

The media, you see, used to have something called a “watchdog” role in this country, by which it was understood that they worked for society and protected it against those in power, preventing abuse. But as with the Sherlock Holmes case of the “dog that didn’t bark,” old traditional media such as the New York Times, network television, National Public Radio and PBS, are not doing much, if anything, to keep those in power in check. For that today, one has to rely on blogs and popular outlets such as FOX News. In fact, FOX News gets labeled as conservative for merely fulfilling this obligation.

The New York Times, for example, ran zero—that’s right, zero—stories on Van Jones, the Obama Administration “green jobs” Czar before he was forced to quit last weekend. It was left to investigative reporting by conservative bloggers, amplified by FOX News, to reveal that Jones had signed a petition accusing the Bush administration of allowing 9/11 to happen so they could have a pretext to wage war on Iraq. This was a man with real power and real budget authority. In fact his department’s budget nearly doubled the total annual budget for NASA. But not only did the New York Times or the networks never devote any resources to investigate, even after the revelations of his obvious instability came to light, the traditional media outlets sat on the story.

Much, much worse, has been the silence on ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the community shakedown artists for whom President Obama worked with when he was a community organizer. ACORN also has real power—it was going to work with*the Department of Commerce*on the 2010 Census—and receives tens of millions of dollars annually in tax payer money.

It was left to a couple of 20-somethings working for the new BigGovernment.com site to break omerta on ACORN by releasing videos of ACORN employees conspiring to help avoid taxes for a criminal enterprise. Thanks to these new media types, last night, in an 83-7 vote, the Senate voted to strip all funding of ACORN from the transportation housing and urban development appropriations bill.

Why didn’t the old media report on Jones, or ACORN? Where was 60 Minutes, or 20/20? And where are all the old media on the tea party protestors? Why do they keep denigrating them, emphasizing how angry they are, or how they are unrepresentative of the public? When was the last time tens of thousands of people showed up on the steps of the Capitol, less than a year after an election, to speak up against out of control federal spending? Many across all sides of the spectrum are taking note. One of the left’s sharpest minds, Camille Paglia, observed in an article in Salon last week that:
Too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web—both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights.

No wonder that, according to Pew Research this week, two thirds of Americans do not trust the media, the lowest ranking ever. And no wonder that Glenn Beck, the FOX*commentator who went after the Jones story, gets 2.6 million viewers every day, while his closest competitor at the same time slot gets 600,000 on a good day.

The old media is busy keeping the administration accountable—the Bush Administration, that is. NPR this morning had another long piece on the investigations into Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft. Trouble is, the Bush administration is no longer in power.

In the case of the dog that didn’t bark, the pooch stayed silent because it was friendly with the man who committed the transgression. Today the left has all the power, controlling the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the media in all the above-named outlets are acting like adoring supporters. Is that the reason this watchdog isn’t barking?

Democracy, Thomas Jefferson believed, could only survive if the populace was informed, and that, he believed, was the job of newspapers. Thank God, at least, for those media still doing their jobs.

Quick Hits:
  • Facing intensifying scrutiny, ACORN is threatening to sue Fox News, the website Breitbart.com and the two conservative activists who produced the exposes.
  • According to a new Gallup poll taken after President Obama’s health care address, six in 10 Americans say Obama’s proposal, if enacted, would not achieve his goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans without raising taxes on the middle class or lowering the quality of health care. And for the first time, a majority disapproves of the way he’s handling health care policy.
  • Democrats will step carefully around the immigration issue when they seek to scold Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) today for his breach of decorum at last week’s address.
  • The prospect of a trade war with China fueled fears of wider fallout Monday, rattling bond markets and prompting many economists to criticize President Obama’s decision to slap import tariffs on Chinese-made tires.
  • In a forceful and lengthy brief filed with a federal appeals court in Washington today, the Obama Administration embraces with gusto Bush Administration arguments that the courts should stay out of matters involving prisoners held at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

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