Guilty Pleasure: Watching Newt Neuter the Mainstream Media
For media-conscious conservatives, there is perhaps no greater aggravation than that of the prevailing liberal tilt that exists within the mainstream media. Every day, we see or read of fresh examples of bias that we wish we could simply laugh off, but can't because we understand how important the role of news conveyers are in shaping public opinion. From the absurd Democratic narratives that they instinctively lend credence to, to the selective reporting and astounding double-standards that they spread across the airwaves, the media has long been in need of a bold and brash wake-up call to force them to look at themselves, and at the joke they've made of their profession.
Low ratings and dwindling subscriptions certainly haven't done the trick. Neither have the words of media critics and watchdog organizations who regularly offer a compelling case against them. Even when journalists within the mainstream media's own ranks bring attention to the problem, nothing changes.
Until something changes, the best chance conservatives have to marginalize the influence of the liberal media is to stop playing the game on the media's terms. An ideologically-slanted media shouldn't be the people who frame our national debates. After all, every recent poll has shown that Americans no longer trust them. Conventional media-wisdom needs to be publicly beaten into shape the moment blatant favoritism is put on display. As some of us were reminded earlier this week, there is one man who is particularly gifted at doing this: Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
For those of you who didn't see the Newt Gingrich/Thomas Friedman exchange from last Sunday's Meet the Press, I highly recommend that you check it out. Gingrich took on the uber-liberal New York Times columnist on the wide-spread media narrative that conservatives are too "extreme" when it comes to the issue of abortion. Gingrich absolutely obliterated Friedman by pointing out that Barack Obama voted three times to support post-birth abortions (the killing of born-alive babies that survive an abortion attempt). He also pointed out that the president supports tax-payer funded, late-term abortions. Yet the media absolutely refuses to label Obama's position on abortion as "extreme". Gingrich argued that there is no more extreme position that exists in our politics. By the end of the segment, he had the normally snide and over-confident Friedman (who host David Gregory tried repeatedly to bail out of the mauling) squirming, and trying to disqualify himself from having to answer the charge by claiming that he was just there as a journalist. Rarely do we witness a media figure humiliated so soundly.
Of course, this wasn't the first time we've seen such a display from Newt.
Gingrich first proved himself in the media watchdog role four years ago, at the 2008 Republican National Convention, when he was asked by an MSNBC reporter to comment on Sarah Palin's weak resume in reference to the vice presidential position she was running for. Many might remember that this was a wildly popular media narrative back then. Mainstream pundits were up in arms over the notion that some hockey-mom from Alaska could potentially become a heartbeat away from the presidency. Never was there any concern from those same people when it came to Barack Obama, who unlike Sarah Palin, never governed a city or state. In fact, he had no leadership experience at all, yet the media never questioned his credentials. Gingrich went off on the absurdity of the media-driven narrative, running down a list of Palin's numerous accomplishments before challenging the reporter to list a single thing that Obama had done, other than "talk and write." It was such a thumping that you had to wonder if the unsuspecting reporter might have cried himself to sleep that night.
In early 2012, during the Republican presidential primaries, candidate Gingrich made sport out of several of the misleading and irrelevant questions he received from members of the media, but it was CNN's John King who took an outright scolding during one of the debates. Mere days before the important South Carolina primary, ABC News decided that it would be a relevant venture to pursue an interview with Gingrich's ex-wife and let her unload on her former husband. Gingrich's divorce, which had begun over twelve years earlier, was reportedly a messy one. The media, of course, was well aware of this. Just days after interviewer Brian Ross seemed to take unsettling joy in letting Marianne Gingrich dish on Newt, John King chose to confront Gingrich with the allegations she made as the first question of a nationally televised GOP debate. Newt's passionate response was an absolute indictment of the mainstream media's vindictive nature toward conservatives. After all, this is the same media who actively worked to protect both President Clinton and Presidential candidate John Edwards from accusations of infidelity. And both of those Democratic politicians we're fooling around on their wives in real time - not well over a decade earlier! The public condemnation, that left John King looking like his parents had just caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, struck a chord not only with the enthusiastic crowd in attendance... Many believe the moment actually won Gingrich the state primary, where he had previously been behind in the polls.
Last week at the Republican National Convention, Gingrich decisively smacked down MSNBC's Chris Matthews over the long-held, liberal belief that speaking of our expanding welfare burden is somehow an example of racism. Gingrich quickly rattled off the single argument that shuts the entire false narrative down cold: Pointing out how many Americans are on food-stamps isn't racist. Identifying the food-stamp programs with racial minorities and perpetuating a stereotype (which is what much of the liberal media has done over the past couple of years) is what's racist.
Aside from all of these spectacles being really, really fun to watch, it makes you wonder just how much different the media environment in this country would be if newsrooms actually encouraged some diversity of thought. Imagine if they made an actual attempt to encourage people with traditional, easily-defensible viewpoints like Gingrich into their profession to balance out the overwhelming liberal group-think that exists there now. I'm not just talking about those in front of the camera, but those behind it as well. Just think of the number of ideological biases that would be recognized before they ever made it to air or print. It seems to me that such a move would allow the media to earn back much of the credibility they've lost.
Will that ever happen? Unfortunately, no.
Sadly, for now, conservatives will have to deal with the media the best they can, hopefully by taking a few pages out of the Newt Gingrich media playbook.