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The Liberal Media and False Dichotomies

Politico has an article that details the allegedly terrible choice faced by liberals in the media now that Obama has been reelected. Should they keep being a mindless attack dog or should they start going after Obama on the many ways he has failed, or even betrayed, a progressive agenda?

For the better part of four years, progressive media has had President Barack Obama’s back.

Now that he’s won re-election, it is faced with a choice: Should the left continue always to play the loyal attack dog against the GOP, blaming the opposition at all hours of the news cycle for intransigence? Or, should it redirect some of that energy on the president, holding him to his promises and encouraging him to be a more outspoken champion of liberal causes?

But this is a false choice, as it has been for four years, and I think it only partially applies to progressives in the media (I’m thinking of many of the MSNBC hosts and liberal columnists). Certainly it’s true that many of them have advanced criticisms that benefit Obama and the Democrats politically, like the absurd blowup over Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment (which was actually a perfectly reasonable statement ripped out of context to make it look like he was saying something entirely different — and yes, Republicans did the same thing with Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement). That’s just basic political tribalism and few of us avoid it entirely.

But I also saw many liberal commentators — Rachel Maddow, Glenn Greenwald and many others — rightly hammering Obama over a whole range of important issues, including indefinite detention, the use of drones, the state secrets privilege and much more. That did not prevent them from also criticizing the innumerable crazy criticisms offered by the right (mostly because they couldn’t make the same criticisms that the left was making of Obama). So this is a false choice — a good commentator should criticize Obama for his many failures and criticize the right for their mostly fact-free and irrational arguments against him.

Comments

  1. Abby Normal says

    It’s also an example of begging the question, taking for granted that the liberals have been “mindless attack dogs.” It’s like that old schoolyard jape, “Do your parents know you’re gay?” Ed sort of addressed this in his response. But I wanted to explicitly point out the fallacy.

  2. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    That’s the really frustrating thing about our current political process. There’s so many perfectly legitimate things to criticize them about. Why is the media so obsessed with taking sound bites out of context and hyping those, when the candidates are perfectly skewerable on the points they state clearly and plainly?

  3. comfychair says

    ‘Progressive media’? You mean like Democracy Now? They’ve been appropriately and aggressively examining Obama’s faults since the very beginning.

    But since they are the actual faults, and not the ones where Obama, Bill Ayers, the corpse of Josef Stalin and the space lizards under Area51 have gay blood orgies on the dark side of the moon every weekend, it’s seen as ‘pro-Obama bias’.

    Also, what more can you say about Politico after Charlie Pierce’s nickname for it – Tiger Beat on the Potomac – has taken up permanent residence in your head?

  4. says

    Stevarious, because meaningful skewering and political commentary takes thought and time. Sound-bite sensationalizing is quick, easy, and it sells ad space. Who has time to consider the long term ramifications of a more aggressively militaristic foreign policy in the Middle East? We have to worry about what Lindsey Lohan is up to and get feedback from our viewers on Twitter!

  5. says

    This would be the same “Politico” that had an article about John “I am entitled to use Gummint resources to go stamp collectin’” Sununu’s charge that Obama’s base was motivated by the knowledge that they had to elect him to continue to receive their cadillacs and crack vouchers? The article that ran with no disclaimer that his charge was completely baseless? That “Politico”?

    Yeah, I thought so. I can’t get too fucking worked up by anything those folks have to say.

    I’m sure that Politio’s editors are entirely unaware of this:

    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/12/04/Ailes-encouraged-Petraeus-to-run-for-prez/UPI-67551354603737/

    Otoh, I’m sure that MSNBC did EXACTLY the same thing, but, what? Oh, they didn’t, okay, nothing to see here, move along.

  6. Kevin nyc says

    “like the absurd blowup over Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment”

    hmm.. that was a fairly short term item.. and it was close to the mark,since he really did fire people… and far from realistic for sick people to fire their insurance company, esp. if they got insurance from work.. so I think making fun of Romney for that was valid..

    OTOH.. the repubs made “You didn’t build that” the centerpiece of their convention… and it really was a distortion of what Obama said, being about bridges and all… and the original comment was essentially true.. .

    so I don’t think that is a valid offset.. and did the actual Obama campaign hype that? because Romney was all over his side..

  7. barrydecicco says

    ““I like being able to fire people” comment (which was actually a perfectly reasonable statement ripped out of context to make it look like he was saying something entirely different — and yes, Republicans did the same thing with Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement). That’s just basic political tribalism and few of us avoid it entirely.”

    IIRC, Romney was talking about it in the context of people firing their insurance companies if they didn’t like the coverage (as in, when the found out that their insurance was leaving them in the lurch for tens of thousands of dollars of treatment).

    IOW, something that those of us not worth a hundred million dollars can never do.

  8. Alverant says

    “I like being able to fire people” comment (which was actually a perfectly reasonable statement ripped out of context to make it look like he was saying something entirely different ..”

    Given how Rmoney smiled when he talked about some of his past jobs, I would say his “I like being able to fire people” is an accurate statement in his case.

  9. comfychair says

    If your insurance company denies treatment for your sick child, and the child dies, well, this is a free country and nobody is stopping you from birthing another one, or even adopting to replace the defective one you lost. And when it comes time to get insurance for the replacement child, you’re free to shop around for the best deal if for some reason you’re not pleased with service provided by the original insurer. (Plus, insurance companies that refuse to waste their hard-earned money on pointless ‘medical’ procedures for clearly lost causes are shining examples of the best parts of the Free Market, and should be praised for their rugged individualism and refusal to be bullied into Socialist-style handouts to the undeserving.)

    Similarly, if you eat at a restaurant that adheres to Free Market principles and refuses to comply with onerous big government regulations that serve only to stifle innovation and prosperity, and you get botulism poisoning and die, you’re free to not eat there again.

    And that, my friends, is why this is the greatest country on earth.

  10. slc1 says

    OT but I notice that there is an ad for Koo Koo Ken Cuccinelli for governor, at least for Virginia residents. Everybody click on it to help reduce the assholes’ campaign funds.

  11. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Politico said it?

    It’s a plate of particularly fetid, liquidy shit then, but has a cute little paper flag awkwardly stuck in it that says “Serious & Objective!”

    Politico makes Faux and CNN look downright honest.

  12. lofgren says

    Romney was talking about it in the context of people firing their insurance companies if they didn’t like the coverage

    Exactly. There were some assholes who took this and implied it meant that he enjoys firing people for no reason. But there was also a lot of accurate criticism that pointed out that for most people the insurance company serves their employer, and the only real option for “firing” their insurance company is getting a new job. It’s a perfect example of how completely out-of-touch Romney way. That plus his suggestion that $250,000/year is “probably” an average income in this country (the fact that he didn’t know the average income of the country he wants to lead is at least as bad as how inflated the figure was) were two of his most appalling displays of entitlement, that should have told anybody who doesn’t make $250,000 all they need to know about Romney’s perspective and priorities. The 47% remark was just the clincher.

  13. speed0spank says

    My favorite liberal news show is The Young Turks and they hammer Obama harder than most right wing hosts if you only count real and factual critiques rather than delusional scare-mongering.

  14. says

    “There were some assholes who took this and implied it meant that he enjoys firing people for no reason.”

    Given that Romney’s a guy who puts his own dog on the roof of his car I think, “enjoy” may not be a word that he even understands. If he actually had a soul he would have sold it a long time ago. He’s shit with legs.

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