CBS Promotes Blog-Bashing Author
CBS Political Analyst Craig Crawford recently released a new book entitled Attack The Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against The Media and it was very well-received at CBS, which helped launch the book on The Early Show on Wednesday. Among the book's claims is that it is politicians and their supporters who are making it seem as though the Media is biased, and not that the media actually is biased. People claiming Media Bias are merely "attacking the messenger" instead of the message.
Crawford also has unkind words for bloggers, as he writes:
"Despite their faults, those who once set the national news agenda were committed to telling the truth. Maybe it was the truth as they saw it, and sometimes they delivered it with a left-leaning bias. But they did not deliberately spread lies....
"While there is more news to consume, there is no longer a consensus for truth in the news media. The major news organizations are under siege. They've been replaced by an agenda-driven rabble of pseudojournalists on the Web and on cable news networks. There are few outlets anyone can trust to give unbiased information.
"In the 2004 presidential campaign, Internet bloggers on both sides spread ridiculous lies about the opposing side's candidate. Hateful words and made-up stories filled the partisan websites. Rabid Democrats insisted that Bush and Cheney sent young Americans to their death in Iraq just to make money for Halliburton, the military services company that Cheney once ran. Equally rabid Republicans insisted that Kerry deliberately shot himself in Vietnam to win a war medal.
"The ideological zealots who spread such claims blamed media bias on any attempts by legitimate news outlets to debunk unfounded charges against either candidate. Supporters who believed the claims were primed to ignore reporting, instead putting their faith in baseless rumors spread on the Internet."
From the Book's Description (courtesy Amazon.com):
Politicians and the media are natural enemies, but in recent times, the relationship has exploded into all-out war. Think about bimbo eruptions, DUI arrests, cocaine parties, National Guard service records, Swift Boat veterans. Think about two generations of Bush presidents up against Dan Rather. Think about who lost. Craig Crawford has seen it all up close and personal, and he is disturbed by what he sees. When politicians turn the public against the media, everyone loses--especially unbiased and courageous news reporting. When veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas is banished from her front row post, as she has been in the current administration, the American public is denied the chance to consider her pointed questions, even if they go unanswered. Worse, when traditional reporters and media are displaced, the pundits and alternative media take over. Rush, the O'Reilly Factor, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, and the bloggers have their place in American politics, and the 2004 elections showed the incredible power of the Internet. These media, however, are a different breed, as Crawford points out--they serve a purpose, but at a cost. They become opinion merchants, bartering outrageous assertions for audience appeal with little attention to the truth. These days, the truth is hard to find. If the press is not believed--or believable--because politicians have turned the public against it, then the press is not free, but under the thumbs of politicians. Without a free press, there is no democracy. That, says Craig Crawford, is where we find ourselves today. If you don't like the news, attack the messenger, and it will go away. Going, going, gone.
In summary: The first turning point was George Bush Sr. starting the era of bashing the media with his contentious interview with Dan Rather. The next major event that weakened the power of the media was CBS's scandal over bogus documents about George W. Bush. Bush has kept up the bashing, says Crawford, by doing such things as "banishing" Helen Thomas (who had since become an opinion columnist) from harrassing Republicans from the front row of press conferences. Also, bloggers and radio media are to blame for paying "little attention to the truth" when calling out media bias (which doesn't really exist).
Fitting that CBS, with its fake National Guard memos being discredited by those who pay "little attention to the truth," would be promoting a book defending the the true vicitms: The Mainstream Media.
Noel Sheppard got the caption of the interview:
Rene Syler: Part of being a good politician involves deflecting blame away from yourself. According to our political analyst, Craig Crawford, who's also a columnist for "Congressional Quarterly," in recent years lawmakers have been pointing the finger of blame at the media. He writes about that in his new book, "Attack the Messenger." Craig, good to see you.
Crawford: Good to see you. Those cats were at my book signing. They would draw a crowd.
Syler: I want to ask you. Haven't politicians and the media always had somewhat of an adversarial relationship?
Crawford: Going back, Thomas Jefferson is in this book, some of his attacks on the messenger. Abraham Lincoln actually jailed reporters and closed the newsroom at the "New York Times" when he didn't like what they wrote.
Syler: So what's changed now?
Crawford: We've gone from conventional warfare to nuclear warfare. Politicians have refined so many techniques for manipulating the media, getting us out of the way distracting the public from the issues they don't want talked about. The media has done plenty wrong itself, brought problems on itself but I think less talked about is the role of politicians in taking advantage of that public distrust of the media.
Syler: What sticks out in your mind?
Crawford: I think recently after the Katrina coverage when the White House press corps in the White House press briefing room was trying to get some answers as to how the government was handling this, what had gone wrong, 15 times in that meeting the press secretary turned it on the media and said you're playing the blame game, don't play the blame game. Didn't answer the question. I remember the days when a politician wouldn't answer a question and we'd say, he didn't answer that question. What's the answer to that question? Now the tendency is more to focus on, what a rude question, how inappropriate, how insensitive of that reporter.
Syler: When you continue on and say, but you're not answering the question, then the public says, well, you're being rude and disrespectful.
Crawford: Being rude. I have a chapter in the book that says let us be rude again. That's our job.
Syler: How much are we helping in that we’re somewhat of an easy target?.
Crawford: Absolutely. What better target than attack someone who not only doesn't defend themselves very effectively or sometimes not at all but instead objectively reports the accusations against us and then we sit around media panels and say, yeah, we really are awful.
Syler: When you say we're not defending ourselves, what are we to do?
Crawford: I think many times we need to be more aggressive about putting out the context of things. For example, the terror alert recently for New York. In the beginning, I think there was reason to be skeptical about some of those alerts and eventually we were and there's been a lot of discussion about it. But at the same time, it's difficult because if we are, the politicians have become very good at saying, oh, you're unpatriotic or you're treasonous if you question, at least early on in a crisis type situation.
Syler: But that's our job, right? Isn't it our job to raise questions? We're the mouthpiece for -- asking the questions that the public can't ask questions because they don't have the same sort of access.
Crawford: That is what's broken down is the media as a representative of the public. Not everyone can be in Washington at a press briefing to ask their questions. We stand in their shoes. The public doesn't see it that way and that's the problem. There's so much distrust of the media, they don't see us representing their interests. They almost see us as another interest group representing ourselves.
Syler: I want to talk to you about some recent -- or some presidents and their handling the media. President Reagan.
Crawford: Very effective at deflecting questions, so much so that you might remember when he used to hold his hand up to his ear. And I think usually pretending not to be able to hear the question. The White House in those days liked for the public to see the media yelling questions at Ronald Reagan and him so courteous and it made the media look nasty and rude. But what the public didn't know is that was our only opportunity to ask him questions many times was when he was rolling by to the helicopter.
Syler: And of course President Clinton who made himself accessible to local but not necessarily national. Let me ask you this because I need to ask you about Harriet Miers and her nomination to the Supreme Court. Out today that she answered a questionnaire which was -- when she was running for Dallas city council by Texans United for Life saying she was anti-abortion. Is that going to be enough for Republicans who are concerned about her stance on that issue?
Crawford: I think many were concerned about her stance on that issue, but also there's a rising concern about her actual qualifications, her background, her writings in legal work. And her position in a role in the White House caused enough concern, less about her position on issues. Of course, the other thing this has done is given Democrats and pro abortion rights politicians in congress a reason to oppose her.
Syler: Craig Crawford, good to see you in person and not on the satellite. Good luck with the book. You can find an excerpt from "Attack the Messenger" on our website at cbsnews.com.