By Eric Anderson
the views expressed in this blog are that of the authors’ alone, and not necessarily of the other posters within the “Drake in D.C.” blog group, or that of Drake University. I strongly encourage you to take what I tell you as a way of thinking, entertain a thought before forming a perspective.
Yesterday I started a dialog trying to show how the media’s portrayal of the president impacts how the public views the president by way of reporting biases. Within the part one I specifically discussed what happens when the media targets the president, using Nixon’s presidency as an example. In part two I will be looking at the effect of the media on the president when the media adores the person in office. I do this using several presidencies and politicians to further explain positive and negative bias, while using the Obama presidency as “the slide” to be used under my “lens of examination”
In my opinion, there are three main structures the media can use to inflict positive or negative bias on the president; how they are viewed in political humor, the types of “generic” stories reported, and the types of scandals reported. Imagine, if you will, a scale that doesn’t measure a weight, but rather a degree that will fluctuate public opinion from positive to negative based on what a majority of the media is reporting.
I’ll start with political humor, as it is the easiest to explain. The characteristics that the media wants the public see in the president can be almost immediately. These characteristics are typically represented in what most people would laugh about with their friends; let’s compare Obama and Bush. Starting with Bush, many late night comedy shows used President Bush’s word-mix ups, relationship with Cheney, and personality to create a narrative reinforcing that the characteristic of Bush was that he was stupid. Obama on the other hand, has been represented as cool and funny, sometimes lazy and sometimes a strong-armer. Since laziness and hardness is only occasionally made fun of it makes it easier for Obama to joke about it more openly, more than Bush could – as the made so many jokes about him being dumb, if he joked about it would only reinforce the idea.
Second is the type of generic, or the media’s “bread and butter” type reports. The way that the media portrays the president here is very important in order to maintain or slowly shift public opinion of the president. If the media is trying to drive public opinion down, they downplay the positive actions of a president while over scrutinizing every potentially negative detail; if the media wants to drive opinion up, they will over-celebrate every action of the president while ignoring negative details. Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Fred Barns explains this so well (here), saying, “No president in my lifetime has been covered so favorably and so gingerly.” Even when opposition to the president arises in the media, it is typically reported on quickly so the news outlets can claim that they are a moderate and respectable news agency, but then the story will disappear. Do you remember who Reverend Wright is? I’d be impressed if you do, but it is the racist, anti-american pastor of Obama; he was quickly talked about and quickly ignored. Now look at Steve Scalise and the witch hunt surrounding, and try then try to tell me that the two situations both Obama and Scalise are in are not similar.
Finally, and probably the most important part of determining the public opinion on the president, is the way that the press covers scandals, of which there should be many surrounding the Obama presidency that are not there. The media has failed to do their job in exposing the truth behind actions taken by the president. Do you remember when the IRS targeted tea party members and conservative non-profit organizations, the investigation of Solyndra that went nowhere, Fast and Furious, where “federal agents allowed thousands of guns to cross the border and fall into the hands of violent drug cartels, and the list goes on. Many of these scandals went severely underreported in order to maintain the presidents image.
It seems obvious to me that the media has a clear bias towards making the president appear favorable. This something that is dishonest to the viewers who are relying of the media to be the watchdogs over the government, not the cheerleaders. It is nerve-racking to me trying to picture what society we will live in where everyone is spoon-fed government propaganda, that is if we don’t get a handle on the problem at the source now.