Hillary Clinton’s blind spot about the media

There is no question that the media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was atrocious, focusing endlessly on things like the email issue as if it was some huge nation-threatening scandal when at most it was an error of judgment that others had also committed. There can also be no question that part of it was fueled by the fact that she is a woman because the US is about half a century behind the rest of the world when it comes to accepting a woman as president.

But while she criticizes the coverage in her book, as Jon Schwarz points out, after all these years in politics she still does not seem to understand that this was not due to the media hating her personally (at least not entirely) but because of the way that the mainstream media is structured. She seems to think that the media was not doing its job when actually it was doing what it is designed to do, which was to make profits for its owners.

Generally speaking, when people fail to do their jobs in a spectacular way, they get fired. When they do their jobs, they’re not.

Who exactly in the corporate media has been fired for failing to provide the United States with in-depth, sober, fair-minded coverage of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and the minutia of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

No one.

Which suggests that the media did do its job. Moreover, I think the media performed incredibly well.

The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, et al., are gigantic corporations — in most cases owned by even larger ones. And the job of giant corporations is not to inform American citizens about reality. It’s not to play a hallowed role in the history of a self-governing republic. It’s to make as much profit as possible. That in turn means the corporate media will never, ever be “liberal” in any genuine sense, and will be hostile to all politicians who feint in that direction.

From that perspective, the media’s performance in 2016 was a shining, glorious success. As Les Moonves effused just as the primaries were starting, Trump’s campaign was “good for us economically. … Go Donald! Keep getting out there!” The entire Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmare, said Moonves, “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” CNN made $1 billion in profits during the election year, far more than ever before.

Schwarz says that Clinton’s blindness on this important issue seems inexplicable given that it is well known among media analysts, especially those on the progressive side of the spectrum.

Clinton’s inability to grasp this fundamental point is the central mystery of her condemnation of the media. No American politician has been personally brutalized for longer by the press’s relentless garbage tornado. Yet she somehow was surprised when it happened again in 2016, and came through that painful experience still believing the corporate media’s propaganda about itself.

Then there’s Clinton’s peculiar affection for the New York Times. Yes, she says, it has often viewed her “with hostility and skepticism,” but “I’ve read the Times for more than 40 years and still look forward to it every day. I appreciate much of the paper’s terrific non-Clinton reporting.” She doesn’t mention the paper’s terrific assistance to the George W. Bush administration’s campaign of deceit about Iraq, which might suggest the paper has some baked-in flaws.

Whenever someone tells me that they faithfully read the New York Times and that it is their main source of ‘reliable’ news, I immediately peg them as politically naïve and possessing a very narrow spectrum of knowledge, especially when they react with horror when I express my contempt for the paper. I recall about a decade ago when I was still working at the university, two representatives from the paper came to my office in order to promote a low-cost student subscription. They kept speaking as if having access to the paper was an undeniable good. They were stunned when I told them that I thought it was a pretty lousy paper. They never contacted me again.

Clinton thinks that the media hates her personally and treats her differently from everyone else and that, for example, if she had proposed a single-payer plan, she would have been questioned mercilessly on the details of the plan. But Schwarz says that the counter-example is staring her right in the face.

If Clinton’s right, no one would be asking those questions this week about Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All bill. But if she’s wrong, if the corporate media is fundamentally hostile not to her specifically but to progressive policies in general, reporters will in fact demand answers on this from Sanders repeatedly. All you need to do is open your computer browser to see it’s going to be the latter.

It is the neoliberal mindset that has given Clinton such tunnel vision. She is so steeped in it that she just cannot imagine any other world. It is as if she not only has never read any media analysis by Ben Bagdikian Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Robert McChesney, Norman Solomon, Robert Jensen, the website Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and a host of others about how the media really works, she does not seem to have even a passing acquaintance with their ideas.


  1. says

    Clinton thinks that the media hates her personally and treats her differently from everyone else and that, for example, if she had proposed a single-payer plan, she would have been questioned mercilessly on the details of the plan.

    She probably would have been questioned mercilessly because, when asked about it, her first reaction would be to tell some transparent temple-clutchingly obvious lie. Rather than just saying “my plan is a bunch of vague ideas like Trump and Bernie’s and we’ll get the details if I get elected” she’d say “we’ve been working on it for years, it’s 827 pages!” and everyone would be asking for it.

    Clinton’s problem is she can’t get out of her own way, and she’s too much in her own way to realize that that’s her problem. I hope she goes out of politics so Clinton’s not lingering like a bad smell trying to block other women from succeeding because it’s her turn damn it..

  2. says

    FWIW, I spent some time writing about Clinton’s email because, as someone who understands the technology she was transparently lying about, I knew she was lying. The email meant nothing. What bugged me was the casual way Clinton (who is not a world-class liar) assumed everyone was stupid. I’m not unused to politicians doing that, but I never like it. If Clinton had not had computer security issues to lie about, and had stuck to lying about ducking sniper fire and whatnot, I wouldn’t have minded (but the people who were there when she was not ducking the non sniper fire would have minded)

    Perhaps that’s a way of thinking of it. Trump shamelessly lies, whereas Clinton lied badly, about little stuff that was easily understood to be lies. Because of the detail, her lies were more easily understood than Trump’s, which were just blown off as Baghdad Bob-style bloviation. (Now that Trump’s president, it’s not so funny)

  3. Mano Singham says


    It seems to be customary that a party’s last presidential candidate remains relevant until they select the next one.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Hillary Clinton is still a relevant figure in American politics because…?

    Because she fucking says so.

    …because it’s her turn damn it.

    That, to me, always seemed the nub of what she thought qualified her to be the candidate.

  5. tomh says

    @ #3

    Who says she’s still relevant in American politics? She’s an historical figure, like Romney, Gore, and others who have lost a presidential election, written books, and had others write books about why they lost. I haven’t seen anyone claim she’s relevant in current American politics. It’s mostly Trump and the conservative media that are obsessed with her.

  6. Holms says

    She’s a talking head. Granted, she’s a special kind of talking head -- the sort that other talking heads mistake for a current and relevant politician -- but she’s one of them.

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