Saturday, September 1, 2012

Instapundit/Althouse 2 - MSM 0


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The blogosphere has officially rendered the MSM commentariat obsolete.

It's like the difference between renting a videotape and streaming a movie in HD; the blogosphere delivers a more accurate picture, with less distortion, faster and at a fraction of the price.

This phenomenon is not uniform, of course. Prevailing First Amendment jurisprudence holds that even Ezra Klein has a right to pollute public discourse with his opinions. So one needs to know where are look.

Instapundit and Althouse are among the first places to look.

The Republican National Convention, and the events just preceding it, provided two shockingly one-sided case studies.

On the Friday before the RNC came the kerfuffle over Mitt Romney's quip about his birth certificate at a campaign stop in Michigan. Said Romney, "I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised. Where both of us were born . . . No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised."

The reaction was as swift as it was predictable.

Professional race-baiters, presumably looking to get in some warm-up reps ahead of the RNC, leapt in to action.

Michael Eric Dyson is a professor of sociology, which is a totally legitimate field and not mere academic window dressing for left wing activism in any way, so shut up.

Applying the intellectual rigor that is the basis for sociology's great esteem within academia, Dyson charged Romney with "some of the basest, most despicable bigotry we can imagine."

Which would seem to say more about the limits of Professor Dyson's imagination than about anything else. Maybe when the fall semester starts we can get one of his students to loan him a Harry Potter book, or a box of Lego blocks.

In fairness to Professor Dyson, he did say "imagine," not "read about in even the most cursory history of the civil rights movement." Let's not put words in his mouth.

But hey, birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, race-baiters gotta race-bait. Surely the overpaid navel-gazing sloths sober mandarins of the MSM would bring a more balanced perspective to bear. 

If by balanced perspective one means "nod grimly in agreement with each other's more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger assessment of this vile slur and clear misstep," then yes. If one means "demonstrate comprehension of what Romney said and why he said it," then not so much.

I am aware of no better barometer of MSM conventional wisdom than "Washington Week," which featured the following commentary (the transcription is mine):

Dan Balz of The Washington Post opined that "It's baffling...  for Mitt Romney, on the Friday before his convention, to make any kind of reference to (birtherism) is shocking, really. I don't know what possessed him."

John Dickerson of Slate said "I was on the phone with an advisor from the Romney campaign earlier today and they were saying 'the only the Obama campaign does is throw up obstacles in front of us because they can't talk about the economy. Well, here Governor Romney was making an obstacle for himself."

And so it went, with all and sundry in the MSM seeming to embrace one or both strands - it was probably racist and even if it wasn't Romney foolishly took the focus away from his economic message.

Glenn Reynolds was never under any such illusions, and tweeted "Romney joke not about birth cert. Way of reminding people of Obama's post-American approach to presidency. Will work."

Ann Althouse wrote a more comprehensive post, in which she quickly dispatched the racism claim:

"Anyway, it's obviously not racist. In fact, it's more racist to call it racist. To see it as racist, you have to have a background belief that to think of someone as a natural-born citizen is to think of him as white. Who thinks that?!"

And the birther claim:

"And it's also not "birther" to say what Romney said. A birther is someone who thinks or isn't sure that Obama was born in one of the United States. But the joke doesn't depend on the listener being a birther. You simply have to understand that people had enough questions about where Obama was born that they wanted to see the proof. People don't have those questions about Romney, so no one ever asked him to prove it. That's all Romney said."

Like Reynolds, and unlike Balz, Althouse was not at all "baffled," and easily perceived "what possessed him."

"Romney is saying — in so many words — I'm more truly and fundamentally American than Barack Obama. And the implication is: I want you to think about the ways that Obama hasn't fully embraced American values of freedom, capitalism, etc. etc."


"Romney's (implicit) joke about Obama works not because of where he was actually born, but because of much more substantive ideas about commitment to foundational American values."

When Reynolds had time to compose a blog post on the topic, he also noted "the added benefit that the press would miss the point and thus, in its outrage, spread the idea further than Romney could on his own."

Just so. And as if on cue came the news that Romney had moved into a dead heat in previously Obama-leaning Michigan.

I'm going to guess that the five journalists comprising the Washington Week panel are collectively paid something between $1 million and $2 million per year for their professional expertise, such as it is, in collecting and interpreting political news. And they were completely shown up by a couple law profs who do the same thing in their spare time for free.

And anyone laboring under the misapprehension that this instance was an outlier need look no further than the reactions to Clint Eastwood's speech six days later at the RNC.

Ann Althouse highlighted the reaction of a pair of MSNBC bloviators, which seemed to be echoed throughout the MSM, including much of its' small right-of-center fringe:

“Clint Eastwood was a disaster,” Lawrence O’Donnell said.

“I thought Clint Eastwood was bizarre,” Ed Schultz said. “It was demeaning to the presidency.”

And then offered her own take on Eastwood and the media reactions thereto:

"It was great! Hilarious... subtle... well-paced.... The haters are totally bullshitting and playing dumb (assuming they are not actually dumb). And what they are trying to do is scare other celebrities: Toe the line or we will destroy you. That crushing repression is the opposite of what the performing arts should be about."

Glenn Reynolds doesn't appear to have posted any of his own analysis of Eastwood, but in his role as the intellectual DJ of the blogosphere, he has rocked the house with links to several reactions, including those by Richard Fernandez, Legal Insurrection, Jim Treacher, and a hit parade of others. Collectively, these suggest that he, too, immediately saw through the collective "wisdom" of the MSM.

I haven't seen any polling or other hard data on public reactions to Clint Eastwood's performance, so I'll assume there remains a non-zero probability that the MSM reaction is vindicated. Non-zero, but statistically insignificant if I had to guess.
As a more-or-less conservative I've always been somewhat alienated from the MSM, but now I almost feel bad for them. Obsolescence is no longer a specter down the road, it is the current reality. What use are the Dan Balzes and John Dickersons of the world when readers can just as quickly avail themselves of the insight of a Glenn Reynolds or an Ann Althouse.

I feel now about MSM pundits the way I did about my 8-track tape collection when cassettes became popular. I'll still use them while they last, but I won't miss them when they're gone. Thanks for the memories, Edgar Winter Group (and Washington Week).

UPDATE: A Survey USA poll shows 49% of respondents with a positive impression of Clint Eastwood's speech versus 24% with a negative impression. The figures for independents are 51% and 25%, respectively. Barring the emergence of some wildly different data, I think we can take this as confirmation of the Instapundit/Althouse thesis.


  1. I liked the post, and I'll comment because I'm too lazy to do my own blog. What I see is an industry comprised of credentialed leftists who sell bogus charges of racism against republicans to media outlets working for Obama's reelection. Supply plus demand, and viola - a market. Problem is, most news consumers don't demand the resulting dog-and-pony show, and this is where the MSM and MSNBC are really hurting themselves.

  2. Dissecting the media’s reaction to Romney’s birth certificate joke and Clint Eastwood’s performance at the Republican convention, you may start feeling a little sorry for the MSM pundits who are now so obviously out of step with the public.
    Once they were the cool crowd, now they have become the clueless nerd with the “kick me” note pinned to their shirts.

    You may want to start feeling sorry, but considering the damage they have done and the hatred they have for the average American, I won’t join you.

  3. Something else I think the MSM missed about Eastwood -- this was a direct-hit appeal to libertarians (small and large L -- and there are a lot of small-L'ers).  Eastwood is known as part of that team (explicitly: he calls himself such) -- as being for both individual "social" liberty and small gov't.  His performance reinforced for libertarians that Obama must be fired and therefore Romney is the choice (not Johnson, Ron P's not an option, nor is stay-at-home).  Note that Eastwood mentioned explicitly that he was appealing to Libertarians along with Repubs and Dems.  His statement of war opposition is part of this – a key issue for many libertarians, especially the large-L variety, so his bringing this up was an appeal to them.  He's saying: even if we don't agree with the Republicans on everything, we can unite to rid us of the current guy, to get something much more palatable than what we have now.  It's like giving them the go-ahead to vote Romney-Ryan (despite Ron P's rejection), getting another part of the movement back into the tent.  I'll bet it was effective.

  4. Clint Eastwood did 2 big things:
    1. he sent a clear signal to independents that it is ok to vote against Obama.
    2. as an iconic tough guy he took on the president directly and thereby signaled to comedians and artists that it is ok to treat him like anyone else or any other president - something they have failed to do so far.

  5. Professional race-baiters, presumably looking to get in some warm-up reps ahead of the RNC, leapt in to action.