Campaign Media’s ‘Firestorms of Manufactured Rage’

Feeling “especially exasperated by the readiness of TV pundits and op-ed writers to make sweeping statements about the state of the electorate without ever talking to an actual voter,” veteran media critic Michael Massing took an October trip to Ohio (New York Review of Books, 12/18/08) in search of “the concerns and attitudes of ordinary voters [that] tended to get overlooked.” On the way he listened to “the toxic, overheated combine of right-wing talk radio [and] cable television programs”:

Americans who do not regularly tune in to it have little idea how nasty and venomous a campaign was waged there against Barack Obama. Day after day, night after night, a steady stream of poison was directed at him not only by Limbaugh but also by Sean Hannity, on his daily radio show and nightly Fox broadcast; by Bill O’Reilly, on Fox, the radio and the Internet…all joining together to produce firestorms of manufactured rage about Obama’s purported ties to Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright, ACORN, Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Karl Marx.

In one especially lunatic salvo, a conservative writer named Andy Martin claimed, in an hour-long special hosted by Sean Hannity on Fox News on October 5, that William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, was using Barack Obama as part of a radical political movement that would bring about a social revolution in America comparable to the ones in Castro’s Cuba and Chavez’s Venezuela. This allegation was then picked up and frequently repeated on conservative talk shows and blogs.

“Amounting to a six-month-long exercise in Swift Boating,” Massing finds that “these attacks, taken together, constituted perhaps the most vicious smear campaign ever mounted against an American politician.”

Read the FAIR magazine Extra!: “The Myth of Pro-Obama Media Bias: Little Evidence for Self-Proclaimed ‘Lovefest'” (9-10/08) by John K. Wilson