When National Public Radio’s weekly On the Media program tackled President Barack Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, it ignored the obvious and cynical coordination between the White House and a compliant media. Instead, NPR’s Brooke Gladstone focused on how conservative media–alone–had reacted to the news, and suggested that Republicans knew they could not win on the substance of the issue.
To the extent that On the Media discussed the role of the Obama-supporting media at all, it compared changes in opinion on the gay marriage issue to changes in public opinion on slavery. Here’s one exchange between Gladstone and her expert guest–surprise, surprise–from the conservative-bashing New Yorker:
BROOKE GLADSTONE: If you look back to the coverage of slavery, you found different news organizations slowly, over time, changing their position from one of evenhandedness to one of advocacy because the moral issue seemed so plain. Do you see that in this case? The country is still divided but we see the way the polls are moving. We see a, a sharp generational shift.
ALEX KOPPELMAN: I think the shift actually makes it less pressing for some reporters because you’re not the only one out there on the barricades saying, we have to do something about this. You’re the one looking out and saying, this is going to happen; it’s just a matter of time. And so, it feels, I think, a little less pressing.
As support for that absurd analogy, Gladstone cited Shepard Smith of Fox News–widely considered the most liberal Fox host–who accused Republicans of resorting to arguments that echoed “segregation and states’ rights,” when in fact it was the “evolved” President Obama who had just embraced the “states’ rights” position.
If On the Media were truly concerned with covering the media–and not just covering for the president–it could have raised relevant questions about whether Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had laid a trap for journalists by coming out in favor of gay marriage, thereby making Obama’s flip-flop seem forced rather than the result of a politically calculated choice.
If On the Media were interested in covering the media, it might have asked whether President Obama had undermined journalists’ trust in White House press secretary Jay Carney by sending him out to defend Obama’s previous view on same-sex marriage earlier in the week, suggesting either that Carney did not know Obama’s view had “evolved” or that Carney had specific instructions to lie to the White House press corps.
If On the Media were interested in covering the media, it might have asked why the White House specifically summoned Robin Roberts of ABC News, perhaps citing reports that mentioned her close relationship with the Obama family, or the cynical attraction (to the Obama team) of her race, her gender, and even her age; and it might have commented on Roberts’s star-struck reaction to Obama’s “historic” announcement.
The reason that Republicans have not reacted particularly vigorously to Obama’s announcement is not that conservatives cannot win on the substance of the issue–social conservatives are, in fact, winning everywhere–but because Republicans have made a strategic choice to focus on President Obama’s weakness on the economy. That economic weakness is also the reason the Democrats want to talk about social issues alone.
If On the Media were interested in covering the media, it might have asked why so many journalists swooned over an “evolution” that means nothing in substance, that reiterates the states’ rights arguments that the left has attacked for so long, that misled the public until the last possible moment before a Hollywood fundraiser.
But On the Media is anything but–especially in this critical election year, when the media’s anointed candidate is in serious danger of losing his halo.