2008/10/18

The frustrations of figuring out the traditional media

The New York Times does a front-page, somewhat lengthy (16 kilobytes) story on Cindy McCain that's all about her as a person. The reporters go to rather absurd lengths, one of them "...trolled Facebook and found adolescent classmates of Bridget McCain's and -- at least in one case -- sent an email..." that asked some rather rude and invasive questions along with dredging up 15-year old matters and wondering whether the McCains' marriage was one of true love or was instead a convenient business-sort of alliance. This wasn't attractive when the NY Times did it to the Clintons (David Broder defended a 2006 article of theirs and was called, quite justifiably, a "panty-sniffer") and it's no more attractive when they do it to a political conservative.

There simply don't appear to be any standards left. It seems that every aspect of a politicians life is now fair game and it's not at all clear that the public has gained anything useful from all this.

Ah, but wait! Are there any subjects that are off-limits? Any questions that the traditional media will not ask? Strangely enough, yes. In late August, the Religion Blog in the Dallas Morning News noted that "The presidential candidates have answered more religious questions than a seminary student," but although Governor Sarah Palin was clearly a Christian, it wasn't at all clear what "flavor" of Christianity she subscribed to. The blog finally concluded she might be a "Charismatic" Christian. One thing that's clear, religion is a subject near and dear to her heart:

Palin, her husband Todd, and their growing family attended Wasilla Assembly of God until 2002, when they moved to Wasilla Bible Church. Palin also has worshipped at other churches, including the Church on the Rock in Wasilla. In Juneau, the state capital, she has gone to Juneau Christian Center.
Of these four churches, two--Wasilla Assembly of God and Juneau Christian Center--are members of the Assemblies of God. Founded in 1914, the Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country. Pentecostalism--which takes its name from the day of Pentecost when, according to the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles--is a movement that began in 1901 and is best known for its emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues. The other two churches are freestanding congregations. The Church on the Rock is "charismatic," a term usually applied to more recent forms of Pentecostalism, while Wasilla Bible, the Palins' present church, is neither Pentecostal nor charismatic.

These branches of Christianity are quite clearly not meant to be ones that their adherents take casually or that they attend on an on-and-off basis. The Catholic Knight defends Palin's religion as a perfectly ordinary one:

What we have here is very typical of mainstream Evangelical doctrine. It is very Protestant. There is nothing on the fringe or radical about it. This is what most Evangelicals believe. The same goes for most Pentecostals. The difference between them is mainly in detail and practice.

There was apparently a backlash around the beginning of September:

Time’s Mark Halperin went so far as to publish a graphic suggesting that “Anti-Republican, liberal media bias” contributed to a “feeding frenzy” in which the press becomes a shark pursuing a saintly Sarah Palin.

It was noted at the beginning of October that:

We've noted before how the campaign press seems reluctant to ask pointed questions about Palin's religious beliefs. Specifically, if she believes that Christ will come again in her lifetime as part of the End Times theology her former church preached, and how that End Times belief might guide her decision-making as vice president.
The Real News Network just posted an informative video about Palin's fundamentalist faith and asks why the press isn't posing direct questions about it. 

So Palin's religion appears to be one matter that the media considers more-or-less off-limits, though of course the other three candidates remain completely fair game for that subject.

Another subject appears to be the whopping double standard of the Barack Obama-William Ayers relationship and the far deeper, far closer relationship of John McCain with G. Gordon Liddy. Liberal blogs were talking about that relationship as far back as May of this year. It took a late-night comedian, David Letterman, to finally ask McCain about what was clearly a blatantly obvious double standard. Funny thing, no one appears to have taken Letterman's questioning as permission to start questioning that relationship themselves.

Unfortunately, after Letterman broke the media's embargo on questioning McCain's relationship with Liddy, reporters quickly pretended it never happened -- or, if they did mention it, downplayed the significance of the relationship.
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But the worst was MSNBC. This morning, the cable channel played a clip of McCain on Letterman -- but not the Liddy exchange. Then, immediately after the clip, MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall referenced the McCain attacks on Ayers. At no point did Hall mention Liddy.

So is the media taking a "no holds barred," "scorched earth" policy and asking all sorts of rude and inconvenient questions? Well, yes and no. There are quite a few areas where they step very gingerly and other areas where they've disgraced themselves with their boldness.

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