The biggest myth in America is that we have a free and fair press. Ninety percent of our mainstream media is controlled by six conglomerates, and so profit is the primary motive of these entities—not journalism. The widespread cuts to investigative journalism departments—beginning with the expansion of these conglomerates in the 1980s—was a literal representation of valuing profits more than the truth. Handicapping how bills which affect real people’s lives will play in the political arena is what dominates the discourse in most of our major media outlets. The biggest news story is always the next election.
We saw this vacuous nonsense rear its ugly head again during the momentous health care vote yesterday, when John McCain decided to get all mavericky and pretend that he didn’t just do the thing he soon would rip Republicans for doing. (He also said he was against the bill in its current form, and later voted for an unchanged version of the same exact thing.) McCain put his health in danger in order to travel across the country to enable the GOP to continue their slow march towards putting millions of poor people’s health in danger—all in the name of a tax cut for the rich and a fraudulent argument that they made good on a promise from eight years ago. Soon after, McCain got up on his soapbox and let out a familiar diatribe that some in our major media centers were wise enough to spot.
Others? Not so much. To a majority of mainstream American media, tone matters far more than substance, and these folks rewarded McCain for yet another vacuous spectacle. Here's a deleted tweet from the excellent Washington Post reporter, Robert Costa.
The rest of these are not deleted as of this writing, but I screencapped them since it's better to be safe than sorry. Here's one from The Washington Post's congressional reporter, and a contributor to CBS News.
CNN's Senior White House correspondent.
ABC News' Chief White House correspondent.
Buzzfeed's Washington D.C. editor.
Paul Brandus, a member of the White House press corps.
A senior writer for Politico.
A political reporter for The Washington Post who congratulated McCain for a call to bipartisanship after joining his party in a vote split down party lines, save for two GOP dissenters.
Fox News' actual news division joined in on the dogpile.
And if talented reporters were tricked by McCain's forever fraudulence, then political pundits were completely hopeless against this façade. Here's one from CNN.
And a contributor to MSNBC, among a few others.
If White House reporters are getting in on the cynicism, of course one of the architects of the Iraq War would be deceived by this ploy.
This tone policing extended even to activists on the left, as one of Obama's former speechwriters couldn't resist dipping his toe in the maverick pool, even if he knew it was probably unwise.
And lastly, one of America's most effective and passionate political organizers couldn't help but broadcast the contradiction currently swelling inside his head.
I get it. Politics is depressing, and any whiff of a better way forward can be intoxicating. Bipartisanship is our shared goal, and we should encourage any and all efforts to get our elected officials representing the people once again. Plus, this vote doesn't put this monstrosity into law; it's just one brick in the road for that to happen (spoiler alert: McCain voted for more bricks later in the evening that he said he wasn't going to vote for—luckily, the BCRA procedural vote didn't pass).
John McCain has been pulling this marketing trick for decades, and this spectacle was right in line with his typical shtick. Sure, it was a good package of words, but only if you completely forget who was speaking and when it occurred. His votes bookending the speech completely contradicted his pleas for a more functional government. His words forever ring hollow, and the only thing giving them life are members of the mainstream media pretending that John McCain is someone who he isn't. I'll let Paste's Eoin Higgins make my point from here.
One in ten veterans is on Medicaid. That's roughly 1.8 million men and women who put their lives on the line for us, and Congress is responding with a direct attack on their health care. The entire thrust behind this bill is to essentially liquidate Medicaid in order to pay for a tax cut for the rich.
This health care bill is wildly unpopular not because of politics, but because it's bad policy, and the American people know it. If the press cared more about substance than spectacle, they would see McCain's post-vote speech for what it really was: a ploy to distance himself from the potential horror that he just helped authorize.
Sadly, many higher ups in the press won't, and part of the reason is because the Democrats capitulated to that spectacle. Future presidential candidate Cory Booker made sure that we saw him hug everyone's favorite imagined centrist, and the Democrats gave McCain a standing ovation as he arrived to move a bill forward that they vehemently oppose. They're beyond hopeless.
Corporate media inherently defends the status quo, which is the near-opposite of journalism. John McCain successfully marketed himself as something that he isn’t a long time ago, and very few people in the mainstream media will stand up to call a spade a spade when calling it a maverick is far more profitable. Welcome to America, where criticizing a powerful man who votes to kill Americans is more offensive than the act itself.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.