At the end of a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine by Matt Bai on Barack Obama’s efforts at “Working for the Working-Class Vote,” Obama acknowledges that the bias exhibited by the relentless smear tactics of Fox News can have a measurable impact on voters.
“I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls. If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me, right? Because the way I’m portrayed 24/7 is as a freak! I am the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal. Who wants somebody like that?”
“I guess the point I’m making is that there is an entire industry now, an entire apparatus, designed to perpetuate this cultural schism, and it’s powerful. People want to know that you’re fighting for them, that you get them. And I actually think I do. But you know, if people are just seeing me in sound bites, they’re not going to discover that. That’s why I say that some of that may have to happen after the election, when they get to know you.”
It’s refreshing to hear a candidate speak truth to power-mad propagandists and media prevaricators. Frankly, I don’t think he went far enough. By only enumerating peripheral character issues like lattes and Volvos, Obama left more serious assaults off the table. He didn’t mention Bill Ayers, or Rev. Wright, or ACORN, or whether he was Muslim, etc. It’s understandable that he may not have wanted to refocus attention on those matters, but that is where the bulk of the disinformation campaign against him was centered.
It was also nice to read Obama’s framing of the problem with Fox News. Notice that he didn’t merely speculate as to whether things might have been different if Fox had reported differently. He hypothesized a world wherein there was no Fox News. Be still my heart. In that scenario much more would be different than the results of the current presidential campaign. All of Fox’s misrepresentations about the economy, the war in Iraq, civil rights, global warming, health care, etc., would have never tainted the public debate. We would never have had to waste time rebutting the perverse and divisive agendas of people like Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc.
Certainly it would not have been Paradise Found. Fox News is not the only media enterprise to exercise rampant dishonesty and self-interest as they diminish the once proud institution of journalism. But they are the leader, and the primary provocateur, and without them the others would not have fallen so quickly overboard.