The Swiftboating of CNN: “Working the Refs”

 

 

CNN

He’s at it again. Apparently immune to self-humiliation, a certain self-described “citizen journalist” with a long history of producing dishonest and deceptively edited videos has released another one. His previous efforts have gotten him arrested, sued, forced to pay $100,000, and repeatedly debunked and proclaimed a sham even by (some of) his fellow right-wing fanatics. But he still gets plenty of media exposure for being a fraudulent hack, so he still keeps doing it.  And this time he has a target that his fans are particularly eager to pounce on: CNN.

It’s astounding, and slightly amusing in a perverse way, to hear how often people peg CNN as a staunchly “liberal” network, whatever that means. Mention to one of your right-wing friends or relatives what a cesspool Fox “News” is, and chances are the Pavlovian response will be something like “Oh yeah? Well what about CNN?” During the recent presidential campaign it was common for reactionaries to refer to it as the Clinton News Network. And the current White House Occupant himself, who simply parrots brainlessly whatever he hears from the loony fringe media, has declared the network to be “fake news” and barred it from media conferences.

All of which is supremely ironic; CNN is also a frequent target of criticism by Media Matters, which is devoted to exposing “conservative misinformation”.  In fact, almost every day, Media Matters documents at least one instance of right-wing bias at CNN — evidently the highest frequency of any non-Fox media source. Furthermore, CNN has hired two of the White House Occupant’s lackeys as commentators. And lest we forget, it gave us a decade or so of Lou Dobbs, who, while nominally a centrist, railed against President Obama in a manner reminiscent of Father Coughlin railing against FDR, and now has found a home at Fox. CNN also has offered a frequent platform to the likes of George Will, Robert Novak, Charles Krauthammer, William Bennett, Jonah Goldberg, Tucker Carlson, and even Pat Robertson and Ann Coulter.

Of course, the network also has its instances of left-wing bias. But that’s just the point. Whatever its shortcomings may be as a journalistic source (and it does indeed have some) it’s rather balanced ideologically.  The Pew Research Center ranked it slightly left of center based on the ideology of the average viewer:

Network bias

And bear in mind that such a criterion as viewership probably makes CNN seem more left-leaning that it really is, since progressive (“liberal”) viewers face more limited options — as witness the domination of the media landscape by a rabid Fox,  which sends other networks scrambling to match its strides.

So why would the right-wing punditocracy single out such a relatively middle-of-the-road network to externally brand as the flagship of the legendary (and largely mythical) librulmedia? Simple: precisely because it is relatively middle-of-the-road. Establishing CNN as a benchmark for “liberal bias” by playing up its leftward tilts and ignoring its rightward tilts, the manipulators hope to utterly discredit anything even slightly left of center.

Immediately after the fraudulent anti-CNN video was released, White House spokesbot Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared that any media criticizing her president is “fake news” and in almost the same breath urged everyone to watch the video, “whether it’s accurate or not”. The head can’t stop reeling from the bombardment of irony these days.

Meanwhile, the White House exploited the video in a fundraising letter (Fundraising?? Wasn’t the point of electing a pampered billionaire so the president wouldn’t be so dependent on the public’s money?), citing it as proof that CNN is “pushing phony news stories to boost their ratings, rile up their (wait for it) rabid liberal base, and take us down”.

It’s a tactic that Eric Alterman describes nicely in his book What Liberal Media?, which is well summed up in a column at The Nation. (It is Alterman, by the way, from whom I have borrowed the strikingly appropriate term punditocracy.) He quotes then-chair of the GOP Rich Bond:

If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is ‘work the refs.’ Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one.

Right-wingers have carried this strategy to outrageous extremes. They howl about the “liberal bias” of the media any time there is a news report that does not reinforce their narratives and beliefs. It’s all part of a strategy to work the refs, shift the goalposts and tilt the playing field. And it’s paying off handsomely.

The ultimate objectives in crying wolf over the librulmedia are twofold: first, to bully media outlets into being even more right-leaning than they already are, and second, to have mainstream news outlets branded as radically leftist in the mind of the public; and by comparison, then, an unhinged right-wing outlet like Fox will be perceived as … well, fair and balanced.  And we’ve already traveled very far down that Orwellian road.

 

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One thought on “The Swiftboating of CNN: “Working the Refs”

  1. All I know is that during Comey’s investigations of Clinton I thought many times, “Why is CNN being so hard on Clinton?” There was a lot of hype in that supposed scandal, and Comey seemed very above board and honest when he stated that one of the reasons the case would not go forward was because he thought there was a real possibility that Clinton may not have known how to properly classify sensitive materials, and therefore, no competent prosecutor would think he or she could successfully prosecute Clinton. I also think her claims that Comey exonerated her by saying that she was honest to the public, may have been standards spin, or merely conflating his affirmations that she did not lie to him, with her belief that his statement also affirmed her judgement that she had been honest to the American people as well.

    Whether that’s true or not, I still continually wondered why CNN was being so harsh while raking her over the journalistic coals so much?

    Now we have Trump changing his lies each day, and contradicting himself every minute, while he continues to con his supporters into believing that he really has the well being of the middle class at heat. And, for he first time in my life, this and other gutter antics use by the President to keep a hold on his base, suggests to me that a 1984 Big Brother mentality at work while any of us who calls him out on his lies, is immediately called a liberal tool, or prone to circulate fake news? As always, just the opposite is true when greedy leaders like Trump seek to fool their supporters by blaming it al on someone else or on the media itself!

    Remember his statement that he could probably shoot someone to death in the middle of 5th ave. and not even be arrested?—probably the next thing we’ll hear is that Trump actually did shoot someone, but that his supporters thought we should all keep our mouths shut, because our fearless leader was just trying to provide the victim with adequate healthcare—and was just making sure the poor guy never needed health care insurance again?

    I don’t know what the future will bring but its very upsetting to see so many progressive ideals being thrown out like so much trash, while a new ship of fools attempt to steer the ship of state into waters where democracy itself may never return from. Perhaps I am being too melodramatic, but then maybe I have a good reason to be!

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