The Media Whores Just Don’t Get It

William Saletan at almost seems to get it in regard to the culpability of the media in ruining good candidates with unfair coverage. In his Iowa Caucus blog he writes:

3. Dean was Gored. Want to know how Al Gore lost the presidency in October 2000? You just saw it: a relentless focus on one candidate’s record and comments. That’s understandable (and I participated in it), because Dean seemed to be on his way to the nomination, just as Gore seemed to be on his way to the presidency in October 2000. You always scrutinize most carefully the person who, barring intervention, is likely to win. The catch is that you’re the intervention. Some of the criticism of Dean was way over the line. (The next pundit who scolds Dean’s wife for not campaigning should have to sleep on the couch for a year.)

If he’d stopped right there, it would have been the indictment that the media deserve. Unfortunately, he draws entirely the wrong moral:

But some of it was well-earned by Dean. Moral: When the camera’s on you, shape up

In other words, it’s not the media’s fault for intervening in the political process, it’s the candidate’s fault for making the mistakes that give the media the opening.

I am reminded of a meeting the officers of the Oberlin College Lesbian and Gay Union had with then-new college president, S. Frederick Starr, in 1984. Among other items on our agenda, we expressed our concern at some recent anti-gay incidents in the Oberlin community (a recent off-campus gay bashing of a student, an effigy burning, complaints about the Gay Union’s annual conference occuring on the same dates as a parents’ weekend) and asked what Starr felt should be done in the future. His response was to say that if we didn’t want public attention we shouldn’t be so visible. In other words, it was our fault when we were attacked, since we made ourselves vulnerable through visibility. And he had nothing to say about the culpability of the attackers.

It was morally bankrupt in 1984, and it’s just as odious 20 years later.