January 29, 2004

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXXX

The MinuteMan notes the phoniness of the "Dean Scream" story that got the press so excited after the Iowa primary. He says it "may contribute to a sense of victimhood and oppression amongst the Deaniacs." May?

JustOneMinute: Dean Was Robbed!: ABC News had a jaw-dropping story which I saw, as did a BuzzFlash contributor. The gist - in his famous "I Hva A Scream" speech after the Iowa upset, Howard Dean was using a wireless microphone designed to filter out background crowd noises. The televised effect was the very un-Presidential image of a man screaming in an empty room.

However, ABC dug up tapes from amateurs on the scene. In this context, Howard Dean is virtually inaudible, and the scream sounds like someone yelling in Yankee Stadium after a Derek Jeter home run against the Red Sox. Sorry, for non-sports fans, it sounds like a man yelling on a runway while a jetliner takes off behind him - the whole audience was rocking (we saw that in New Hampshire, too) and Dr. Dean is inaudible.

Does it matter? His campaign seems to have collapsed. However, the ABC story may contribute to a sense of victimhood and oppression amongst the Deaniacs, motivating them to fight on.

Posted by DeLong at January 29, 2004 10:18 AM | TrackBack

Comments

I was never sold on Dean, but this coverage made me wish he would win in NH. It's the mass media equivalent of playground mockery: take one awkward moment and keep playing it back. I think what it really indicates is that the mere existence of video recording makes it possible for mass media to destroy any candidate that it chooses to.

Posted by: Paul Callahan on January 29, 2004 10:27 AM

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Dean may be a victim of media coverage now, but before Iowa the media was portraying him as the surefire nominee. I seem to remember Kucinich and Sharpton complaining that the media was far too suportive of Dean. The Deaniacs didn't have a problem with the coverage then. They should it up and deal with the bad coverage now. That scream isn't being replayed because the media has it in for Dean. It's being replayed because a large segment of the audience thinks it's funny.

The JustOneMinute complaint makes no sense at all. This was media coverage of Dean's speech. It would make no sense at all to air a version of that recording on which, even according to JustOneMinute, "Dr. Dean is inaudible." Are you suggesting that the media should air a version of a speech where the speech is completely drowned out by screaming fans? That might give a more accurate sense of the mood of the crowd, but I'm sure most of the television audience would rather hear what the candidate has to say. It's hard to spin that as being anti-Dean oppression.

The article also says that it was Howard Dean's own microphone that filtered out the crowd noise. Presumably Dean could have used a different microphone. It wasn't forced on him by a malicious media. If the Deaniacs interpret this as anti-Dean oppression then they really are a bunch of lunatics.

Posted by: Xavier on January 29, 2004 10:48 AM

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It may eventually give a sympathy lift to Dean. It gave him negative publicity at first, but then people were curious about the tape. Most of my colleagues and aquaintances say the same thing. "I finally saw most or more of the tape of that evening and it was no big deal".

So there you have it, redemption for Dean, black eye for media. The law of unintended consequences is still working full-time.

Posted by: ch2 on January 29, 2004 10:49 AM

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C'mon, Dean had been doing crazy stuff all along that never got played up by the press while he was its designated winner-in-advance.

Remember what good Clinton man James Carville said about Dean on CNN well before Iowa?

"I'm scared to death that this guy just says anything. It feels like he's undergone some kind of a political lobotomy here."

The "Dean scream" only became a story *after* he'd lost in Iowa, when his campaign was in the toaster scream story or no scream story. Yes, it was piling on when he was down -- but then they'd pushed him up to begin with. The press does that.

What did Senator McCarthy (Gene, not Joe) say about the press? "They're like a flock of crows first all sitting this telephone wire, then 'whoosh' off to that telephone wire." Something like that.

If you want to say Carville was the only good member of the press for telling the truth about Dean in advance you might have a point.


Posted by: Jim Glass on January 29, 2004 11:07 AM

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the only 'crazy' thing Dean did was not to prepare an adequate defense against the inevitable. if that's what Carville meant ('political lobotomy' is a snappy phrase that means precisely nothing out of context), then he's right.

the press corps sucks in general and we deserve better, and Dean knew (or should have known) it. he needed to have hired people who could deal with what exists -- someone who'd have dug up a crowd tape immediately and spun a "conservative media bias" story out in response to the misleadingly miked tape. Dean didn't, and thereby screwed himself when the inevitable media frenzy (there would have been one no matter what) happened.

off topic, I also tend to feel he fired the wrong guy. Trippi was fine, but whoever was doing his commercials produced some terrible work.

Posted by: wcw on January 29, 2004 11:10 AM

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>That scream isn't being replayed because the media has it in for Dean. It's being replayed because a large segment of the audience thinks it's funny.

The reason the playground bully keeps mocking the unpopular kid isn't (necessarily) because he has it in for the kid. It's because a large segment of his playmates think it's funny. It's still playground mockery, and that's still what the media engaged in.

I'm not prepared to argue the strong claim that the media intended to torpedo Dean. On the other hand, I think it's safe to say that playing the Dean tape over and over did not heighten the level of political discourse for this election cycle. It's also safe to say that this is fairly effective in undermining a candidacy, and it's very difficult to defend against such tactics when they are intentional (the voice of reason doesn't carry very far in the playground).

Posted by: Paul Callahan on January 29, 2004 11:38 AM

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Also damaging to Dean in New Hampshire were all the Republican mouthpieces in the media saying "We're looking forward to running against Dean. He'll be the easiest one to beat." They did that to try and get him out of the race because he was unpredictable. Also, he was beginning to do real damage to Bush with his rhetoric (which has now been copied to a degree by all the candidates, especially Kerry). However, they may be regretting knocking him out so early because this is all making Kerry look more formidable.

Posted by: Vicki Meagher on January 29, 2004 12:48 PM

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"whoever was doing his commercials"

Problem is, that was Trippi's ad firm.

Posted by: Linkmeister on January 29, 2004 02:13 PM

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yeah, but they didn't fire the firm or the campaign's media director (a partner in the selfsame agency). lacking detailed information, I'm happy to believe Trippi deserved to go as well. however, I can't see firing him but retaining the executive with nominal responsibility and the outfit that did the actual production.

Posted by: wcw on January 29, 2004 02:50 PM

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Paul Callahan:

"I was never sold on Dean, but this coverage made me wish he would win in NH. It's the mass media equivalent of playground mockery: take one awkward moment and keep playing it back. I think what it really indicates is that the mere existence of video recording makes it possible for mass media to destroy any candidate that it chooses to."


By deliberately using a track which didn't include the crowd noise, it converted shouting (in a mike) to be heard over a crowd into simple shouting for no apparent (to the listener) reason. Assuming that the network people understand audio and video feeds on a professional level, this was a deliberate deception.


So it's not simply taking an awkward moment and playing it back, it's creating that awkward moment.
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Posted by: Barry on January 29, 2004 03:35 PM

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Xavier is a lunatic. Thank God (should God exist) that there aren't more of him here.

Whether the media are politically biassed to the right (I think they are) or just shallow, silly, and malicious, either way they have a destructive influence on the campaign.

One **defender** of the media said that the coverage of the Dean scream wasn't any more exaggerated than the coverage of Michael Jackson's baby-dangling. (See today's www.dailyhowler.com -- and every day's). So the stupidest fluff journalism now sets the standard for all political coverage.

If the media made Dean then and it's breaking him now, that's not in any way a defense of the media. Maybe they were wrong both times. Perhaps the Dean camp has to take its lumps, but the rest of us don't have to accept media stupidity.

Some say that the media are just trying to maximize dollars. Granted, however, that it's OK to make a profit -- you can always count on some imbecile free-marketer to jump into the argument at this point -- the actual present system seems about as bad as it could be.

An especially noxious aspect of the system is that Democratic candidates have to crawl on their bellies fundraising in order to get money for media, often making big compromises while doing so, and then they give tens and hundreds of millions of dollars to fatten up media corporations who are ultimately the Democrats' enemies. I can't imagine a more perverse, self-defeating state of affairs.

A LOT of the power of DLC centrism comes from this dynamic. People talk as if "The Voters" reject this or that liberal stance, but as often as not it's the donors and the media lords who do so.

Since the voters do end up being influenced by media blitzes, often they do end up opposing whatever the liberal program is. But let's be clear about how it happens. Interest groups don't spend tens of millions of dollars on media buys if the voters already agree with them.

(Though in fact I often do hear urbane centrist defeatist ironists arguing just that, that the costly right-wing media campaigns are unnecessary and that liberalism have been rejected by the spontaneous will of the people.)

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on January 29, 2004 05:35 PM

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The Daily Howler, today and every day.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on January 29, 2004 05:38 PM

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http://www.thedailyhowler.com

The Daily Howler

Hope that works.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on January 29, 2004 05:41 PM

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If Howard Dean is history I'll miss him. He says some things that need to be said. After he barked at Greenspan, saying he'd fire him for supporting those ludicrous tax cuts, word was leaked that any day now Greenspan is going to hop on the anti-deficit train.

Keep barking, Howie.

Posted by: camille roy on January 29, 2004 05:54 PM

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It is stuff like this that startles me into realizing that I'm in this particular way out in the cultural desert since I never, ever watch television. (If I had a TiVo, I probably would use it, as I download a couple of shows and watch them weekly.) I did try to listen to the Dean scream clip somewhere on the Internet (had problems for some reason) when people started writing about it. Anyway, it *seems* like many of these sorts of things--the anti-Dean bias of the media--must be more visible on TV than elsewhere. Is that the case? Because that's my impression.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 29, 2004 07:40 PM

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Barry:
> So it's not simply taking an awkward moment and playing it back, it's creating that awkward moment.

Well, it is an interesting thought experiment to ask what might have happened if "Major league a**hole... big time" had been sampled and turned into a catchy hip hop parody.

Posted by: Paul Callahan on January 30, 2004 09:52 AM

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What's "the scream" got to do with anything? I don't think it had any effect on the race. Was the scream before Dean finished 3rd in Iowa? If Dean took first in Iowa, then he wouldn't have slipped in NH, scream or no scream. What probably started the slippage in Iowa was the cat fight between Gephart and Dean, the evidence: Gephart went into freefall too. And if that wasn't it, it was the "Bush is not my neighbor" rant.

Posted by: Kozinski on January 30, 2004 02:13 PM

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