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I agree completely.

Regardless of how McCain is doing, my suspicion is that there wouldn't be half as much GOP anger if there was the perception that the media was at least trying to be fair. But they don't seem top care anymore at even trying to appear impartial.

If there were half as many reporters scouring Chicago as there have been in Wasilla, then I think I could take the election results a lot easier.

Instead, relatively minor and benign outbursts at GOP rallies are being interpreted as serious assassination threats while movies and books have been made explicitly doing that same thing to our current President. Go figure.

If anyone feels otherwise, please link a mainstream media story where Obama is described as "attacking" McCain.

Okay. How about this one posted this morning on CNN.com? How hard did you actually look, Dave?

here you go http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/05/AR2008100502200.html

I've seen plenty of others on cnn.com over time. I think a big aspect you seem to neglect in your post is the type of negative campaigning that has earned John SIDNEY Mccain, a former prisoner of war, the word 'attack.' There is a substantive difference between Obama's attacking McCain with issues of the economy and his latest campaigning skits (such as his 'suspending' of his campaign, which has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans as a utterly pathetic political ploy), and McCain's attacking Obama with a contrived relationship with Ayers - or even worse, Palin's claim that Obama is "palling around with terrorists."

You also fail to recognize the substantive difference between the rhetoric of anger expressed at campaigning events. There is a huge difference between the anger reflected in an Obama events about economic and foreign issues; and expressions of anger reflected in McCain events that include people screaming out (about Obama) such things as "Terrorist!" "Off with his head" "Bomb Obama!" and "Kill him!". Videos on the internet show one McCain supporter after another calling Obama a terrorist. You can watch McCain supporters bringing stuffed monkey dolls labeled 'Obama' to McCain events. What are the analogous expressions of racial and hate-filled anger that you find at Obama events.

McCain and Palin's fueling of this anger has forced McCain to directly address his supporters who have more and more openly expressed these extremely ignorant complaints in his events.

See more about it all here: http://loydo38.blogspot.com/2008/10/mccain-reaps-what-he-sows-or-god-bless.html

Here's another:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/10/06/mccain_lawyers_push_back_on_ob.html

Nope, Christopher, that's not it. That article says Obama "circulated" a study that alleges negative campaigning by McCain, then asserts that both campaigns have spent equal amounts on "attack ads." What I'm looking for is a media article that describes an Obama criticism with the words "Obama attacks McCain" in the same way they have freely used the phrase "McCain attacked Obama," not a reference to attack ads.

Narrator, same response, even worse. The article you link to quotes an Obama ad verbatim, then spends five paragraphs defending the Washington Post. It nowhere uses the phrase "Obama attacks McCain," although the facts recited in the article could plainly have supported the headline, "Obama Ad Falsely Attacks McCain" rather than their limp-wristed "Obama Attack Gets Asterisk on Accuracy."

The point is when describing McCain's criticisms of Obama, the media personalizes it: McCain is attacking Obama. I just don't see the reverse description made in such personal terms (because it would make Obama appear mean or vindictive, which is not how the media wants him to be viewed).

Dave,
I think you're voting for McCain.

Dave,

you are still ignoring the all-important nature of the content of the attacks. I recall the term 'attack' being used much more loosely in describing both candidates until McCain's attacks took on the more personal tone implying Obama being a terrorist - which has worked according to the many reports and videos showing McCain supporters openly accusing Obama of being a terrorist.

If you want to deny that the nature of the attacks are different, then go ahead. But at least make that denial.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/10/eveningnews/main4514486.shtml

So you're changing the rules now? You ask for a "mainstream media story where Obama is described as "attacking" McCain," I provide one, and you come back with "no, that's not what I meant by attack." (?) I think that is what you would call "spinning," Dave.

Christopher, I'm just saying the link you provided does not depict Obama as attacking McCain and personalize it with an "Obama attacks McCain" description. It doesn't. Go read it.

Ronan, you're probably right.

I am really impressed you're all trying so hard. But narrator, your latest link does not show what you think it shows.

It does contain the following sentences (notice the bolded words): John McCain has done it. He attacked Barack Obama to "skyrocketing taxes on life savings, electricity and home heating oil."

But when it discusses Obama, while it implies he has done similar things, it just can't quite come out and say that Obama attacks McCain. It merely says "One ad says, ..."

So there you go. An article asserting the candidates are doing the same thing, but when McCain did it he "attacked Obama"; when Obama did it, he just ran an ad.

I think your links support my point better than I did.

Dave,

the last link I provided talks about attack ads from both campaigns and spends time pointing out Obama's false negative ads. The use of 'attack' is only used in the title to describe ads from both campaigns, and is not used exclusively in the article.

Also the link I provided in my first comment is only about Obama, the title of the article is "OBAMA ATTACK GETS ASTERISK ON ACCURACY." It then proceeds to say "This Barack Obama ad uses some disingenuous sleight of hand..."

If anyone is guilty of spinning, it's looking a lot like you. But it's your blog. You can change the rules as you please.

And still you continue to ignore that the uneven use of 'attack' is largely due to the nature of the contents of the negative ads.

Dave,

I think it is funny to observe how media outlets which have spent the last five years showing us pictures of GWB wearing a swastika and Hitler 'stache suddenly grew a conscience. You can hold rallies where you burn the president in effigy or hang him from a noose, or put him in a turban under the heading "This is the real terrorist", and it will all be reported as straight news. But if you hold up a poster of Obama wearing a pair of mouse-ke-tears, it's hate speech. And the same thing thing holds true with people in general. This is all about whose ox is being gored, period, not about the goring itself. I invite anybody who objects to people calling Obama a terrorist or hinting at violence to point me to a comment they have made anytime, anywhere, where they have condemned it when it was directed against a political figure with whom they disagree. In fact, I think the opposite is true. Obama's most rabid supporters are the same people who have spent the past four years venting their hatred and anger and feeling very righteous about it.

However, I differ from you as to whether this is the result of conscious spin. I think it is more likely to be the result of natural human laziness.

I'm guessing from the comments that this Reuters headline from Saturday doesn't count, either:

Obama thanks McCain for remarks, presses attack

You're right, Ann, the article you linked to never says "Obama attacked McCain." Here's the entire first paragraph (note the bolded words): "Democrat Barack Obama praised his rival John McCain for trying to tone down the vitriol of the U.S. presidential race but pressed ahead on Saturday with an effort to cast the Republican as out of touch on the economy."

It does not say, "Obama attacked McCain on the economy." No, he praised and pressed ahead. It's trying to make him sound presidential. The accompanying photo show a glowing Obama reaching out to the adoring crowd. The whole story could have been written by Obama's PR staff.

Ann,

you forget that Dave changed the rules mid-game where the largest and most-read words of the article, the headline, do not count. Or maybe this was one of those silent rules - like when a child suddenly announces he is wearing a bullet and laser proof shield in the middle of a battle of pretended gun play.

I'll take Mark Brown's challenge and refer him to Guy Murray's (M&A) first post on Sarah Palin referring to her as "governess." My comments (more than one) pointed out how denigrating that was, that "governess" was not merely the feminine form of "governor." I had previously engaged in a private condemnation of Adam Greenwood for doing the same thing in a T&S sidebar link at the time of the birth of Palin's last child. Yet I can't stand the woman, and her nomination cemented my decision to vote against McCain.

I agree with Dave. All the examples you guys cite to the contrary are plainly couched in soft cushions.

Here's another one: "Struggling McCain debuts comeback speech." First couple of paragraphs accurately and objectively report the thrust of McCain's current campaigning.

Then comes the editorial spin: Republican rallies are characterized by "raucous rage and clumsy attacks." The article labels the McCain campaigning (accurately described in the first two paragraphs) as "hitting the panic button."

The real zinger (and you have to admire this one) is toward the end, editorially observing that McCain's remarks "suggest that the senator plans to fight without personally going viciously negative in the final days. He can leave that to the television advertisements."

That clever paragraph (1) links McCain with the term viciously negative; (2) implies McCain in person is being negative, just not viciously negative; and (3) suggests McCain employs viciously negative rhetoric in his television spots.

One might summarize the Democratic strategy as (1) nominate a candidate without a record, so no criticism can be directed at the candidate's record; then (2) squeal whenever criticism is directed at the candidate's character or personal conduct (the "palling around with terrorists" stuff, which seems to be an accurate description of his associations with William Ayers).

Go read the Wikipedia entry on Ayers if you like. He is quoted (from an interview in 2001) as saying he himself, a guy who built bombs the killed two people and blew up government property, was not a terrorist, but that the United States of America was a terrorist for its conduct during the Vietnam War. The "palling around with terrorists" allegation is arguably descriptive, not "viciously negative."

And, getting back to the media treatment of the two candidates, if McCain associated with people like, he'd be skewered daily. I suspect part of the problem is that most of those in the media agree with Ayers' characterization of bombing the US government versus fighting in Vietnam.

"The "palling around with terrorists" allegation is arguably descriptive, not "viciously negative.""

Tell that to McCain's supporters who understood those lines to mean that Obama was dangerous - something that McCain has had to turn around and correct.

Republican commentators have even been saying that McCain's latest personal 'attacks' have gone too far.

But of course you, like me, will only see fault in the other.

Narrator, you're right we tend to miss our own biases but observe those of others. But we hold journalists to a higher standard (and journalists hold themselves to a higher standard). That's why there are editorial pages -- that's where journalists and other invited guests express their editorial opinions about the news. The rest of the paper is supposed to be objective and factual, or if commentary is added it is supposed to be balanced.

Attorneys who violate their code of ethics are censured or disbarred. What happens to journalists who violate their own code of ethics? Anything?

Here's another commentary on this whole topic, from Get Religion: "Newsweek--RIP." GR is one of the few sites where journalists critique other journalists. So it's not just Dave the Disgruntled Reader that is seeing this, it is fellow journalists.

Dave,

so then do you agree or disagree that the content of the negative ads from McCain are substantially different than the content of Obama's negative ads?

Dave,

I agree that there is an imbalance of the use of the word 'attack', thought not to the degree you seem to say that it is.

However, I think your claims about the motivation for the media doing so is false. It is not because of some love for Obama, but because it is the McCain campaign that has defined the use of 'attack' by the content of their negative ads as well as openly acknowledging that they are "going on the attack" and 'taking of their gloves.' Just yesterday McCain announced that he is going to "kick Obama's you-know-what." With this rhetoric, of course McCain is going to be categorized as going attacking more than Obama.

Dave,

Re. Palin's religious beliefs, I'm curious about your taken on this widely-reported story:

Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago -- about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct -- the teacher said.

Mike, I think she's wrong, another unfortunate victim of Young Earth Creationism.

Dave,

so then do you agree or disagree that the content of the negative ads from McCain are substantially different than the content of Obama's negative ads? Or that the McCain campaign has been promoting the use of 'attack' by openly acknowledging that they are "going on the attack," "taking off their gloves," and "going to kick Obama's you-know-what"?

Of course the content of their ads is different -- Obama has a lead in the polls and is running against a weak incumbent (Bush) and a senator with a long record (McCain). McCain is running against a senator with little or no record (Obama).

But no, I don't think any difference in the content of the campaign content justifies the press in labelling McCain's critiques of Obama's proposals and past actions "attacks" while describing Obama's critiques of McCain's proposals and past actions in softer terms.

Here's one from US News and World Report regarding a debate. It's mainstream, if considered conservative. It features both McCain attacking Obama and Obama attacking McCain.

http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/campaign-2008/2008/09/29/barack-obama-and-john-mccain-spin-debate-performances.html

Here's another, buried in a story regarding McCain attacking Obama.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/15/mccain.foreign.policy/index.html

Here's a third that uses the language, even though it is primarily a story of McCain attacking Obama:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081009/pl_nm/us_usa_politics

I think you are raising a good point, Dave. I agree with Mark, though, that it is probably laziness, not ideology, that is driving this. Both candidates have a media persona, both media-imposed and self-generated. The reporters are just buying into this popular narrative as short hand so they don't have to explain as much in their writing. McCain has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being angry, aggressive, and impulsive in a way that Obama does not. So the attack language comes naturally.

I do find it interesting that the "Obama attacked McCain" phrase only appears in stories about McCain attacking Obama. There might be a case for ideology here (wanting to show that Obama is no wimp), but I am inclined to believe that it is just lazy reporting again. It may only occur to reporters to call an Obama attack an attack in that context.

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