President Obama’s forceful speech and Q & A at the Associated Press luncheon Tuesday included a sorely-needed critique of the major news media that has been conveniently omitted from all the major media reporting of the event.
Obama said, in response to a question, “This bears on your reporting. I think that there are oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented, which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally.”
Comparing his budget priorities with those contained in the House GOP (Ryan) budget, he added, “This is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalence.”
Obama’s comment strikes at the heart of what’s wrong with the media today, and at that heart is little less than cowardice, the greatest overall ingredient of the Washington, D.C. ethos.
While many come to D.C. full of high-minded idealism, it doesn’t take long for a new reality to take over. Fear begets cowardice begets indifference and a cynical refocus on personal careers and security in the pecking order. For those in the media, and anyone for that matter, such is moral death.
What passes for much in the media today are people, including talking heads, who jockey to hold onto their modicum of perceived self-importance by assuming one or another position at a sporting event. Either they hide behind the ideological shield of their chosen political “team,” or they behave as a referee between the two with professed deference to neither side.
Those on one team or the other feel empowered by their secure standing within their group to hurl whatever distortions or half-truths they wish against the other side. Those in the priesthood of referees are dedicated to saying nothing offensive to either side, the obsession being to maintain access to all sides.
That vocation, from the standpoint of the public interest, is the most noxious of all, subordinating truth to access maintenance, even to the most destructive influences. It thereby creates for the public the false sense that all sides of any issue are equally credible.
(Yes, it is so great to see fascists and liberals back-slapping at public events with those elite journalists who have worked hardest at puckering up also being allowed to get in on the giggles).
Meanwhile, few are alert to the fact that Rep. Paul Ryan’s GOP budget plan marks a tectonic shift in American politics. It is not about its specifics, it is about its broader vision, its ideological underpinnings. It’s not about free enterprise versus big government. It’s much worse than that.
This is why President Obama’s evocation of the phrase, “social Darwinism,” in his speech Tuesday is so important. Anyone with a serious concern for the extent to which the Ryan budget plan, the plan that Mitt Romney calls “marvelous,” assaults the poor and middle class and further enfranchises the super-rich, needs to Google “social Darwinism” and begin to understand.
“This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether,” Obama said. “It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity,” Obama intoned.
It is not about free enterprise. Obama said, “I believe that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history,” adding, “But I also share the belief of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, a belief that, through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.” Google Lincoln and begin to understand.
In 1933, it took the president of the United States to protect the American people from a fascist coup. Surviving an assassination attempt prior to his inauguration, FDR caught wind of and quashed in his first year what was called a “Banker’s Plot” to impose a fascist military regime dedicated to the ideology of “social Darwinism.”
Another U.S. president is being tasked in our time with the same purpose.