The Deadly Threat to the Fourth Estate

Yesterday I noted that it was such a slow news day that aggregators were heavily featuring the fatuous whining of the White House press corps over its inability to “cover” the president’s golf outing to Florida. Little did I know this “crisis” represented simply the latest and most egregious example of the Obama White House’s dastardly conspiracy to crush the Free Press via its refusal to make coverage easier. But hey: that’s why we have Politico‘s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei to give us a glimpse of realities “behind the curtain,” where “Obama, the Puppet-Master” (actual headline!) is engaging in sinister tactics–much of them derived from his infernal mastery of those new-fangled social media–to give people a favorable image of what he is doing unfiltered by the Fourth Estate.

Aware that they are skirting the boundaries of self-parody, Allen and VandeHei allow as how self-promotion is sorta kinda endemic to Presidents of the United States. Still:

[S]omething is different with this White House. Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s “brand.” They are more disciplined about cracking down on staff that leak, or reporters who write things they don’t like. And they are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.

There are two especially remarkable things about this piece. The first is that it proposes no real “solution” to the “problem,” other than (presumably) a press-friendly White House that promotes precisely the incestuous relationship with the MSM that conservatives complain about. And the second is that Allen and VandeHei do not acknowledge other factors vitiating old-fashioned media coverage, such as the steady shrinkage of reporting resources by the conglomerates owning the MSM. This latter point was made rather directly by Charles Pierce, of course:

It is not — repeat, not — the president’s fault that major media corporations are run by bean-counting morons. (It is his fault that he hasn’t done more on the issue of media consolidation, but that’s not what the PG’s [Presiding Genuises] are going on about here.) Of course the White House will exploit this fact to its own advantage. The White House is a political operation. That’s what those things do.

I’m with Pierce entirely in expressing frustration over the hijacking of entirely legitimate fears about media manipulation by those angry the White House isn’t enabling their saturation coverage of trivialities. The identification of “transparency” with the holy First Amendment right to pursue the president onto the golf links is a sign of something more dangerous than an uncooperative White House press office.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.