Writing for Media Matters today, Simon Maloy skewers conservative pundits for creating a fictional Obama “…who has governed as a left-wing ideologue while shutting out the GOP from the political process.” This is certainly not a new meme, as Fox News and its surrogates have been promulgating this ridiculous, but effective, characterization since Obama was sworn into office almost four years ago.
The question is, why does this outrageous lie seem so plausible to a large slice of the voting public? It is not based on anything close to reality. Obama’s record as President reflects that of a very moderate, centrist Democrat, far closer to the middle of the political spectrum than many in his own party. On defense, one could argue that he’s as hawkish as Bush, as we continue our involvement in wars and offensive military actions in hot spots around the world. As for shutting out the GOP, nothing could farther from the truth. As details have emerged from the 2011 budget talks, it’s clear that Obama was willing to trade his Democratic soul to Republicans for a deal, but even that wasn’t enough for the ideological puppets of the Tea Party.
From my perspective, the culprit is the mainstream press. The pattern is consistent and predictable: Far-Right haters from FOX News and other sources catapult a lie about Obama and it begins to make the rounds of the conservative noise machine—talk radio, blogs, online zines. Then it seeps into the editorial pages of mainstream papers thanks to people like David Brooks, Thomas Sowell and George Will. Before you can say Rupert Murdoch, it’s being discussed on Sunday news programs and morning talk shows, bringing it finally into the realm of “real” political discourse.
What doesn’t happen is this: A point-by-point take down of the lie by those in a position to do so in the mainstream press. I’m not talking about The New Yorker or an occasional PBS program. I’m talking about the network news programs, USA Today, CNN, and local news programs — the points along the spectrum where most people get their news. Why? News in America is a business, and like any other business, the bottom line is profit. You can’t run a profitable news business if you piss off large numbers of viewers or readers. Hence, if the truth has a liberal bias, bye-bye truth. Who needs government censorship when the market place does the work for you?
Despite the fact that Obama has shown himself to be very sympathetic to the desires of corporate American, the 1% like Romney better, and their concerns are reflected in the ongoing demonization of the President as a crazed leftist bent on turning American into a socialist utopia. When reality bumps up against the bottom line, there’s only going to be one winner.