Protecting Their Turf
Vice President Biden's chief economist Jared Bernstein held a blogger conference call today (my invite must have gotten lost in the mail, sniff), where he talked pretty frankly about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's final version that should see passage this week. Bernstein called the bill a "down payment" and that the health care and energy sections need to be "deepened" in the future. “My view is no windows are closed when it comes to these good ideas,” he said. They're hoping that the bill reduces unemployment by two percentage points in the next two years, but they still expect the jobless number to be hovering around 8%, or higher than it is even today, by the end of 2010.
Bernstein also explained that the stimulus and a recovery in the banking system have to work in tandem to move money through the economy. That's the only way you can get multipliers out of the stimulus spending.
You want the money to circulate smoothly and efficiently from those who have it to those who need it. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to spend the money instantly. But it means that when people want to park their money, those funds should come available to other people who have good business opportunities that could be exploited with the assistance of a little credit. That’s where a healthy financial system comes in.
You may have heard tales from Japan’s “lost decade” in which stimulus measures failed to actually get the economy moving. Part of the problem was somewhat ill-conceived and ill-executed stimulus. But perhaps a bigger issue is that the didn’t actually clean up their banking system. Instead, they put it on life support. And then they used fiscal stimulus to put employment on life support. But we don’t want life support, we want stimulus that actually brings us back to life.
This is all good stuff, and it's great to have an economist from the Administration who was in the room on some of these deals engaging directly with progressive bloggers. This is the kind of access that the traditional media gets quite often, and yet they seem to squander it on tangential issues and optics and horse-race nonsense. I think it's very telling that, at this time of economic crisis (including in the journalism industry) a main concern of some members of the White House press corps is that a blogger from the Huffington Post got to ask the President a question at his first press conference. They are literally steamed about this.
Mara Liasson, National political correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) and long-time contributor to Fox News, appears to be fuming after President Obama called on Huffington Post blogger Sam Stein during yesterday’s news conference. (It’s said to be the first time a president has acknowledged a blogger during a White House press conference, so the moment generated a bit of press chatter.)
Just over an hour ago, Ana Marie Cox (formerly Wonkette, now frequenting MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow) reported in on Twitter:
Mara Liasson next to me; on the phone; just said "He called on Huffington Post! I was surprised he didn’t call on Air America!" Oh honey.
As Chris Bowers notes, there is a reason why this has drawn so much attention, and that's simple jealousy, and a feeling of being threatened by new media. But it's not like White House access by HuffPo or blogs has detracted from access by the traditional media. They still have far more resources and access, and yet they use it to the most insipid ends possible. Bowers continues that there's another element to this.
Since you can't stop the rise of the new medium, the only available tactics left are to discredit the emerging new outlets within the new medium that operates independently of your control (portray independent new media operators as rabid, inexperienced, uninformed, arrogant, newcomers) while simultaneously working to co-opt their tactics within that new medium (hire a bunch of rabid, inexperienced, uninformed, arrogant, newcomers to produce content for your outlet). So, for example, you attack the credibility of the largest independent new media political website, the Huffington Post, write diatribes about other large blogs such as Daily Kos, and pass Congressional resolutions chastising the largest online political organization, MoveOn.org, while simultanesouly hiring bloggers to produce content for your show, inviting them as guests on your programs, and trying to start email based activist organizations of your own.
All of this is done not because new media itself is despised, but because new media has allowed alternative power centers on the left-wing of the Democratic / progressive coalition to rise as challenges to established, and largely corporate, dominance. No one in the political and media establishment would attack the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, or Moveon.org if they were operating as supportive adjuncts to, say, the Blue Dog coalition. The reason they are viewed as dangerous and worthy of attack is because of the political views they espouse, not just because they are new media.
It's an interesting thesis. Certainly there is a marginalization that goes on that makes individuals in traditional media happy, but also serves their corporate conglomerates' ends. Where they don't have the expertise, knowledge or even access, all they have left is perceived authority. And when that goes away, what are they left with? Shrinking audience share.
(Of course, they do have resources, and we need a vibrant and robust media in this country because I can't visit Afghanistan in my spare time. But the chattering class is really threatened. Which is why they are the most vicious.)