Democratic Underground

Sucking Up to the Right Never Works
November 10, 2001
by Morris Smith, Editor of

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Incredibly enough, the media in this country seems to become more craven by the hour.

First, there was astonishing the spectacle of Bill Maher. Bill, as we all remember, made the unfortunate gaffe of speaking his mind. When Dinesh D'Souza prattled on about the terrorists not being cowards and said that we were in a war, Maher responded, "Yeah, and we have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly."

Well, we all remember how that ended up: Maher crawling and apologizing and begging forgiveness, using the lame excuse that he was talking about the politicians, not the fighting men and women. (For the uninitiated, "politicians" really means "Bill Clinton.") The whole affair would have been somewhat humorous, except for the fact that the damn show is called "POLITICALLY INCORRECT (?!)" which is supposed to imply that the show is a place for somewhat impolitic and unpopular opinions; a place where people can speak their mind without fear of backlash from the politically correct. What that episode showed more than anything else is that politically incorrect statements are fine... as long as they're politically correct politically incorrect statements.

Or, in other words, you can insult the left all you want, but don't you dare touch the right's shibboleths. Which is something I've long suspected... the whole backlash against being politically correct came about because right-wingers want to be able to use the "N" word (among others) with impunity.

Then came David Westin, President of ABC News. In trying to explain the position of the journalist in wartime, Westin was taken out to the woodshed by right-wingers who were concerned that his position wasn't patriotic enough.

When asked if he thought the Pentagon was "a legitimate military target," Westin replied, "It's important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right now... our job is to determine what is, not what ought to be, and when we get into the job of what ought to be, I think we're not doing a service to the American people. I can say the Pentagon got hit. I can say this is what their position is, this is what our position is, but for me to take a position this was right or wrong, I mean that's perhaps for me in my private life... But as a journalist I feel strongly that's something that I should not be taking a position on."

The right, of course, called for his head. The idea that a journalist might actually want to give just the facts and leave out the editorializing is one that used to appeal to the right wing. But that was in the good old days, back when the right's media strategy was content to merely "work the ref." They thought that if they complained enough to the media, they might pull the media from the center, over to the right.

Now that their strategy has worked, the right is becoming increasingly bold in their demands. Now the slightest deviation from a right-wing agenda is greeted with a vicious, vociferous attack. So that now, one can't even ask the questions that are staring us right in the face.

(Like, if we are in a war, and the Pentagon is one of our command and control centers, then why wouldn't it be a military target? If we are in a war. If, on the other hand, this is an attempt to bring evil terrorists to justice, then the Pentagon is of course not a legitimate target... but then, why are we bombing a dirt-poor country back past the stone age? Oh, I get it; it's a war for us, but not for them. Yeah, that's it. Or something.)

Now we see the spectacle of CNN "balancing" pictures of death and destruction in Afghanistan with pictures of the World Trade Center bombing. CNN has obviously decided that it will not let the Taliban's images go unanswered, and will match them in the propaganda war, stroke for stroke.


Is that their job? Are they a wing of the government or a journalistic entity? Again, the mantra, just give us the news goes by the wayside. And all in the name of appeasing the right wing and drawing audience away from Fox.

And the real sad part is, it's all for naught. The right has found a new home, and it ain't with the major media. All of the efforts made to throw the right a bone these days are greeted with a "too little, too late" attitude. When they hear what these media companies are doing, they don't say "Thanks for finally seeing it our way, we appreciate your efforts." They say, "What took you so long?" as they go back to watching Faux News, reading Internet Drudge and listening to big, fat radio blowhards.