What the Media Wins By Pretending Hillary Is Not
21 Feb 2016
Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucus by 6 points. NBC’s Meet the Press and CNBC called her win “narrow.” Without first checking the final tally, much of mainstream media reported on erroneous entrance polls stating that she had lost the Latino vote. The opposite was true. Hillary eked out a win in Iowa, becoming the first woman in history to win the Iowa caucus. Media called it a “tie”. They didn’t hesitate to call Senator Sanders win in his neighboring New Hampshire a “blowout.” And it was. But what will happen when Hillary likely scores a blowout in South Carolina next Saturday? Will beltway media continue to minimize her formidable advantage? If she wins by less than 30 points, will they say she “underperformed”? See the game here?
The insurgent campaign Senator Sanders has waged deserves respect and he’s outpaced expectations. Media has taken great pleasure to lord that over Clinton as an embarrassment to her. Perhaps it is. But perhaps a click-bait driven media is also complicit by trashing Secretary Clinton with a negative media barrage never before seen. Before the past few weeks, they had barely vetted Sanders’ policies. Until the elephant in the room became too big to ignore, neither had media given any attention to Senator Sanders’ more aggressive supporters who, consciously or otherwise, may have soured undecided folks on their candidate. One hopes anyone who is over the line will remember we are supposed to be on the same side.
But the beltway media was, is, and will always be the main culprit here. They have long stirred emotions against Hillary. Since she appeared on the national stage 25 years ago, they’ve shown their hostility, often acting as stenographers, reporting and repeating Republican smear.
Whether Hillary Clinton rubbed the beltway literati the wrong way because the decidedly middle class Clinton is “Not our kind, dear”; whether she was too sure that she (and all women) deserved a seat at the table – or if corporate interests used character assassination to slow down her achieving progressive goals, I will leave to the reader to determine. Whatever the motive, the result is the same.
Under the entertainment umbrella of their respective networks, national and cable news have long ceased to be a public service, so it also doesn’t serve their ratings if Clinton waltzes to the nomination. Yet their coverage of her is not confined to objectively going after the frontrunner. It’s more like electioneering to drive her numbers down. As fellow traveler Peter Daou pointed out, every day big media asks “Hillary, are you a liar? Are you lying? Did you lie? Will you lie again?” Result: the American people wonder if she’s a liar. Heavy on speculation and innuendo with little else.
They’ve been after her for a quarter century. She must be a genius to have eluded them for this long. Oddly, pundits and right wing political operatives take pleasure telling us she is “not brilliant” or visionary, but dull and pedestrian. But if they can’t ruin her after all this time, either beltway bloviaters and Republican opponents are not very bright – or, as Morgan Freeman put it, their attacks are “political hogwash.”
Criticizing paid speeches Hillary gave as a private citizen when her opponents have all spoken before private organizations, some being paid far more than she, is but one facet of the double standards to which she is subjected. In big media’s endless hunger for Hillary’s head on a pike, innuendo is repeated throughout multiple news cycles, and trotted out again in unrelated stories, even after the “scandal” is debunked. The apology is not forthcoming, leaving lingering questions, even fomenting an animosity among some voters that might not otherwise have existed.
Readers keep clicking. That is the endgame.
Such media disrespect goes beyond Clinton. She’s a tough, experienced politician. These pundits don’t faze her. But in an effort to minimize her candidacy, or even kill her national lead, they disrespect millions of her supporters. Reporting that Sanders leads among millennials by huge margins, they forget to mention those are white millennials. Hillary has a large advantage among millennials of color. Don’t they count? Why are they ignored?
Because they don’t fit the narrative that Hillary is in big trouble.
Here’s what else doesn’t fit the narrative – from this point forward, Senator Sanders’ path to win the nomination becomes much more difficult. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, states with an overwhelmingly white demographic, the rest of the country doesn’t look like that. A number of critical issues in this election affect those who have for too long been relatively invisible in the narrative. They deserve an equal amount of media attention.
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman gave CNN hell today for being addicted to polls rather than focusing on candidates’ records. She, too, has the impression that media is governed by corporate interest and, in an effort to control the outcome, tells us what to think rather than reporting the facts and letting us decide for ourselves.
Powerful pundits are well paid for their opinions. Wealthy as they are, they’ll do fine no matter who is President. The average voter cannot say the same. We can’t afford click-bait. It is incumbent upon our news media to tell the truth and vet all candidates of both Parties equally – and vet their policy prescriptions under an equally critical lens.
The stakes are too high for anything else.
Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin. Sharing the untold story of Hillary’s 2008 campaign, Dirty Words exposes media sexism in a society not as evolved as advertised. “The book tells it like it is for women aspiring to power.” #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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