Obama To Press: ‘Play Dead, Rover!’

Glenn Greenwald, in an article with the well-aimed title “Dog-training the press corps,” makes a convincing argument, with plenty of examples, that the reporters who praise Mr. Obama in print… i.e., those who kiss his ass… are rewarded with greater access and sweeter exclusives. This is not new with Obama, of course; the Bush 43 White House worked exactly the same way, and I suspect (without having actually researched the matter) that the practice goes back at least to the Reagan administration. Here’s Greenwald, following about a dozen examples of press asskissery:

I could spend the rest of the day doing this; this doesn’t even include the MSNBC personalities who spend every day of their lives, literally, praising the President and attacking his political opponents and are then amply rewarded with all sorts of “exclusive” interviews with White House officials and Obama campaign aides, which are exactly as hard-hitting and adversarial as you’d expect. This dog-training treatment of media figures was just as prevalent — and just as effective — during the Bush years (although, as someone with many dogs, I can honestly say that actual dogs are much more difficult to train than these journalists, who just need one or two biscuit crumbs in exchange for life-long devotion and obedience).

Indeed. Our White House press corps sucks, especially compared to dogs, and all presidents make use of that ugly fact. It is part of that fast drive down the slope and over the precipice that I spoke of in a recent post. Yes, of course, Obama is to be castigated for his dog-training of the press. And yes, we have to “keep [our] eyes wide open all the time,” as Johnny Cash sang it.

But as I mentioned in that same recent post, you don’t have to like the man; you don’t even have to reluctantly admire him… I don’t, and I don’t. All you have to do is recognize that on Jan. 20, 2013, one of two men will take an oath and begin issuing orders. Does Rmoney [sic] scare you in that role more than Obama? That’s the question that matters most when you decide how to vote. If you feel that you’re being played by O, you may well be right, but remember… you have a nation to save.

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  • upyernoz  On Monday April 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

    personally, i view the president’s record of rewarding members of the press who give him positive press as more of a black mark against the press (for playing along) than the president. the president is a politician. part of his job is to try to market himself and his administration any way he can.

    the media, on the other hand, is supposed to be a check on the people in power. so while i don’t blame obama (or bush before him, or any president before that) to try to curry favor with the press, i think it’s pretty shameful when the press gets bought off.

    • Steve  On Monday April 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

      A question, ‘noz: have things ever been different? Was the press ever responsible in the face of loss of access when they decided really to, um, press? I always remember how Bush 43 “demoted” Helen Thomas for an overheard (if foolish) comment by her. I’d love to think that things were different in the days of, say, Edward R. Murrow, but I wasn’t alive then. (Well, actually, I was, but I wasn’t even college-aged when he died.) The only broadcast journalist I really admire today is Bill Moyers. Print journalists? Well, I’d be listing people better known for their web work than their print work; I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison: McLuhan is right today more than ever.

      • upyernoz  On Monday April 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        i have no idea whether things were ever better in the past. sometimes i don’t think they were even though i think we have all internalized some of the mythologies of a courageous press standing up to red scares, etc.

        on the other hand, does the history really matter? even if it’s always been like this, that doesn’t excuse the press for not performing its function as a check on those in power.

        • Steve  On Monday April 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm

          ‘noz, of course you’re right. It is what the press is supposedly for in a democracy. Unfortunately, in America, press/media superstars are as self-preoccupied as any other sort of superstar, and we don’t typically get from them the job they owe us.

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