Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why these stories about the Clintons?

Last week, the New York Times published a pretty pointless and vapid feature about the Clintons that seemed to suggest they have a "cold," marriage. We're supposed to care becayse Hillary might run for President in 2008 and because Gore might run too and because there is a sense in the air that the reaction to 8 years of Bush will result in popular nostalgia to return to Clinton's pretty effective tenure in office.

The Times story has sparked a lot of discussion about whether or not the media is tougher on Democrats than Republicans and about why Bush, who has now brought us into two wars, one on a dubious pretext, and who might be leading us to a third with Iran, has gotten an easier ride in the press than Clinton did, and that the Clintons are even getting now. If you want to see the whole debate ably presented in one lengthy, but well written article, click these words because Jamison Foser at Media Matters has done just that.

Ironically, Media Matters is the organization set up by the reformed David Brock, who brought the consverative magazine, "The American Spectator" to prominence in the 1990s by writing dishonest attack articles on Anita Hill and on the Clintons.

My take is that complaints about the media giving Bush a much easier time than it gave Clinton are totally true and valid. For some writers, like Brock during the 1990s, the attacks were motivated by politics and, as Brock described them in his very revealing and still worth reading confessional book "Blinded by the Right," a desire to use the media to remove the Clintons from office.

But, Brock's story aside, the question remains: At the level of writers and editors at influential publications, is there a bias against the Clintons specifically and against the center-left in general?

Well, I've been working in New York media for nearly seven years now and I've met a lot of writers and editors and the people I've met almost universally love the Clintons. For one thing, we're all New Yorkers. We're the people who, when Hillary moved here from Arkansas and said she wanted to be our Senator, gave her overwhelming support. Had she actually wound up running against Giuliani, I have to admit that, even in retrospect, the result would have been too close to call, but even if she had lost, she'd have garnered so many votes that you could say, beyond all argument, that New York accepted and supported her. The Clintons are rock stars in these parts and a lot of the writers and editors we're talking about here are from these parts. It's just not credible to claim that the majority of writers and editors living and working in New York have an agenda to undermine the Clintons, or progressives in general. Most of them are progressives, after all, and most of them love the Clintons.

So, how to explain the rough Clinton ride in the press?

First, you have to set aside people with 1990-Brockian ambitions as a special case. They're out there and they're really writing to undermine Bill and Hillary. But, they're in the minority.

I suggest, as a possible explanation, the "Brangelina Factor." Most of the people writing and editing in these parts really like the Clintons and thus, really want to write about them. So, they get a chance, a tip, a premise, and maybe it's about a vapid subject like "What's the Clinton sex life like?" but, they want to write about the Clintons and that's what they have and so... they do. I'm not saying that's a good thing. Indeed, it's as absurd as all the coverage about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie but, like those actors, the Clintons are rock stars. In the end, all of us in the media want to write about rock stars. It really is true that a trivial story about a prominent subject will get better play than a substantive story about an obscure subject.

I'm not defending the press here. This is a true failure of thought and action. A good story has real impact, after all. It's about something important. How often Bill and Hill get their groove on together is not at all important.

But, I suggest that the problem with the media coverage that we're discussing here has less to do with politics and, sadly, a lot to do with "star fucking."


At 7:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should be asking whether Bush ever stopped drinking. Google for a video of him speaking at a debate in 1994. He's quite articulate. What happened since? Is it brain damage or the effects of his current abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. Did he really choke on a pretzel or did he pass out from drink?


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