Friday, December 23, 2005


Media-Manufactured Controversies: 2005 Year in Review

From NRO:
So apparently Bush authorized the NSA to listen in on phone calls to and from numbers with known terrorists ties. Great. It was about time.

Why is this controversial? I come home and the Democrats and the press are acting like Bush declared himself dictator-for-life and had Alan Dershowitz publicly executed.

This episode got me thinking, and in the spirit of the year-in-review round-ups everyone likes to do in December, I would like to present: Media Manufactured Scandals — the Year that Was:

The press whips up a frenzy over the $40-million cost of Bush's inauguration. The AP runs a story that asks, "With that kind of money, what could you buy?" and answers:

200 armored Humvees with the best armor for troops in Iraq.

Vaccinations and preventive health care for 22 million children in regions devastated by the tsunami.

A down payment on the nation's deficit, which hit a record-breaking $412 billion last year.
400,000 pairs of tennis shoes for the indigenous fisherfolk of Barangay Wawa! Prescription drugs for diabetic elderly transgenders in border communities! All the wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

The Washington Times put an end to this fun when it reported that "a review of the cost for past inaugurations shows Mr. Bush's will cost less than President Clinton's second inauguration in 1997, which cost about $42 million. When the cost is adjusted for inflation, Mr. Clinton's second-term celebration exceeds Mr. Bush's by about 25 percent."

The press goes to war against President Bush's pitch for Social Security reform, declaring in story after story that the goal of the plan is to return America to the Great Depression. The AARP portrays Bush as an uncaring man who thinks America's seniors should live on catfood, although they have a hard time articulating this message with their mouths full of Medicare-subsidized antihypertensives and viagra.

Read more

It becomes impossible to turn on the TV without seeing Terri Schiavo, although the politicians hardly acquitted themselves any better than the media during that national nightmare.

The media try to whip up a scandal about Tom DeLay, with the NY Times and the Washington Post teaming up to report old news on the same day. First, the Times reports that DeLay's wife and daughter are on his campaign's payroll. Given that his wife and daughter work for his campaign, this is about as shocking as discovering that I receive payments from National Review (which is pretty shocking, but beside the point). The same day, the Post reported that a trip DeLay took to Russia might have been funded in part by Russian lobbyists. The Post reported on the shocking quid pro quo that resulted:

Unlike some House conservatives who scorn [support for the International Monetary Fund] as "corporate welfare," DeLay proved to be a "yes" vote for institutions bolstering Russia in this period. For example, DeLay voted for a bill that included the replenishment of billions of dollars in IMF funds used to bail out the Russian economy in 1998.
Aha. So DeLay visited Russia, after which he voted "yes" on a routine funding bill for the IMF after it had already bailed out Russia. Congratulations, Washington Post. Another open-and-shut case.

Newsweek reports that several Korans have been flushed down the toilet at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Dozens were killed and injured in the ensuing riots in the Middle East, and shortly thereafter Newsweek's source on the story backed off from his report. The ensuing investigation found that such claims had no basis in fact, although it did find several incidents of detainees defacing each other's Korans.

Anybody remember the Downing Street Memos? The press, after being reprimanded by the left for ignoring the memos, tried to make them an issue by running a number of stories about them in June. But nobody understood why they should matter, and the press immediately dropped them when the CIA leak investigation became the scandal du jour in...

When special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald forced Time's Matthew Cooper to testify and jailed NY Times reporter Judith Miller, the media started focusing all their attention on the case. As press personalities painted the White House as an organized crime syndicate worse than the mob, they also defended Judith Miller's decision to protect her anonymous source -- a defense that coincided with a deluge of speculation fueled by enigmatic statements from "lawyers familiar with the case."

Even the power of a story that allowed the press to bash the White House and navel-gaze at the same time could not compete with the chance to exploit a dead soldier and his mother on 24-7 cable TV. Yes, August was the month of Sheehan, in which reporters transformed a crazy anti-American radical into a "soft-spoken woman" on a quest for answers, all the while making fun of President Bush for taking a vacation when he clearly should have been discussing Iraq policy with the irrational and tendentious protesters on his lawn.

After a category 5 hurricane hit the city of New Orleans, a structural flaw in a levee design approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1990s resulted in a catastrophic flooding of the city. Showing its newfound dedication to "holding people accountable," CNN reports that President Bush's decision to start holding tee-ball tournaments on the White House lawn contributed to the wind patterns that spun the hurricane towards the residents of New Orleans. Wolf Blitzer connected the dots, observing that these residents were "So poor and so black."

Joseph Wilson makes a triumphant return to the airwaves when Scooter Libby is indicted for lying to a grand jury. Not content to report the story of a White House aide who allegedly perjured himself and obstructed justice, the media signed on to the Democrats' agenda of re-debating the issue of pre-war intelligence, starting with breathless coverage of Harry "Granny" Reid and Dick "Turban" Durbin as they throw the Senate into closed session on the first day of...

The media go into hysterics when the LA Times reports that the U.S. military has been paying Iraqi newspapers to promote good news about Iraq. Joe Wilson immediately calls for an investigation into who leaked this classified national security information.

Which brings us back to where we started this post. We're listening to terrorists' phone calls. I can't for the life of me understand why I should be upset by this. But I'm sure, in the coming weeks, the media will do their best to convince me I should be.

Of course, this is only a partial list that I put together this morning. There's plenty I'm sure I missed and plenty of days left in the year for the media to manufacture more scandal. Please send me an e-mail if you think of a good one and I'll be posting additional nominees occasionally for the rest of the year.

[ 12/20/2005 09:06 AM ]


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