A Dog Whistle Too High-Pitched for Journalists to Hear?

Tim Rutten writes today in the L.A. Times (11/5/08):

What is perhaps most remarkable about the changed America to which we woke this morning is how the president-elect’s race seems, in most ways, the least remarkable thing about him.

In large part, that’s a tribute to the fact that Barack Obama declined every opportunity to make his race a campaign centerpiece. It’s also a tribute to John McCain, who just as resolutely refused to engage in race-baiting even as his prospects dwindled in the election’s final weeks.

This marveling at McCain’s failure to race-bait Obama is a widespread theme in corporate media coverage–and a dubious one. I suppose one could make an an argument that McCain’s constant warnings that Obama wanted to redistribute Joe the Plumber’s wealth were not a coded suggestion that Obama would help blacks at the expense of whites. In the same way, you could make an argument that Ronald Reagan’s references to “welfare queens” were based on a color-blind desire to reform social services.

(Fox‘s Sean Hannity–10/28/08–had an illustration of the chain of associations that McCain’s “redistribution” line was designed to evoke: “Obviously spread the wealth, socialism, Obama’s welfare plan is not going over well with the American people.”)

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.