Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bias: Andrea Mitchell (et al)

I have a bone to pick this morning with Andrea Mitchell. I have been meaning to pick it with her for some time, but this morning her reporting on the impact of the financial crisis on the political campaign was so blatantly biased that I cannot let it pass without comment. I get that NBC promotes Mitchell as the exemplar of the impartial observer--and must assume, therefore, that the network shares her bias. So here's my beef: in reporting on the two presidential candidates and their statements in response to yesterday's events on Wall Street, Mitchell saw fit to introduce AND conclude her commentary with a snide reference to a long-scheduled Obama fundraiser to be hosted tonight in Hollywood by Barbra Streisand. The unavoidable and clearly not accidental inference of this way of bracketing her story is that Obama is not only an effete snob, but a hypocritical and money-grubbing effete snob, more interested in hobnobbing with the rich and famous than with the problems of the national economy.

I know that there's much ink spilled, from left and right, about the bias of the media. The right have made a great point of being the victims of supposed liberal bias. It's my own belief that the corporate-controlled media have the interests of their corporate controllers at heart. And while I don't wish to get personal about this, I wonder whether it's really appropriate to give so much public air time for commentary/reporting (the difference is blurred, these days) on matters of vital public financial interest to the wife of the man who promoted and enabled the policies that many believe were responsible for the current disaster.

It was a day that, in the opinion of many experts, was the worst for the American economy since the Great Depression, and we heard from the Republican contender for the Oval Office nothing more than a repetition that old Bush mantra that the "fundamentals" of the economy are strong. Worse, when his Democratic opponent presumed to disagree with this view, John McCain quickly claimed--in a mendacious pander to the blue collar vote--that by "fundamentals" what he really meant was the American worker, and that Obama, in disagreeing, was once again insulting hardworking patriots.

What a farce. Another mind-boggling "how can he possibly get away with it?" day. With long-established financial institutions crumbling and thousands losing their jobs, with the Dow average capsizing with a loss of more than 500 points, with the federal government having stepped in with taxpayer money to rescue giant corporations whose greed the Republican government itself enabled with decades of deregulation, the fundamentals are sound? Well, no. Not from my point of view. Like many others, I now live on a fixed income, and it's distressing to watch my nest-egg terribly depleted. But I'm fortunate. Others have lost jobs and homes, lack health care for themselves and their families, and can barely afford the essentials. Sorry. There's something "fundamental"-ly wrong with a system that places so many at extreme risk while it rewards others with fabulous--and fabulously unearned--wealth. There's something wrong with a system that extols the "free market" and then uses taxpayer money to bail out those who have abused this freedom with a mixture of incompetence and sheer greed.

And the rich continue to thrive. How else to explain, on the evening of this day of world-wide economic collapse, a Sotheby's sale in London where a single artist--Damien Hirst, an entrepreneur par excellence--walks off with a haul of $127 million (on just the first of a two-day sale; and was that dollars, or pounds?) in profit from the sale his incredibly high-priced baubles. Talk about bulls and sharks! Hirst's bull (with gold-plated hooves) sold for a reported $18 million; his shark in formaldehyde (the small version!) for $17 million. The mind reels. I'm still trying to understand what this has to say about the free market and the world economy, but I'm sure that it's not healthy.

And speaking of art, is it not quite strange and weirdly appropriate to read that Jeff Koons, that other immensely successful art entrepreneur, is exhibiting his (incredibly high-priced) baubles of gaudy kitsch at the Palace of Versailles, the over-the-top home of the monarch who presided over the demise of the last great Western socio-economic model to bite the dust? There's an irony here that's hard to miss. Unhappily, though, today's corporate "royalty" are walking away with both their heads and their piles of cash intact.

So you can see why I'd be mad at Andrea Mitchell today. She, it seems to me, is a part of both the financial establishment that gave us deregulation, unbridled greed, and the belief--passed down to the populace, but without the wealth to back it up--that growth and credit have no limits; and the media establishment that is supposed to provide that fourth estate check on power. How then can she pretend to be impartial, and cast a truly critical eye on those with whom she associates, and those who provide her bread and butter?

If I pick on Andrea Mitchell, let me hesitate to add, it is not out of any personal animosity. It is rather because she represents, in my view, not only a network but an industry--and industry that has a vested interest in preserving the conservative status quo. With reporters like these, Obama has a tough road ahead, to cut through the incessant, self-protective crap of the corporate-dominated media and their 24-hour news cycles, and to open the eyes of the American electorate to the simple truth of their exploitation and abuse.


thailandchani said...

I hear what you're saying.. but I can't really pick any bones with her about the comment re: Obama meeting up with wealthy supporters in Beverly Hills. (It's not Hollywood... but Beverly Hills.)

He needs to be focusing his attention on the majority of people who will be his constituency. The denizens of Beverly Hills don't qualify.

I can't in any way justify or support any candidate charging a horrendous fee for the privilege of meeting with him when that horrendous fee would support an entire village in AIDs-ravaged Africa for a year.

So.. she was perfectly within her rights to raise the issue... in my opinion.


PeterAtLarge said...

Chani, I don't disagree. But sadly, I do recognize that in order to get to where he can serve those who need him--both at home and abroad--he needs to attract the wherewithal from those who don't. "Within her rights," yes. Absolutely. It was the context I was objecting to, and the biased context her comment established for reporting on something quite different and eventually more important.

thailandchani said...

So maybe that's the issue that needs to be called to accountability... the fact that candidates have to pander to the wealthy to get enough money to be heard. Something's wrong there.

How do single mothers with a few too many kids get heard? How does the woman I met in the Bay Area one time who can't afford to her cancer medicine get Obama's ear? How does a society get beyond believing the only ones who deserve a voice are those who can fuel the economy? Obama needs to hear those people, too.. that is if he really is giving more than lip service to "change".

But yet he will sit at the table with a bunch of dilettantes whose chief concern is how to manage their investments and send their kids to Harvard can bend his ear?

Someone needs to talk about these things. No matter how it gets sliced, it's not right.

Maybe it's not so much that AM brought it up.. but that she raised the wrong issue.


PeterAtLarge said...

I do so much agree. The matter of campaign financing was one the even McCain, in a previous incarnation, tried to address, along with Russ Feingold, as I recall. Our current system in this regard is a scandal. So is the increasing length of time wasted on the election process. Admittedly it's a big country, but there has to be a better way. Still and all, that wasn't what Mitchell was talking about.

robin andrea said...

Andrea Mitchell's husband, the rather reprehensible Alan Greenspan, helped usher in this latest wall street debacle. I see she neglected to mention that. I wonder how her portfolio is doing?