The Media’s Populist Rage

Thank you, Joe Klein:

There is a real crisis out there. It has existed for a while. It has been spreading slowly as factory after factory has shut down, as the gap between rich and poor ballooned, as the rich found ways to get richer betting on exotic financial instruments with all the economic substance of a roulette wheel, as the middle class found it harder to pay for college, for health care, for gasoline.

But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television–as opposed to people with actual grievacnes [sic]. Suddenly, the White House press corps goes barking mad over the AIG Bonuses. It is said that the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that the “public” can understand; in truth, the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that reporters can understand. Suddenly, the Obama Administration has a “crisis.” The President has to go on television and act as if he’s angry, even though he knows these bonuses are the tiniest outcropping of outrageousness.

Which is why it’s nearly impossible anymore to not roll one’s eyes at the news personalities that one “agrees with”.  Even Chuck Todd is asking inane questions of the president.  Last night he pushed Obama on what he would like to call upon Americans to sacrifice — as if Americans haven’t already sacrificed enough.  Or won’t continue to sacrifice.  That’s really the best question Todd thought to ask?

I’m sure many of you have seen it already, but the Times printed a resignation letter today from an employee of AIG’s Financial Products division to Edward Liddy.  It certainly reminds us all that there are two sides to every story.  And that coloring every aspect of the economic crisis with the same brush is both unfair and dangerous.

A few weeks ago, Joe Scarborough wondered aloud on Morning Joe whether or not the news media had incorrectly guessed the economic stimulus bill was unpopular with the American public when the poll numbers showed people overwhelming favored the bill.  Here again we have the news media jumping to conclusions, assuming that Americans are ready to riot in the streets because of AIG bonuses.

Where were these news analysts when America was trudging toward war?  Where were they to say “I think the American people are going to riot in the streets because our government is telling bald-faced lies about going to war with Iraq”?


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