For weeks before the presidential election, media addicts were warned: Once a winner is declared, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Sadly, this warning neglected one key detail: that there would be no opportunity to phase out our journalistic intake. Since Nov. 5, the media has forced us to go cold turkey.
So, I'm forced to wonder: Where are the columnists who once conscientiously commented on President George W. Bush's every malapropism? Where are the nightly news anchors who, not long ago, diligently updated us on Sen. John McCain's up-to-the-nanosecond age? And where are the byliners who so tenaciously tracked down unnamed sources to tally up Gov. Sarah Palin's wardrobe and cosmetics expenditures?
For those who believe that the media failed to challenge the Bush administration sufficiently after 9/11, heads up: You ain't seen nothing yet. In the aftermath of Barack Obama's landslide victory earlier this month, the mainstream media has replaced serious journalism with blind euphoria. Analysis has given way to shameless tributes.
Take, for example, an article in The New York Times last week titled "Chicago Basks in Its Favorite Son's Glow," which surveyed Chicagoans on their post-election exhilaration. Amazingly, the author couldn't find a single Chicagoan just a bit unsure of the incoming president, who was an anonymous state senator voting "present" barely four years ago.
An accompanying photo showed banners of Obama's face hanging from lampposts in Chicago's downtown — without a single statement regarding how unusual this sort of scene is in western democracies. One is forced to wonder whether the Times would have replicated this oversight had Austin, Texas, posted President Bush's face on billboards eight years ago. (It seems far more likely that the word "authoritarian" might have been employed at least once.)
Naturally, the media's unprecedented generosity is infecting its discussion of Obama's first appointments. The same media outlets that once lambasted the Bush administration for sending the supposedly truculent John Bolton to the United Nations are hailing the appointment of Rahm Emanuel — a congressman known for his hot temper and foul mouth — as White House chief of staff. Apparently, the media deplores "bullies" who confront the U.N.'s undemocratic members, but loves bullies who take on their dissenting Democratic colleagues.
The same columnists who once declared Sarah Palin too inexperienced have praised the forthcoming appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. This is truly incredible: Clinton would become our nation's top diplomat without having studied, written or advised anyone on foreign policy matters — ever. If the media is so unconcerned regarding appointees' credentials, it might as well call for Clinton to be appointed four-star Army general.
Of course, much of this sounds like good ol' liberal media bias — the kind that duplicitously admires Colin Powell for endorsing Obama two weeks before the election, but abhors Joseph Lieberman's "rebellious" support for McCain nearly a year before the election. Yet the media has been so uncritical of Obama that "bias" is minimally descriptive. It is more accurate to say that the media is actively promoting Obama — blessing his rise to power with irresponsible enthusiasm.
Still, there is a silver lining to the media's very public divorce with objectivity. After all, throughout his presidential campaign, Obama vowed to pursue diplomacy with Iran and Syria. Finally, the president and his dictatorial counterparts will have something in common: a domestic press corps of sycophants.
Eric Trager is a Ph.D. student in political science at Penn. To respond to his Slant or submit one of your own, e-mail email@example.com.