The “mainstream media” meme — roughly that major news outlets have a left-wing bias, or, in the more rabid incarnation, intentionally shill for the Obama administration — is the least true and most functional talking point in contemporary politics. Three quick events in the past week show why.
ONE: Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy rolled a clip last week of Eric Garner protesters chanting anti-NYPD rhetoric and said, “You’re not going to see that video on all the channels. There are members of the mainstream media, they stayed away from this because they’re on the side of the protesters.” It took this humble scribe under a minute to find CNN and MSNBC playing the clip in the previous days.
TWO: Fox News contributor Todd Starnes tweeted the following just before the memorial service for officer Rafael Ramos:
The MSM spent weeks covering the riots.You'd think they could spare a few hours to cover a police officer's funeral. #PoliceLivesMatter
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) December 27, 2014
Not even ballpark-close. As my colleague Josh Feldman pointed out, Fox was the one network that didn’t cover the funeral; CNN broadcasted the entire thing while MSNBC aired significant portions of it.
THREE: Conservative blogger Erick Erickson alleged:
If George Bush’s golf game disrupted a soldier’s wedding, it’s be front page and above the fold for at least three days.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 29, 2014
Again, a bizarre claim, as my colleague Matt Wilstein pointed out that the non-story was actually dominating the news in an otherwise slow news day.
The issue with these three instances is not so much the fact that they were untrue, but that they were so easily disproven. Doocy had merely to turn on a TV to know he was wrong; Erickson had only to check his Twitter feed (we know he does); and Starnes just had to turn on his own network. To maintain the points in the face of readily available counter-evidence suggests those making the claims never cared whether they were true, merely that they served the particular strawman function in question. That’s the difference between an argument and a talking point.
In fact Erickson is a great example. Erickson’s tweet bears marked similarity, and may even be an allusion to, a statement he made in 2008, cited in a profile this week by the Atlantic’s Molly Ball, in which Erickson said, “Obama could be a serial killing transvestite and the media would turn a blind eye.” That Erickson could make nearly identical points about the media six years apart without any cognizance of intervening events is the essence of ideology. Reality can change as much as it wants; the strawmen never bend.
[Image via screengrab]
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