Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who won the Debate, the Candidates or the Media?

Last night’s debate began by focusing on the dust up between Clinton and Obama, leaving Edwards on the sidelines where the Main Stream Media has wanted him throughout this campaign. His only participation in that early discussion was framed by NBC so that viewers would see him as the “establishment white male” against the new and progressive ethnic and female candidates.

As for the racial controversy spurred on by both Clinton and Obama staffers, thankfully they seem to have checked the rhetoric and focused on issues instead of each other.

Edwards, for his part, sincerely praised the Democratic Party for being the Party of diversity and said he was proud to be in a Party that has offered an African American and a female as serious presidential candidates. He did not express any disappointment or resentment for being in what some consider a disadvantaged position, rather he displayed gratitude for the opportunity to openly discuss his views for people to compare with the other candidates.

The most important issue that came out of last night’s debate for me was the evidence of the media’s usurpation of the electoral process. The day of the debate saw one of the originally invited participants uninvited followed by a court battle that resulted in a ruling that NBC must include Congressman Kucinich or the court would block the debate. The judgment was appealed and since no appellate decision was made by the time of the debate NBC had effectively overturned the decision of the first court and inflicted their judgment of which candidates are viable on the American public.

The debate was hosted by NBC and moderated by Brian Williams and Tim Russert. Williams has said he feels it is his duty to listen daily to Rush Limbaugh, one of the most egregious of the Right wing broadcasters. Russert’s show, Meet the Press, was identified by Vice President Dick Cheney’s press secretary as the one place they go to when Cheney needs to go on air and they can “control the message”. Russert has also publicly stated that he considers all conversations with politicians “off the record” unless agreed to in advance, which is the antithesis of good journalism.

The networks and cable news channels all want to host their own debate and the candidates have cooperated with the exception of the Democrats refusing to debate on the Fox News Channel because they are viewed as completely partisan and all but an official outlet of the White House. By hosting the debates the media channels have been enabled to frame the issues to their own perception which has greatly favored Republicans.

Finally, the campaign season itself is much longer than it has been in the past and the direct beneficiaries are not candidates or the public, but the media who has gained far greater influence, even control over the process. As a result of that influence the majority of Americans, who had been prepared to remove Bush and the Republican Party from office and give the Democrats an opportunity, are being subjected to more debates and more analysis which allows the media to structure the arguments and then interpret for the viewers what was said. This has had the effect of trying to legitimize Republican chances in the election and artificially improve their odds against the Democratic candidate.