Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Media Bias done 'right'...

Newsweek shows how to do it in this week's cover story that is, in theory, on how Presidents over time have pressed the boundaries of Presidential power in times of emergency, but in reality, is a slam at Bush and Cheney's efforts to protect us from terrorist attack.

There's nothing factually wrong in the story (at least as far as I can tell)... no CBS "false but accurate" uses of bogus materials, sources that don't hold up or anything else that exemplifies doing it the 'wrong way'... so there's nothing that allows critics to immediately and easily trash it.

What Newsweek does is use what I call 'guilt by negative association', using examples of clear overreaching of power of previous Presidents to insinuate that Bush is doing the same thing... which, by inference, must mean that Bush is doing something wrong.

For example, the article refers to Nixon's wiretapping of domestic critics during Vietnam, leading readers to think of Bush and Nixon having done the 'same thing'... without pointing out that Nixon and his staff KNEW what they were doing was illegal, while Bush and Cheney very much (as of press date) feel what they did was legal. A huge difference. And note how Newsweek uses Nixon as the example and not either Clinton or Carter, both of whom were reported to have pushed the envelope in authorizing wiretapping... using either of those two would definitely not have produced the same reaction - Bush=Nixon - from readers. Newsweek even includes a picture of an Impeach Nixon poster, implying that what Bush did was grounds for impeachment, and providing some emotional support for the Democrats in Congress who are clamoring to impeach Bush. Following the breadcrumbs of the story results in the reader thinking Nixon = Bush... Nixon faced impeachment... therefore, Bush ought to be impeached. A nice touch.

Newsweek also dredges up the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII as an example of Presidential overreach, along with John Adams supporting the Alien and Sedition Act and Woodrow Wilson allowing prosecution of those criticizing the government... again, with the intent of tainting Bush's steps to protect America. But note Newsweek has no instances of Presidents using their power in ways that the American public might think a good thing... all of Newsweek's examples are those which, paraphrasing the story, "made the nation appreciably safer".

Newsweek could have, for example, mentioned FDR's deals with England during the early days of WWII that helped keep England in the fight and helped America prepare for the war that FDR was determined to enter... but that might have left the reader thinking that it is okay for the President to push the envelope. There's also no mention of Presidents pushing the envelope to do things the liberals at Newsweek supported, such as Clinton's involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo... no 'positive' associations for Bush.

All in all, a rather good hit piece... and all without needing to visit a Kinkos.