Have the media kicked the nasty, self destructive habit of anti-Republican partisan hackery in light of Rathergate, Easongate, the predictive reporting of an Iraqi “quagmire” and the vanishing Afghan elections? Like an alcoholic watching his life fall apart while promising himself just one more drink, the political cravings of the MSM are apparently too strong. After years of being schooled by left leaning universities and protected by their comfy cocoon throughout their careers, they simply weren’t equipped with the necessary journalistic integrity to resist the temptation they were about to face.
And so came the Schiavo story. It seemed that telling it straight would have been so easy. It was an amazing story that raised some incredibly thought provoking issues: the inherent problems with the legal system applying civil standards to life and death situations, the “untold” facts about Michael Schiavo that cast doubt on whether he (or anyone else for that matter) should be trusted with the decision to end Terri’s life, the details of competing doctors that suggested Terri may not have been vegetative, but merely disabled. Putting a disabled person to death against her will is earth shattering news. But more importantly, telling it straight was the right thing to do and may have changed the political winds enough for us to ponder whether its right to put someone to death when we’re not really sure if they’re vegetative or if it’s really in accordance with their true wishes.
But with the painful hangover of Bush being credited with spreading democracy in the Middle East still lingering and the enticing prospect of being able to use the story as a wedge issue between Christian and fiscal conservatives/libertarians, it was near impossible for old media to resist.
The first drink came when the media framed the story as a typical “right to die” case, reporting the medical conclusions as fact and portraying the parents as misguided loved ones who just couldn’t let go of a daughter who “died” long ago. Supporters of Terri were cast as religious zealots. Michael Schiavo – he was to be just as much a victim as the parents, with none of those messy allegations of abuse getting in the way. Reporting of his living with another woman was kept to a minimum. There would be no reporting of the timing of his decision to reveal Terri’s “true” wishes which came only after the receipt of proceeds from a legal settlement which was premised on Terri being cared for by Michael ad infinitum.
After a few rounds, the media began covering the “political implications” of the Schiavo story. Not just any political implications, mind you. No, they focused specifically on the Republicans being perceived as capitalizing on Terri’s tragic circumstances for political gain (it didn’t matter that a large number of Democrats voted for the Schiavo legislation). Since this was just another right to die case, the only possible explanation for passing legislation requiring a trial de novo must have been sheer political opportunism. The possibly that it was actually an attempt to correct a grave injustice unfolding before our eyes was scarcely mentioned.
Next came the polls. The media’s equivalent of a good stiff chaser. It wasn’t enough for the media to tell us their narrative. They needed to convince us that we believed in the story. The polls didn’t ask such questions as: “if some doctors believe Terri is in a vegetative state but others say she is not, would you favor removing her feeding tube?” Instead the questions were premised on Terri being vegetative as a fact. But even that may not have produced the desired results, so they slipped in couple of references to Terri being permanently unconscious or in a coma. Apparently they weren’t too concerned about those videos going around of Terri smiling and laughing. But hey, they were already on to their fourth or fifth round and things were starting to get a little crazy.
It didn’t stop there. They reached for the same cheap bottle of tequila that almost did them in once before: the media ran with the talking points memo. Without the memo the media’s narrative only suggested that the Republicans were cold, evil political opportunists. Already intoxicated by their self-fulfilling reporting that Republicans were losing public support, the media decided to go all the way and report specific evidence that was to confirm what they had already inferred. It didn’t matter that the memo had errors on its face, was not authored and was substantively inconsistent with legitimate congressional talking points. Nor did it matter that there appeared to be no evidence that Republicans circulated it or that it appeared to have first surfaced in the hands of Democrats and not Republicans.
I’m not sure if this will be the binge that does them in. But the MSM are surely in a pathetic downward spiral.
UPDATE: For an excellent analysis of the talking points scandal check out John Hinderaker’s piece in the Weekly Standard.
UPDATE II: Michelle Malkin has a good entry on pro life supporters of Terri being treated like freaks.
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