The Media

Hackery Hall of Fame Inductee

When the history of the 2008 presidential campaign is written, it probably won't name TIME Magazine reporter Mark Halperin as the nation's most egregious hack. Because unfortunately this history will likely be written by several of Halperin's very serious friends.

However, when Halperin listed a series of recommendations for the McCain campaign -- recommendations that included the exploitation of the president-elect's middle name, using it to paint Barack Obama as an Islamic Manchurian Candidate, as well as a recommendation that McCain use surrogates to play the "race card" -- Halperin should've sealed his place in the 2008 Hackery Hall of Fame.

But given this one example of the establishment press coverage of the campaign -- in TIME Magazine no less -- it's remarkable that Halperin would have the balls to raise his Hack Chalice and declare:

"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."

Uh-huh. [More after the jump...]

So when the press spent two years reinforcing a false rumor that the president-elect was secretly a radical Muslim; or that he was "the most liberal senator" (he's not); or repeatedly calling him "Osama"; or playing the Rev. Wright tapes around the clock for an entire month; or wondering whether the president-elect was "one of us"; or questioning whether or not the president-elect was too presumptuous (uppity); or repeating McCain talking points that the president-elect was a socialist (he's not); or that the president-elect will never be able to reconcile with the Clintons; or reporting that the president-elect's wife hates America (she doesn't) -- somehow this is proof that the establishment media showed an "extreme pro-Obama" bias?Halperin is considered the maker of conventional wisdom in Washington. I can only hope that this is a fad, because what Halperin does can be defined as nothing more than a self-indulgent exercise in superficiality and journalistic myopia. To wit: the various studies about the press coverage of the two candidates prove absolutely nothing about bias and absolutely everything about which of the two campaigns produced more good news and which produced more bad news. And that's all.Beyond the array of unfair but expected attacks on Barack Obama's character, the record shows that the Obama campaign was better organized and more disciplined. It raised more money and it remained ahead in the polls with the exception of the very brief Sarah Palin bump after the RNC. And yes, it's a fact that the Obama campaign carried more historical and transformational baggage. Was the press supposed to ignore all of this?But in the establishment media's self-consciousness -- a character trait beaten into it by the far-right's claim of a "liberal bias" -- the press decided to stir into its coverage a wide variety of rumors and slanders against the president-elect and his family in order to craft a sense of balance -- even though the truth, in the case of the Obama campaign, happened to have one of those well known liberal biases. These rumors can be, in part, attributed to conventional wisdom makers like Mr. Halperin.We have a lot of work to do as bloggers, commenters and activists in the coming years. And one of those tasks is to make sure that guys like Mark Halperin are exposed as the unapologetic hacks they truly are (I would argue that Halperin is more destructive than, say, Drudge or the far-right talkers simply because Halperin is taken more seriously.)UPDATE: Halperin has edited his "recommendations" post with lots of excuses like: "Note: This is analysis of what is likely to happen, not advice or endorsement." But that's not how it was originally presented, as evidenced by this Media Matter's post. I mean, there's no denying the meaning of this sentence: "Things McCain can do when running against Obama that Clinton has been unable to do well or at all." That clearly implies a series of recommendations to me.