How would you like your news today? To the right? To the left? A little mainstream media on the side to help wash it down?
That seems to be the menu of options before voters each time they reach for their serving of political news. Voters today get the news they want, when they want it. The past two weeks spent exploring the political blogosphere in the midst of a presidential election show just how dizzying the process can be. I often felt I was in the middle of a ring fight.
On the left….Huffington Post, a liberal heavyweight founded by Arianna Huffington.
On the right….Hot Air, a one-stop shop for conservatives founded by columnist Michelle Malkin.
Take the days prior to the vice-presidential debate, for example. If you were in the corner on the left you would have known about the Gwen Ifill book controversy, but would take issue with John McCain’s change in position, not the debate over whether Ifill is a fair moderator. You would have known that Florida Republicans met to discuss their concerns over McCain’s campaign, that McCain declared himself to be “not a rich man,” and that pundits are saying the polls do not look good for McCain.
Coming out of the corner on the right, you would have known that Ifill was rightly under fire for not telling the debate commission about her book. You also would have been pleased to see that Maureen Dowd was kicked off John McCain’s plane, that a Vatican official called Democrats the “party of death,” and that the Obama campaign is threatening free speech.
And the post-debate analysis?
Palin definitely won.
“Tonight, Governor Palin proved beyond any doubt that she is ready to lead as Vice President of the United States. She won this debate, putting Joe Biden on defense on energy, foreign policy, taxes and the definition of change. Governor Palin laid bare Barack Obama’s record of voting to raise taxes, opposing the surge in Iraq, and proposing to meet unconditionally with the leaders of state sponsors of terror. The differences between the Obama-Biden ticket and the McCain-Palin ticket could not have been clearer. The American people saw stark contrasts in style and worldview. They saw Joe Biden, a Washington insider and a 36-year Senator, and Governor Palin, a Washington outsider and a maverick reformer. Governor Palin was direct, forceful and a breath of fresh air.” –Jill Hazelbaker, McCain-Palin 2008 Communications Director
Or, Biden won:
Sam Stein| HuffPost Reporting From DC
The post-debate commentary on each side is, I think, the perfect example of the same facts, different assumptions world we live in. Both Hot Air and Huffington Post got their headlines from the CNN, CBS and FOX focus groups and viewer polls after the debate. Hot Air questioned the validity of the CNN and CBS polls and highlighted the FOX/Frank Luntz focus group that called the debate a clear victory for Palin:
o I know this sounds reflexive, but I have my doubts about the CNN and CBS polls. I can’t help it, if they said day was light and night was dark, I would still question their validity.The mask has come off some of these MSM institutions so completely this year, they are so obviously biased, that I find myself having a difficult time believing much of anything they say.
o Also noticed that The Washington (com)Post, The New York Times, The Seattle Times and a couple other communist propaganda rags are attempting to spin for Biden. They’re so far in the tank that it is hopeless to expect them to print any truth or objectivity. Fortunately, the mainstream media’s credibility resides several leagues below whale manure so they’ll only impact their left wing cult readers. Just consider the source and move on.
Huffington Post focused on the CNN and CBS polls that showed Biden as the winner among viewers. The only mention of the FOX focus goup came as a footnote at the end of the posting and questioned its validity because of the sponsor’s potential ties to the McCain campaign.
· On the other hand, Frank Luntz just quizzed his focus group on FOX (which was, strangely enough, sponsored by Budweiser, owned by Anheuser-Busch, of which Cindy McCain’s Hensley company is the third largest distributor). Nearly all of them thought Palin did an excellent job and, perhaps, won the debate. When she talked about responsibility — both on Wall Street and in Washington – the dial numbers went extremely high. Many respondents, meanwhile, said she came off as a “regular American.” However, only three respondents in the group said they had moved towards voting for the McCain-Palin ticket.
Again, same facts, different assumptions. Both blogs covered the same news that mainstream media outlets carried, but cherry-picked the news and conformed it with headlines and a narrative to fit their views. The McCain campaign going negative was a sign that the end was near for Huffington Post readers, and a sign that the campaign was alive and well for Hot Air readers. The New York Times story on Obama’s connection to William Ayers was another cover-up by the mainstream media for Hot Air readers, and an example of Obama’s virtue for Huffington Post readers.
Was it what I expected? Yes. Could you use each site as your primary news source and have an idea of what’s happening in the world? Yes. Would you be well-rounded? No. A few things did surprise me. Huffington Post was much more negative, snarky and mean-spirited than Hot Air. It also focused about 80% of its stories casting McCain and Palin in a negative light and seemed to be running more of an anti-McCain campaign than anything pro-Obama. There was also absolutely no room for opposing views on the site. Hot Air, in contrast, was much more pro-Republican, if not entirely pro-McCain. It was much more of a rallying cry, i.e. he’s our guy and we’re sticking behind him. There was also more room in the postings and comments for discussion and debate than I observed on Huffington Post. The question is whether that is a function of the election and where McCain stands in the polls, or just the nature of the two sides (I suspect the former).
We go back to the menu board: voters in this election have access to information and resources like none before but don’t ever have to listen to or interact with the opposing side. The transformative power of technology is once again the two-edged sword, opening the dialogue while at the same time creating an atmosphere of partisanship, spin and bias.