Friday, October 27, 2006

Almost Beneath Contempt

Readers of guy2k and capitoilette know that I have been decrying the precipitous decline of ABC News—mostly through my distaste for the infotaining of Nightline—for most of the year. But, in recent weeks, as the approaching midterm elections cross storylines with the release of The Way to Win, a book co-authored by ABC political director Mark Halperin, it seems the alphabet gang has redoubled its effort to out-FOX FOX.

Don’t believe me? Well, don’t take my word for it, here’s Halperin himself, appearing earlier this week on The O’Reilly Factor:

O’REILLY: “Factor follow-up” segment tonight, a somewhat surprising ABC News Internet posting. It’s entitled “How the Liberal Old Media Plans to Cover the Last Two Weeks of the Election.”

The article was written by Mark Halperin, the political director of ABC News, and also the co-author of a brand new book called “The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008.” Mr. Halperin joins us from New York.

This is a very tough piece of analysis that you wrote. I’m surprised. I’m not stunned, because you are a gutsy guy. You have done this before. But let’s walk through it. Who is the liberal old media?

MARK HALPERIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, ABC NEWS: Well, Bill, as you know in this country, we’ve got these old news organizations. The major networks, ABC, where you used to work, The New York Times, The Washington Post.

These organizations have been around a long time. And for 40 years, conservatives have looked with suspicion at them. I think we’ve got a chance in these last two weeks to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances. We’re going to try to do better, but these organizations still have incredible sway. And conservatives are certain that we’re going to be out to get them. We’ve got to fix that.

O’REILLY: All right, so you’re actually admitting, you the political director of ABC News, that CBS News, maybe your own network tilts left?

HALPERIN: We write in the way to win (INAUDIBLE) that over the years, there a lot of examples. What CBS News did in the 2004 election with the president’s National Guard record. Lots of examples.

If I were a conservative, I understand why I would feel suspicious that I was not going to get a fair break at the end of an election. We’ve got to make sure we do better, so conservatives don’t have to be concerned about that. It’s just - it’s not fair.

To make good on his word, Halperin and his ABC buddies have broadcast a slew of stories that cause the jaw to drop and the mind to boggle in way we used to reserve for the claptrap seen on Fox News. There is a great list over at Media Matters, but let me just give you a few headlines:

To back up claims of a "liberal media," ABC's Halperin said liberal 527s "spent millions" attacking Bush, but falsely suggested there were no similar groups on the right

On Good Morning America, Hannity offered a host of misinformation to attack Michael J. Fox

ABC's Nightline reported that "both sides" are airing "mudslinging" campaign ads, yet Nightline could not point to a single Democratic example

ABC pre-emptively criticized Democrats for negative campaign ads that have not yet been produced

ABC's Roberts and Stephanopoulos juxtaposed Michael J. Fox's stem cell ad in MO Senate race with RNC's fearmongering bin Laden ad

I saw the two pieces on campaign ads (and you can watch the clips if you follow the Media Matters link above), and, along with being noticeably right of center, they were remarkably crappy pieces of journalism—kind of ET for ugly people. And, even if you subscribe (foolishly) to the notion that because the pieces imply both sides engage in mudslinging, it makes the piece “unbiased,” ABC is still doing the RNC’s bidding. By implying that politics is a cesspool, and everybody is dirty, potential voters become disenchanted: they’re all crooks, so why bother?

Such a mood suppresses the vote, and suppressing the vote has been part of the Republican game plan for decades. Whether it’s carping about voter “fraud,” opposing innovations like motor voter, “cleansing” voter roles, or advocating for fewer polling places, you find a Republican on the side of making it harder for people to vote.

That’s not news. Well, not to me—and apparently not to Halperin, either, since you won’t find a story about Republican voter suppression on ABC. . . or on any other establishment network, for that matter.

But it’s one thing to fail to report on voter suppression—it’s another to be an agent of it. Halperin has been in this business long enough to know that. Hell, he wrote the book on it.


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