‘Rumor, Gossip. . . Drivel’ as ‘Inside Information’

Guernica magazine has a new piece by American Prospect co-founder Robert Reich (8/28/09) describing the important cog that corporate journalism represents in the functioning machinery of Washington, D.C.’s “echo chamber in which anyone who sounds authoritative repeats the conventional authoritative wisdom about the ‘consensus’ of inside opinion,”

which they’ve heard from someone else who sounds equally authoritative, who of course has heard it from another authoritative source. Follow the trail to its start and you often find an obscure congressional or White House staffer who has seen some half-assed poll number or briefing memo, but seeking to feel important hypes it to a media personality or lobbyist who, desperate to sound authoritative, pronounces it as truth. In any other place on the planet it would be called rumor, gossip or drivel. In our nation’s capital it’s called “inside information.” The process would be harmless except that it creates self-fulfilling prophesies. Since most of our elected representatives would rather not stick their necks out lest they lose their heads, they tend to rush toward whatever consensus seems to be emerging–which, of course, is based on authoritative reports about the emerging consensus.

In the last few days authoritative sources have repeatedly told me that the public option is dead, that the president won’t be able to get a comprehensive healthcare bill, and that the White House and congressional leadership already know the best they’ll be able to do now is move incrementally–starting with insurance reforms such as barring insurers from using someone’s preexisting health conditions to deny coverage–with the hope of more reforms in the years ahead. The right-wing media fearmongers and demagogues have won.

But, Reich urges you, “Don’t believe it”–“The other thing about Washington is how quickly conventional authoritative wisdom changes” and “right-wing fearmongers and demagogues thrive only to the extent the mainstream media believes they’re thriving.”

Read of the effort to counter this belief in FAIR’s Activism Update: “Media Take Notice of FAIR’s Healthcare Petition” (7/31/09).