For a long time I have been driven to distraction by the media. I have all but given up reading newspapers except for local news, and rely mainly on NPR and PBS for news. I also try to see and hear news programs from other countries, because I want to know how they see us and our current political disaster. I do, of course, watch the networks, and can hardly avoid hearing their take on things, even though I don't sit down and watch what they call news.
Among other things, I receive by email a weekly update called Media Matters for America - Jamison Foser. On September 12th he sent a piece headed by the words I used as the title of this post: Privileging the Lie. In it, he discussed the influence that the media has on the voting public. He calls it "conservative misinformation", an apt title, and he discussed at length the political campaign of the year 2000 - Bush and Gore, whichis what he is referring to when he says that this time it's different.
If I may quote: "The frame of most news reports about false claims made by McCain (and Palin and their staff) is very different. The frame isn't is lying again; it is John McCain said something; how will Barack Obama respond? Some of those news reports get around to mentioning that McCain's claim isn't true -- but those passing mentions hardly matter. They aren't the dominant theme of the report, so they don't stick in the minds of readers and viewers."
The vast majority of those readers and viewers cannot be bothered to do any homework on candidates. They do not look up the records. They know little or nothing except what the media tells them, and constant repetition of a lie, without constant qualification as to the truth, leaves them with memory only of the lie.
This Media Matters piece ends with this: "Reporters "take sides" with everything they do. Everything they do involves a choice, involves a decision that X is more important than Y. When they report a lie five times before reporting the fact that it is false, they are taking the lie's side.
The question isn't whether reporters should "take sides" -- they can't possibly avoid.
The only question is whether they will side with truth or with fiction."
It's pretty obvious which side most of the media is on today.