Cast of Characters: Part IV

This year’s elections are not only contests between Democrats and Republicans, they are contests in which the mainstream media are not simply observers and reporters but active partisans.

Remember how the media carried on for weeks about Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident? How a Time magazine reporter had a temper tantrum at a White House press briefing because the news wasn’t released soon enough — as if this hunting accident had any significance for the nation, beyond those in the media who were frustrated at being deprived of a Sunday talk show feeding frenzy?

Remember how long we were told that the Bush administration had committed a crime by revealing the identity of a CIA "agent" as revenge for her husband’s having attacked administration policy? Indignant editorials in print and on the air practically salivated at the prospect of seeing Vice President Cheney, or at least Republican strategist Karl Rove, frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.

It was a terrible crime, as portrayed in the media, when they thought it would discredit the Bush administration. Now, very belatedly, it turns out that the leak did not originate in the Bush administration after all, but with a critic of that administration, Richard Armitage.

Suddenly it was no longer a scandal, a crime or anything, as far as the media were concerned. There were no cries that Armitage should be frog-marched anywhere in handcuffs. Some in the media belatedly acknowledged that it was never a crime because the CIA "agent" was actually someone sitting behind a desk in Virginia.

It all depends on whose ox is gored.

Remember how absolutely certain the mainstream media were that Terry Schiavo was for all practical purposes already dead because she had been classified as being in a "vegetative" state?

Just recently a woman in a "vegetative" state was discovered by scientists to be able to respond to statements. But have you heard anything about it, much less anything about its relevance to Terry Schiavo?

If the media had been on the opposite side of this issue, it would have been front page news across the country and on TV 24-7.

Reporting the news is very different from filtering the news or spinning the news. Too many people in the mainstream media have become filterers and spinners, especially during an election year.

While Senator Kerry’s recent controversial remarks have been spun in the media to mean something different — and better — than what he plainly said, talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent remarks about actor Michael J. Fox have been spun to mean something different — and much worse — than what he plainly said.

After seeing a political ad by Michael J. Fox, urging support for a candidate who favored embryonic stem cell research, Rush noted that Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, looked to be more visibly suffering from that disease than he has in other appearances that were not political.

Rush then surmised that either Fox was not taking his medication or was acting for political effect. It turned out that Rush was right, that this was very different from the way Michael J. Fox was in other public appearances. Moreover, Fox admitted that he had avoided taking his medication when appearing before Congress.

The fact that Rush’s surmise proved to be correct cut no ice with the mainstream media, where he has been roundly denounced by Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, who said that Rush Limbaugh "attacks a scandal-free actor who has a terrible disease," as if that makes Michael J. Fox exempt from criticism.

Diane Sawyer of ABC News said "If you have Parkinson’s disease and you believe embryonic stem cell research is the, is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don’t you have a right to speak up?"

This is unbelievable confusion, even for Diane Sawyer. Neither Rush Limbaugh nor anybody else has ever said that Michael J. Fox has no right to speak up. The question is whether nobody else has a right to reply.

These are the media filterers and spinners who are seeking to affect the outcome of this election. Heaven help us if they succeed.