I just saw The Counter-Revolution Has Been Televised, a column by
John Perry Barlow,
about the apparent demise of Howard Dean’s campaign. It’s very insightful, more in its general cultural critique — namely in the title — than in the analysis of Dean’s campaign. It’s main point in this regard is that television is the voice of the counter-revolution, and those of us in the revolution need to recognize it as such. A lot of power is wielded there; what has happened to Dean’s campaign is evidence to this:
I have seen the past, and it still works.
Politics as usual was working like God’s wristwatch in Iowa, where the RNC and various Republican PAC’s outspent many of the Democratic candidates on negative TV ads aimed exclusively at Dean. But more damaging, in my opinion, was the remarkably open bias that the traditional media seemed to display against Howard Dean in their presentation of the news itself. I don’t watch much television, but what little I’ve seen in the last month indicated to me that Dean was being systematically slimed.
I witnessed, for example, an astonishing are-you-still-beating-your-wife interview of Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi by CNN’s Paula Zahn. Zahn persisted in drilling in on Dean’s having said in an NPR interview that the notion the Bush administration had known in advance about 911 in advance was “an interesting theory,” refusing, despite Trippi’s protests, to read a bit further in the transcript to Dean’s unequivocal statement that it was a theory he didn’t share.
Dean was taken to severe task for having murmured something on Canadian television four years ago about flaws in the Iowa caucus system. Fox spent an entire day calling him a liar without ever being specific, in my hearing anyway, about what lies he had purportedly told. CNN repeatedly reported that some Iowa voters were referring to Dean volunteers as “Perfect Storm troopers.” Indeed, in my extremely random sampling of TV reporting before the Iowa caucuses, I never heard a single reference to Dean that wasn’t at least mildly derisive.
So Dean’s defeat by the mass media demonstrates the power they have, and more importantly, whose side they are on.