Herman Cain ended his campaign for president Saturday. I attended the speech he delivered announcing his exit, and heard the crowd roar loudest when he denounced the news media.
The news media is a convenient object of scorn. It’s easy to clobber reporters, whose jobs are to look for and tell interesting real-life stories. Frequently, those stories are salacious — especially when the key players are celebrities. The audience eats up the stories, while at the same time denouncing the whole business as smarmy.
It would have been much more uncomfortable for Cain to address the particular allegations of the small parade of women who reported untoward personal encounters with Cain, particularly in front of a large group of supporters. And with Gloria Cain standing in the wings. “So what if I didn’t tell my wife about my secret 13-year friendship with a single woman, which included generous financial assistance and 4:30am text messages?” Cain could have said.
Instead, the crowd roared at the lines bashing the media. In interviews afterward, Cain supporters expressed anger at the news media for undoing their candidate.
He bitterly attacked “professional scavengers and gossip mongers who have made life hell for innocent people.” An hour later, he went on a local radio talk show and called reporters “vultures and hooligans.”
The above line comes from a 1987 article about Julian Bond, following allegations the former Georgia legislator habitually used cocaine. The allegations came from his estranged wife Alice.
Bond was and still is an outspoken liberal. The same guy who broke the story about Herman Cain’s alleged mistress also broke the Alice Bond story. I honestly don’t know Dale Russell’s political leanings. But he’s an equal-opportunity pain-in-the-ass to powerful people prone to excess. Ask Terrell Bolton. Ask Earl Paulk. Ask Glenn Richardson.
The rest of the news media are similarly motivated. We’ll chase a good story, regardless of the political bent of the target. Since the term became vogue, the “liberal media” has a rich history of clobbering liberals, from Gary Hart to Elliott Spitzer to Anthony Weiner. Their salacious behavior demanded it. Hart has probably experienced many flashbacks during the past month.
Thankfully, you don’t hear about the “liberal media” much anymore. There were “don’t believe the liberal media!” signs and buttons distributed at the Cain event. It seemed like a throwback to the 90s.
Cain supporters can argue that the string of allegations against Cain were nebulous and unproven. They can argue that the news media, whose 24 hour presence magnifies the most meaningless stories, gave the allegations undue attention. They can decry “spin,” though I think that’s merely a pejorative term for the free expression of ideas you don’t like.
The news media is an almost textbook example of a free market entity. When critics demand reform of the news media and its priorities, they rarely offer an alternative framework. “Would you rather have the government control the news media?” I’ll occasionally ask them. “No, but…” the response will invariably begin.
The media is your savior when reporters find dirt on the guy you don’t like. When your enemy is exposed as a scoundrel, you will happily “spin” the material to suit you. You might even praise the news media for doing its job.
But when your guy is the target, the media becomes a convenient whipping boy. It’s much easier than discussing the facts.