During the 1992 presidential campaign, President Bush said, “You know my favorite bumper sticker? 'Annoy the media, re-elect President Bush.' They don't like it. They don't like it a bit.”
For the 2004 presidential campaign, Howard Dean has picked up that theme. Us vs. them — with “them” being the media. These days, when he’s not shrieking war whoops into a microphone, Dean talks of “the struggle between us and the Washington politicians and the established press. And they have attacked us for months, every time they have an opportunity, but we're stronger than they are.”
The “struggle” theme may not be of Marx and Engels’ class proportions, but it’s there nonetheless. And Dean supporters are fighting the struggle against the press every day in the trenches — the Internet trenches. That’s where you’ll find the Dean campaign’s “Blog for America,” and its abundance of theories (paranoid or not) about the established press’ attacks on poor ’ole Howard Dean. Those theories predate the media piling on Dean after his nationally broadcast exuberance (irrational or not) at the news that he came in a disappointing third in Iowa.
The right has made a franchise out of identifying and attacking media bias. Now it seems the left wants in on the action. Now they’re blaming the media. This reversal is one of the most fascinating quirks of the 2004 campaign — and the entire Howard Dean phenomenon.
Let’s sneak a peek into the Dean blogs and see what his followers are saying. Their complaints fall into a few broad categories:
Non-liberals control the media
- “The Republican-controlled media distort the words of Howard Dean.”
- “The media is trying its hardest to push down Dean, because they know that he is the only one to challenge the status quo. The Republican-controlled mass media would just love to have a wimp as nominee.”
- “It’s George Bush/Right Wing controlling the national media.”
- “There is no liberal news media. It’s all run by conservatives who lie like hell and cover up the truth.”
- “Of course the neocon media made that statement out to mean that Dean is against Israel, which isn't the case at all.”
- “Do not let the corporate controlled media and their well paid pundits and so called political experts tell you how to vote.”
The media's out to get Dean
- “As much as the media might like to see us in trouble, the greatest grassroots movement in history is soaring high and fast.”
- “WE have to work harder than ever to get the truth out, because the media is spinning this ANTI DEAN all the way!”
- “The media sucks so bad they will shill for Bush and spin for Bush.”
- “Maybe the media bashing us nonstop will help. It certainly doesn't seem to be hurting us so far.”
- “This whole Dean is angry thing is media spin.”
- “Dean is being accused of constantly needing to ‘explain himself’ because the media are, more and more — intentionally — misrepresenting him.”
- “The media people do their damndest to make Dean's campaign look bad.”
- “Just tell everyone that let the process play out and not let the media manipulate their vote!!”
- “Apparently all the distortions by the media on Dean are working and Dean's unfavorable poll ratings are rising.”
- “Now the media once again picks on him.”
Need for rebellion
- “Take back OUR country. Take back OUR media. Take back OUR political process.”
- “We want our country back. We want our media back.”
- “It's not just about reaching Democrats, it's about fighting the media in order to get the truth about Dean to our fellow citizens.”
- “Fight back by writing to the media and 'give em hell' for their slanted coverage.”
- “I can't help but think something drastic needs to happen -- something similar to the civil rights movement protests -- but in regards to media bias.”
General media disgust
- “The media is disgusting, they can just go to hell.”
- “If you believe that there is a ‘liberal bias’ in the media, then I have some WMD's located in Iraq that you may be interested in purchasing...
- “We are the alternative to media outlets ... and they are frightened ... they have lost control of the info.”
- “Recently, Dean has been the object of one of the most ridiculous waves of
media criticism I've ever seen. The Doctor's statement that Saddam's capture
makes us no safer was reported as a 'gaffe.' But nobody has produced
any evidence that he's wrong.”
- “We no longer have free thinking media. We have Pravda.”
Here’s the bottom line question: Do Dean boosters think it will it annoy the media if Dean wins?
For guidance, let’s consider this blog entry:
“The Press regularly monitors this site. They are mostly interested in getting a byline and some fast press with a blog-bite. You’ll see reports citing blog posts, usually from trolls, taken out of context and reported on the press as indicative of the campaign. The best way to deal with bad press is to write to the editor, cancel your subscriptions, donate to Dr. Dean and stop watching the corporate news. We’re onto them now. Maybe one day we’ll see real journalism replace the corporate sound-bite reporting mentality, but it won’t be anytime soon. (My apologies to the few members of the press out here who actually ‘get’ what this is about, and are able to file complete stories without bias — we’re learning who you are, and we thank you and your organizations for speaking the truth).”
Under those rules, I’m not sure if my writing here leaves me guilty or innocent. I trust the Dean bloggers will give me a fair trial.
Howard Mortman is a producer for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."