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Daily Howler: Harold Evans--and Christy Hardin Smith--dig up our disappeared history
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EVANS AND SMITH GET IT RIGHT! Harold Evans—and Christy Hardin Smith—dig up our disappeared history: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2006

EVANS AND SMITH GET IT RIGHT: Three cheers for Harold Evans (our personal choice for the world’s heppest cat). In yesterday’s New York Times, Evans reviewed Daniel Okrent’s new collection of ombudsman columns. And omigod! Just like that, just as if it were allowed, Evans mentioned an important part of our recent shared history—a part of our history which major journalists usually know not to mention. In the following passage, Evans discusses the history of the Times before Howell Raines became editor:
EVANS (6/18/06): The fault lines were there before Raines took over—in the intrusion of meanspirited gossip into news articles; the unwillingness to correct the misleading scoop on the Clinton-Whitewater land deal; the proliferation of dubious blind quotations, a slippery slope leading to the Blair-style fabrication of quotations; and the trivialization of some reporting on Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. The catastrophe that swept away Raines built incrementally over years with the erosion of A. M. Rosenthal's tyrannical rigor.
Evans mentions the Times’ failure to correct its Whitewater work. And then, omigod! He mentions the coverage of Candidate Gore! For ourselves, we’d describe that problem in stronger terms, especially as we gaze on the outcome of the press corps’ two-year War Against Gore—a war which was largely fueled by the Times. But most major journalists simply refuse to mention the press corps’ coverage of Gore. For the record, Evans described the trashing of Gore in real time, in June 2000, in The Guardian (excerpts below). But yes, his mention of this topic in yesterday’s Times is important. It’s important that citizens begin to hear that something strange happened during Campaign 2000. This is an important part of our recent history—and one that is still rarely mentioned.

Luckily, the silence is starting to end (even if it’s happening years too late). In particular, we strongly recommend the discussion of Eric Boehlert’s Lapdogs which is being conducted at The Lake. As she introduces Part 1 of the discussion, Christy Hardin Smith says this:

SMITH (6/18/06): Notwithstanding the absurdly anachronistic rightwing claim of “liberal” media bias, George W. Bush’s ascent to the highest office in the land and his subsequent 5+ years in office have been marked by uniquely supplicant media coverage. Beginning with the Daily Howler (who deconstructed anti-Gore narratives in 2000) to bloggers and online media watchers have documented the media’s pattern of Bush-propping and Dem-bashing.
We’ll nit-pick one part of that (see below). But it’s important that we understand our own recent history, and it’s important that American voters hear about the remarkable coverage of Candidate Gore. For most mainstream and liberal journalists, this is still a forbidden topic—for fairly obvious reasons, we’d guess. So yes, it’s important when Evans and Smith cite this crucial part of our recent shared history.

And luckily, a critical mass of younger (than us) writers has begun to discuss this disappeared story. You could hardly improve on what you’ll find at The Lake, where the very perceptive Peter Daou is leading the discussion of Boehlert’s important book. Meanwhile, over at Media Matters, Jamison Foster recently showed how easy it is to state the facts about the remarkable coverage of Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/5/06). As we’ve told you for years (and years), mainstream and “liberal” journalists have simply refused to discuss this topic. Boehlert, Daou, Foster—and Evans—have shown us the way to our past.

And so, three cheers for Harold Evans—and for Boehlert, Daou, Foster and Smith. In an open society, citizens simply must hear the truth about their major political history. The remarkable truth about Campaign 2000 has been disappeared (and rearranged) by self-dealing scribes. We’re thrilled to see this important recent history finding its way to the light.

Tomorrow, though, we beg for a publisher. The full story here still hasn’t been told. How did George Bush ever get to be president? We’re prepared to tell the full tale—and the public deserves to be told.

EVANS GOT IT RIGHT: We strongly advise you to read Evans’ June 2000 piece from the Guardian. In this real-time piece, Evans described the way the mainstream American press was inventing fake tales to make Al Gore a liar. In the following passage, he described the way the American press agrees to recite preferred but absurdly fake Group Stories. We have long called these group stories “scripts:”

EVANS (6/12/00): The American press gets locked into Story Mode Syndrome (SMS) much more than the more varied, more cantankerous British press; and then awkward facts that would spoil a story line are flotsam on a surging tide. Now everyone is busy parsing Gore as a self-aggrandising liar. With the speed and proliferation of media in the electronic age, the old standards of checking have lapsed. By three or four news cycles, a minor piece of misreporting can incrementally morph into a monster, and checking its genealogy is like trekking back to the source of the Zambesi.
Doing what American journalists wouldn’t, Evans then discussed four of the pleasing, fake tales about Gore. Which stories? The claim that Gore said he invented the Internet. The claim that Gore said he inspired Love Story. The claim that Gore said her discovered Love Canal. The claim that Gore lied about the farm chores. Somehow, Evans debunked these nasty stories in real time, in June 2000. Mainstream and liberal American journalists still refuse to discuss them today. Of course, to those of you who are rational beings, it may seem hard to grasp the truth—that the endless flogging of these fake tales eventually sent George Bush to the White House. But that’s a basic part of our recent shared history—and voters need to hear it discussed. (How misconduct does its harm through the ages: Even today, many Americans doubt Gore on global warming because they believe that he’s a liar—because they believed these fake tales.)

Go ahead, read the Evans piece—and then be thankful for Daou, Boehlert, Foster and Smith. (And ask yourself an obvious question: Why didn’t liberal American journals discuss this matter in real time?) Almost surely, there will never be another White House hopeful who gets trashed by the press corps the way Gore did. But uh-oh! An equal-but-opposite script has been crafted for press corps use during Campaign 08. Even as Gore was being turned into a demon, McCain was being remade as a saint. In part, we need to tell voters about the Gore script so they can begin to understand the script they will meet RE McCain. Make no mistake—that script is out there, waiting to do its work.

IN WHICH WE SEMI-NITPICK: As promised, we’ll nit-pick one part of what Smith wrote. Aarrgh! Here at THE HOWLER, we didn’t “deconstruct anti-Gore narratives in 2000.” We did so day after day, week after week, starting in March 1999, when the press corps began its twenty-month war against Bill Clinton’s troubling successor. In fact, three of the story-lines Evans discussed were being pounded, very hard, at that early point in the race. When we tell this important story, we need to get our basic facts right. Only progressives would do what we tend to do with this topic—would wipe away half the press corp’s misconduct in the course of condemning their work. Will we ever stop downplaying the way the press corps has harmed our vital interests?

Smith and The Lake are providing a valuable service as they host the discussion of Lapdogs. But readers! Seven years later, can’t we get our basic facts right? Must we always under-state the scope of this press corps misconduct?

A SUPERLATIVE QUESTION: Why don’t Democrats discuss this press corps conduct? That question pops up in the comments RE Lapdogs. We’ll offer suggestions in some future post.