Home Media In NewsHour Segment on “Birther” Controversy, Dan Balz Epitomizes Much of What’s...

In NewsHour Segment on “Birther” Controversy, Dan Balz Epitomizes Much of What’s Wrong with Media

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I watched the PBS NewsHour last night, including this segment on President Obama’s release of his “long-form” birth certificate (and the insane, idiotic “birther” controversy). As I watched, I found myself growing increasingly disgusted, appalled, and outraged at the attitude, framing, and apparently enormous blind spots exhibited by Washington Kaplan Post reporter Dan Balz, and by extension the “mainstream media” more broadly. It’s hard to even know where to begin, but here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.

1. First was Balz’s comment, “And [Obama] said, let’s see if we can get the real birth certificate.” Excuse me? The “REAL” birth certificate?  OK, so either Dan Balz is completely ignorant of the facts, in which case he’s unqualified to be talking about this subject, or he’s just making s*** up, in which case he’s unqualified to be a reporter. News flash to Dan Balz: the birth certificate the Obama campaign released in 2008 was perfectly “REAL,” no more or less so than the “long-form” certificate that Hawaii finally agreed to provide, violating its policy against ever giving out long-form birth certificates. But why the word “real,” Mr. Balz?  Are you giving credence to the crazy birthers’ claim that there ever was any doubt that Obama’s birth certificate was “real?” If so, why? What’s your agenda, or was this just an innocent slip of the tongue? Hard to believe the latter, given that you’re one of the most senior national political analysts in America, but whatever, let’s say we give you the benefit of the doubt here, just cuz we’re nice guys here in the blogosphere. 🙂

2. Balz then gives us this whopper, “the press probably does bear some responsibility for this but…” Ahem, uh Mr. Balz? There’s no “but” about it; your industry played an enormous role in creating and fueling this false “controversy,” just as your industry played a huge role in fueling the false “controversies” over “death panels” (WTF?), “climategate” (double WTF?), etc. Not to mention the fact that your industry also played a huge role, via wildly biased and heavy coverage of the “Tea Party” phenomenon, in building up that “movement” while ignoring equally large, or in many cases much larger, rallies of labor, environmentalists, and other progressive forces. But god forbid you’d ever take any responsibility for that.

3. We then get the “on the one hand, on the other hand” faux “evenhanded” and falsely “objective blather about how Trump might “get some credit for that among people who think this was something that needed to be done,” and how it could “enhance him as a political candidate,” or whatever. This one isn’t particularly egregious, but we see the false equivalence and phony “two sides” b.s. from the lamestream media so frequently, that you’ll have to forgive me for being hypervigilant for it.

4. Then there’s this whopper, truly astounding: Dan Balz claims he has no idea — “I don’t know what to make of that, Jim, frankly” — about why oh why Donald Trump might be raising this “birther” thing and possibly even continuing to play it out (he’s now raising the issue of Obama’s academic qualifications to get into Ivy League schools)? Seriously, Dan? You’ve been covering national politics for decades now and you have no idea why Trump might be doing this? Look, I hate to be rude, but you’re either: a) a complete imbecile; b) hopelessly naive; or c) just pretending to be naive. So, ok, let me spell it out for you, since apparently it’s so difficult to figure out why Trump’s doing this. #1, he sees political advantage in tapping into the near-majority of Republicans who “believe” that President Obama really wasn’t born in America. #2, he sees political advantage in tapping into what’s really at the core of all this, racism and xenophobia towards our nation’s first African American (actually, mixed race, of a Kenyan father and white mother from Kansas). If you can’t figure that out, you are utterly unqualified to be covering politics, whether at the national level or at the dogcatcher level. Seriously, that’s pathetic.

3a. Elaborating on point #3, why won’t Dan Balz — or Jim Lehrer, for that matter – just call it like it is, that much of not all of this “birther” crap has to do with racism? But no, not once in the NewsHour interview do they mention the 8,000-pound gorilla in the room, which clearly is racism — let me repeat, RACISM – towards our first “black” president. Why is that? Does it have something to do with the fact that the elite news media has enormous blind spots, or are they just a bunch of cowards when it comes down to it, terrified of angering the crazies on the right? The latter possibility would certainly help to explain the wildly biased (towards the right) coverage we get from the “mainstream media,” whether in treating seriously the most outlandish, John Birch Society-style claims (“death panels,” “climategate,” etc.), or in presenting “two sides” to everything (one side says the earth is round, the other says it’s flat…).

Anyway, that’s the end of my anti-media rant du jour. It’s good to get this off my chest, but I doubt it does any good whatsoever, as nothing can penetrate the layers upon layers of arrogance, rationalization, and cognitive dissonance resolution we get on a daily basis from a media desperately struggling for relevance, not to mention for a way to stay in business.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    It’s disgusting how so-called “news” outlets just can’t let go of a story that reeks of racism, especially since the latest perpetrator of the lie is one of their favorite celebrity, pop culture ego-nuts, Donald Trump.

    I couldn’t believe what I saw that passes for “news” last night when I tried to get breaking news information about the tornadoes devastating Alabama and Mississippi. I have friends in Birmingham. No luck on the cable channels. CNN had John King expounding on the “birther” crap. MSNBC was tackling that “news” from a more to the left perspective, while Fox was discussing “birther” crap from the far right. The only outlet on TV that was sticking with the story of destruction and death taking place in the South was the Weather Channel.

    As I write this (8:45 a.m.), CNN is hyping a Larry King special about Alzheimer’s disease. And, guess what? They are still on the “birther” story. At the same time, a banner in small type says “Tornadoes kill 178 in South.”

  • KathyinBlacksburg

    and I do not know why.  They would be better off reading their news than spending an hour a night (M-F) on a show produced in partnership with John C. Malone.

    It is always this way.  And yet I cannot tell you how many progressives I know who still give money to PBS or its local affiliate. They do it even while Exxon Mobile, ADM and other big companies literally advertise their “owned” shows. The result is what you see.  The pretense that there is another side to facts and that John Birchers with tea bags hanging from their hats and paid storm troopers of the Koch Brothers  deserve equal time and belief.