Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2004 / 29 Elul, 5764
Who's Looking Out For You?
There are a lot of amazing elements to the CBS/National Guard document story: CBS's initial "how-dare-these-internet-bloggers-question-us!" hubris, Dan Rather's refusal to see the writing on the wall, and Kerry's supporters' sheer stupidity in fueling this story in the first place. But when "no spin"-meister Bill O'Reilly chose to weigh in, it wasn't what you might have expected--namely, Bill didn't blast the elites at Viacom who are allowing the story to fester due their failure to take responsibility for the fishy documents. Instead, O'Reilly took the occasion to blast "right wing conservative talk show hosts" for pushing the story of the memos. "Because of the internet, everything has changed," he lamented, "It's just nuts."
But to millions of Americans, who listen to talk radio, scan the internet, and watch cable news, even more "nuts" were the days when the television news world was dominated by the likes of CBS, NBC and ABC. In those "good old days" Walter, Dan, Peter and Tom were the gatekeepers. And if we little people had problems with the bias, or with the stories that were never covered, well, it was just too bad. In those days, we little people didn't have folks like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and enterprising bloggers holding the elites' feet to the fire when they needed it.
"Believe me, I know Dan Rather. In just a self-interest arena, someone like Rather or O'Reilly or Brokaw," O'Reilly insisted, "We're not going to do anything fraudulent, because our careers would just go-POOF!" Of course by that logic, none of the top execs at Enron or Tyco could possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing either because their careers would just go POOF! Ditto for any politician accused of wrongdoing.
Who knows why O'Reilly, once an elite-buster extraordinaire, seems to be in the middle of an extreme image makeover. Maybe it's more fun to shoot the breeze with P. Diddy than it is to shine the light on CBS. Maybe you get cooler cocktail invites by perpetually reminding everyone
that you're an independent. Maybe the seductive pull of the New York elite media was just too much for him. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure-Fox News, talk radio, and internet news sites have broken through by challenging the elites, not by becoming like the elites.
Newsweek, The Washington Post, and the Dallas Morning News are all covering the CBS/National Guard documents story largely because of the work of ambitious bloggers who did the initial leg work. Yes, talk radio listeners want to hear the latest on this. Why is that disturbing to some? Who is to say that this story is any less legitimate than 24/7 hurricane coverage? Broadcast networks demand accountability-as they rightly should-from the Bush Administration in its handling of Iraq, the economy, and even the President's National Guard Service. So why do they resist the public holding them accountable in their reporting?
The network dinosaurs won't admit it, but they prefer those "good old days" when they were the only game in town. It was much easier when they reported and you listened. You can't blame them for being bitter, really. They know their days are numbered. We don't need them anymore. And this infuriates them. Tom Brokaw, in a speech to the National Press Club, targeted "right wing radio" as "jingoistic." Peter Jennings has made no secret of his own disdain for this brave new media culture. All those people out there, listening to talk radio, and wearing flag lapel pins! What is this country coming to?
O'Reilly has chosen an odd moment in history to embrace the old media. We were tired of their arrogance twenty years ago and it's no more charming today. And we don't plan on ceding their monopoly back to them. Conservatives in 1964, 1974 and 1984 were just as frustrated with liberalism as they are today, but the difference is, back then they had no media outlets where their views were heard. Now they do.
Power to the People.
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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show and the author of the just released "Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America". Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Laura Ingraham