Saturday, August 30, 2008

The 4th Estate Is Obama's 5th Column

The 4th Estate:
Novelist Jeffrey Archer made the observation: "on May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the 'Estates General'. The First Estate consisted of three hundred clergy. The Second Estate, three hundred nobles. The Third Estate, six hundred commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said, 'Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.'"
The 5th Column:
Originated in a 1936 radio address by Emilio Mola, a nationalist (fascist) general during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. As his army approached Madrid, he broadcast a message that the four columns of his forces outside the city would be supported by a "fifth column" of his supporters inside the city, intent on undermining the Republican government from within.
There are four columns arrayed against Barrack Obama in the 2008 election:
  • He is guilty of violating the unwritten taboo of RFPWB (running for president while black), otherwise known as the Bradley Effect.

  • He has violated the presumed right-of-way of the Clinton feminists, known as PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass) who maintain they would rather vote for McCain than the man who wronged their woman.

  • He is opposed by the well-funded swift-boaters 2008-version, represented by Obama Nation.

  • He is running, as are all Democrats, against the GOP dirty tricks & electoral fraud machinations in key battleground states such as Hans von Spakovsky's ‘vote-suppression agenda.’
As if that weren't enough, Barack Obama has to overcome a fifth column: an adverse press and electronic media, otherwise known as the mainstream media (MSM) or 'old media'. Why is this?

Some, to my left, would say that the old media has been bought and sold in the corporate system which means it is arrayed against Change We Can Believe In, if not all change. I'm not prepared to engage in such conspiracy theorizing.

In my view, the old media - for profit media - is not so much conspiratorial as it is dysfunctional. The MSM has a vested interest, I would argue. But its interest lies not in Obama losing, but in his not winning big. Whether you consider that the MSM is composed of pseudo-journalists, crypt-journalists, proto-journalists, or just plain stenographers, they perform like sports casters. The MSM presents electoral politics as a spectator's sport. They want to sustain the spectators' interest in the political super bowl at a high pitch. Their spinning coverage is driven by the need to pump up audience ratings. In order for them to secure their viewers', listeners' and readers' interest, the contest always has to be close. This means polls have to be, or be spun as, even. They have to attain the mythical illusion of the dead heat. This means that when any candidate emerges with a substantial lead, he has to have his alleged weaknesses discovered, listed, emphasized, scrutinized, and - most importantly - reiterated. This is not a leveling of the field: if Obama is seen as standing too tall, too colorful, too exciting, too inspiring, too photogenic, too articulate, too knowledgeable, then the field has to be tilted against so that his head not be elevated appreciably above that of his opponent.

Media figures - talking heads if you will - are less like referees than like moderators. Referees are neutral enforcers of the rules. Moderators want to moderate. They keep things moderate. Ratings-driven, moderators have to insinuate themselves into being a part of the story. They cannot merely report the story.

This is especially true for debates. A debate referee keeps the time, ensures equal time, and prevents interruptions and filibustering. Moderators jump in with their pointed questions to liven up the conversation with gotcha zingers which they think the audience wants to hear. Of course, as they do this, they are very aware that they will be part of the story. Most moderators want to be perceived as even-handed, and impartial. In order for that perception to have currency, a moderator could not allow either contestant candidate to be beaten up too much in his presence. Moderators thus becomes a part of the story. Referees do not influence the direction of the debate, but merely watch the clock. With a debate referee, only the debaters comprise the story.

So the MSM is systemically predisposed to moderating a presidential campaign so that it is close. And, as we have seen in the past, close presidential contests lend themselves to mischievous fraud in individual battle ground states. Thus, to come out on top, the Democratic ticket has to win "large"; the best antidote to Republican electoral fraud is a Democratic landslide.

Because of this array of forces against him, in a recent column I argued that Barack Obama ought to exploit his own strengths and McCain's weaknesses, emulate Republican 'Bitch-slap' behavior (disproportionate retaliation), and repudiate the Busheney legacy by humillitating McCain in a landslide victory. The best way he could telegraph his intentions, I argued, was to select General Wesley Clark as his running mate. Clark was an attack-dog whose bite on McCain was even worse than his bark. Sadly, Obama did not send this message; instead he selected Joe Biden. I am concerned.


Senator Obama is the most over-qualified candidate to emerge running for President in this generation.

Instead of repeating myself, I can find fresh support for my position from Frank Rich of the New York Times. Rich agrees with me that Obama offers presidential qualities vastly superior to McCain's. By Far. But the profit driven MSM will never allow for this possibility. Obama will have to step up his campaign style and substance:

..... It's because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country's full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to unceremoniously take out John McCain.

McCain should be a far easier mark than Clinton if Obama retools his act.

..... McCain's trigger-happy temperament and reactionary policies offer worse than no change. He is an unstable bridge back not just to Bush policies but to an increasingly distant 20th-century America that is still fighting Red China in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the cold war. As the country tries to navigate the fast-moving changes of the 21st century, McCain would put America on hold.

..... What Obama also should have learned by now is that the press is not his friend.

..... What should Obama do now?

..... sharper darts at a McCain lifestyle so extravagant that we are only beginning to learn where all the beer bullion is buried.

..... most Americans, for better or worse, know who Obama is. So much so that he seems to have fought off the relentless right-wing onslaught to demonize him as an elitist alien.

..... most Americans have turned their backs on the Iraq war, no matter how much McCain keeps bellowing about "victory."

How we dig out of this quagmire is the American story that Obama must tell. It is not a story of endless conflicts abroad but a potentially inspiring tale of serious economic, educational, energy and health-care mobilization at home. We don't have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars .....

The argument against Obama's "going negative" is that it undermines his message of "transcendent politics" and will make him look like an "angry black man." But pacifistic politics is an oxymoron, and Obama is constitutionally incapable of coming off angrier than McCain. A few more fisticuffs from the former law professor (and many more from his running mate and other surrogates) can only help make him look less skinny (metaphorically if not literally). Obama should go after McCain's supposedly biggest asset - experience - much as McCain went after Obama's crowd-drawing celebrity.

.....McCain's experience has already reached its expiration date.
  • Is a man who is just discovering the Internet qualified to lead a restoration of America's economic and educational infrastructures?

  • Is the leader of a virtually all-white political party America's best salesman and moral avatar in the age of globalization?

  • Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe?
In other words, Obama has nothing to fear from the inferior imposter McCain. It's only because of five columns of other forces now arrayed against the Democratic challenger that the nuanced mantra that served Obama so well in the relatively genteel Democratic primary, has to be abandoned. Obama has to rise to be more blunt and to insist on exposing Busheney's and McCain's red meat.

And, Change We can Believe In has to be ditched for the brutally and insistently honest Change Before It's Too Late.

25 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Utah Savage said...

Change Before It's Too Late! What a great last line to a thoroughly well done piece. You're the best.

I'm a bit down and out lately, but not too out to appreciate your terrific writing and careful construction. Wish you were part of the MSM. Revolution from within. I'm looking forward to Rachel Maddow following Keith Olbermann. Imagine that! Two unabashedly pro left pundits. Orally will pop his cork over that line-up

8/27/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Urban Pink said...

Wow, CNN is talking about how bloggers are saying the MSM is manufacturing controversial stories! Awesome. I'm beginning to hitch my hopes to a new generation of voters and maybe even politicians who simply want our government to work for everyone. Maybe Rachel Maddow can save this election...she has the power!

8/27/2008 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Yes, Vigil, the talking heads on teevee expect all of us to believe that whatever they can't show isn't real. They stand on what they presume to think is their corner on reality. They need to be bumped off the curb into the traffic in the streets where the rubber hits the road. The MSM doesn't like Obama because his words and voice reaches over them and around them, to the rest of us.

8/28/2008 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Yeah, here's just what I'm talking about!

8/28/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger J McKiernan said...

That's some amazingly astute stuff, Vig. Very, very nice. Quite possibly your finest hour. Think about that: Hillary Clinton and Vigilante, both presenting their best stuff ever within 24 hours of one another. If that's not healing and unity, I don't know what is. ;)

Your psycho-analysis of the MSM is astoundingly accurate. They are such the subtle provocateurs that you might as well throw out the "MSM" tagline and just call them the MSSD--Mainstream Spin Doctors. It absolutely serves their best interests to spin every story into something increasingly interesting, building suspense where none might otherwise exist.

But I think Obama understands what needs to be done. You posited over at Speed Bumps that perhaps Obama is "too much of a control freak." Well, I think he is very much in control. And he does need to be careful, because being so 'in control' can lead to political narcissism. However, I think he is pretty damn wise. I think he has an understanding of what he needs to do and how he needs to do it. Choosing Biden may have you worried, but you know as well as anyone how biting and direct the guy can be. Especially in a debate, he will be voracious.

Also, for the first time in a long time, after having to put up with a parade of nasty, negative ads from McCain airing in my home state of Ohio, I finally saw two strong, substantive Obama ads criticizing McCain for being "more of the same." They aired within a half hour of one another. Especially in a battleground state like this one, it is important to counter all those hideous, false attacks. I have yet to watch his speech tonight. I hope it is powerful and that it keeps moving this campaign forward. We need to hit the opposition hard, keep them in their place, and then continue to propel above and beyond the limitations of MSSD influence.

8/28/2008 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I am always warmed by your presence, J. Mck!

And among your strongest points is that the greatest evidence we have to date of Barack Obama's ability to be President on Day One, has been his marvelous campaign. It has been stupendous, daring and focused. I feel your sensitivity about Biden vs Clinton as pertains the Veep. Barrack is at home about running his own show. He controls the message and he has run a tight ship. More power to him. He's acting like a president should. I may have erred in calling him 'over-qualified'. It's just that we haven't seen anyone in the White House for eight years who's been qualified.

But now, that I've thought about it: I still feel he's over-qualified.

I am writing this after hearing the last portion of BHO's Acceptance Speech. Not knowing yet how much I missed, I can say this much: we will need all the talents of all a helluva a lot of people. Because, by himself, John McCain is nothing, zero, zip, zed. Barrack Obama, by himself, is casting a huge shadow over McCain. But there are dark, devious and largely anonymous forces arrayed in the gloaming which await Barrack, to nibble away at his well-earned lead and to sow doubt in the minds or our unattentive fellow citizens. You and I and everyone else have to pick up the slack of the pimps and whores of the 'old media'.

May God help us find a way to communicate the truth.

And may God keep Senator Obama and his family safe.

8/28/2008 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, I was enraptured by the entire speech. I Believe

8/28/2008 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Boris said...

Me, too, Wizard. And I have to say that any one who can kick Clinton Ass(es) can certainly Kick McCain ass. Royally. If the media would only GTF outta the way.

8/28/2008 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Read about MSNBC Host Keith Olbermann Ripping into AP Reporter's Analysis of Obama's Speech

Olbermann laced into the Associated Press's Charles Babington an hour after Barack Obama had concluded his speech in Denver on last night.

So outraged was Olbermann that the AP's Babington had written, (in his analysis of the speech, just off the wire, that Obama had tried nothing new and that his speech was lacking in specifics), that K.O. read the first few paragraphs on the air, lamented that it would be printed in hundred of newspapers on Friday, and concluded,

"It is analysis that strikes me as having borne no resemblance to the speech you and I just watched. None whatsoever. And for it to be distributed by the lone national news organization in terms of wire copy to newspapers around the country and web sites is a remarkable failure of that news organization.

Charles Babington, find a new line of work."


Attaboy, Keith! That's what I call busting the chops of the pimps, punks and the prostitutes pandering within the ranks of the MSM punditry.

8/29/2008 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Babington, along with Peggy Noonan who said essentially the same thing on MSNBC this AM, are allowing their right-wing prejudice to show, or, in the alternative they watched a different speech than the millions of people worldwide.

I agree with what has been said in this forum. The words of Barack Obama will stay with me forever. He is right in saying that "something is stirring in America". America is on the verge of great change but we are also standing at the edge of the abyss. If [somehow] McCain should win this election we will become part of that abyss. Let all of us work hard to assure that doesn't happen.

8/29/2008 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Big Yellow Forehead said...

Can't wait to read your blog on Palin!

8/29/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

Mike, I am absolutely with you. Let's work hard to avoid four more years. Vig, I added a post linked to your cautionary words lest we forget the loss we suffered for the past eight years. An outstanding post, Vig with an excellent threads.

Urban and Utah, yes Dr. Maddow has a great chance to save this elect, along with Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, and Thom Hartmann. They must be heard.

May God help us find a way to communicate the truth.
*We are doing just that, here and now.

And may God keep Senator Obama and his family safe.
*Amen, Vig.

8/29/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

Mike, if the AP guy - Babington - misreported the length of Obama's speech by an substantial amount, would it be unreasonable to suggest that he wrote his review before hearing the speech?

8/29/2008 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

B.Y.F.,I don't think McCain's Vice-Prez pick is important enough to dedicate a column to it. I have commented on "her" on Speed Bumps and elsewhere.

8/30/2008 01:12:00 AM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Here you go Virgil: Steve Weber Two Liberals Walk Into a Bar... (the part you'll love the best):

From listening to turncoat Juan Williams spout tepid nit-picking on the "all Republican panel" on Larry King (whose suspenders are actually tethering him to an unseen toilet beneath his desk. Rimshot!) to hearing the redoubtable Ted Koppel dismiss the event and its hopeful-for-the-first-time participants the way an aging dowager would dismiss her building's doorman, what is clear more than anything is the media's assault on YOU, VOTER.

Forget the Republicans and their backstep-twostep we've had to endure for a couple of dark decades. It's the news you read, the programs you watch. Everyone, it seems, is so invested in this race. Everyone, that is, whose profitability depends on the mass addling of the people, not their mass enlightenment. A close race? Are they kidding? Nope. They're not. They need it to be "close". They need the drama of this race even if they have to concoct it themselves. "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war'' wired one of the fathers of Conservative comedy, the rib-ticklin' Rupert Murdoch of his day. The line between objective journalism and Surreality TV has been eradicated utterly by an onslaught of birthday party clowns.

You want the closest thing to objectivity television has to offer? Go to CSPAN. Make it must viewing. I never thought I would be so acquainted with the decor of the American Heritage Foundation. But those cameras don't cut away. Those old soaks don't throw their mostly aluminum two cents in. You see people (What? People???) unvarnished, polysyllabic. Try that on for a while. The headache you feel will be your brain cells growing, your spine regenerating.


Like you said.

8/30/2008 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Yeah, Soros, like I said. Just like I said. Thanks for getting it.

8/31/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Frank Rich supports my case in his Obama Outwits the Bloviators, published in the NYT:

No major Obama speech .... has been a disaster .... What is most surprising is how astonished the press still is at each Groundhog Day’s replay of the identical outcome. Indeed, the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story. The press dysfunction is itself a window into the unstable dynamics of Election 2008.

At the Democratic convention, as during primary season, almost every oversold plotline was wrong .....

On TV, each of these hot-air balloons was inflated nonstop right up to the moment they were punctured by reality, at which point the assembled bloviators once more expressed shock, shock at the unexpected denouement. They hadn’t been so surprised since they discovered that Obama was not too black to get white votes, not too white to win black votes, and not too inexperienced to thwart the inevitable triumph of the incomparably well-organized and well-financed Clinton machine .....

.... when networks judge their success by who got the biggest share of the television audience, “they are still counting horses while the world has moved on to counting locomotives.” The Web, in its infinite iterations, is eroding all 20th-century media.

The Obama campaign has long been on board those digital locomotives. Its ability to tell its story under the radar of the mainstream press in part accounts for why the Obama surge has been so often underestimated. Even now we’re uncertain of its size. The extraordinary TV viewership for Obama on Thursday night, larger than the Olympics opening ceremony, this year’s Oscars or any “American Idol” finale, may only be a count of the horses. The Obama campaign’s full reach online — for viewers as well as fund-raising and organizational networking — remains unknown.

. . . . who would have imagined that a black man might someday have a serious chance of being elected president? Not me.

But even as we stop, take a deep breath and savor this remarkable moment in our history, we cannot linger. This is quite another time. After the catastrophic Bush presidency, the troubles that afflict us on nearly every front almost make you nostalgic for the day when America’s gravest problems could still be seen in blacks and whites.

As Obama said, this is a big election. We will only begin to confront the magnitude of our choice when and if we stop being distracted by small, let alone utterly fictitious, things.


It's the self-anointed pundits of the MSM who seek to trivialize this election. They think it's like the Olympics or the World Series or the Super Bowl.

But it's about the future of our country.

8/31/2008 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Soros you couldn't more right! I just heard Wolf Blitzer read the results of a new CNN OPINION POLL that reports 49% for Obama and 48% for McCain. Blitzer then suggests there was no bounce for Obama and that McCain actually got a bounce for picking the gubernatorial beauty queen as his #2. This flies in the face of all of the national polls which show Obama got an 8-10 point bounce following the convention, with the historic average being 6 points. In otherwords, in polls that do not directly serve the media, such as CNN's he was clearly successful which took some of the thunder from the MSM.

9/01/2008 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Thanks, Mike! You, especially, confirm that I'm on solid ground here!

9/01/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Tony O'Doherty said...

Baked Alaska:

With two months left before the election, the McCain team brought the unknown 'Sarah Barracuda' off the bench to create distractions with a couple of seasons worth of Northern Exposure storylines: Babygate and Troopergate, polar bears, the Wasilla city budget, shooting wolves from helicopters, the snowmobie-racing husband, creationism, a special needs child, the Bridge to Nowhere and various other Alaskan scandals -- anything to distract voters from what's really at stake. And who really has the ball.

The media, heavily invested in keeping the game close, will naturally be complicit in the play, and will use all sorts of tele-strators, animated electoral vote maps, re-plays, slo-mo, color analysis, up-close-and-personal sidebar stories and incredible camera angles to add to the distraction.

It will take discipline and coordination by the Obama team to keep voters from being persuaded that this election has anything to do with Palin or her politics. She does not have the ball and if the play goes as designed, she never will.

9/02/2008 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger The Commentator said...

Viggy, very good stuff.

9/04/2008 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

High praise. Thanks, Lefty.

9/04/2008 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

This story is attributed to Bill Moyers:

I heard this story a long time ago, growing up in Choctaw County in Oklahoma before my family moved to Texas. A tribal elder was telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said,

"It is between two wolves, my son. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf won?"

The old Cherokee replied simply, "The one I feed."

Moyers concludes:

Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And in our society, media provides the fodder.

9/06/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Yes. We do not deserve the government we get. We get the government our media gives us.

9/09/2008 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Sen. Bernie Sanders: This Election is Not a Soap Opera or a Football Game: It is About the Future of Our Country.

9/09/2008 07:16:00 AM  

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