Modern media and the destructive representation of conservativism

Scott Walker, Conservatism, Mainstream Media, MSM
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Although rightfully excoriated for his comments comparing public unions to ISIS, Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wis.) treatment by the media continues to highlight the gross disparity in the way with which conservative candidates are analyzed and represented, when compared to their liberal counterparts. Whereas Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton are all hailed for their various policy proposals, as well as their personal and professional achievements, individuals like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are ruthlessly assailed for every quip or comment, be they contextual or otherwise. 

This was patently evident in 2008 as well as 2012, and will most assuredly be applicable once again in 2016. From tales of Mitt Romney’s elementary school bullying, to reports about Paul’s “Aqua Buddha” college days, the depths to which modern media apparatuses will dredge in order to invalidate a Republican’s candidacy, surpasses even those explored by the Trieste. This is highly problematic, as it only takes an anonymous comment, erroneous claim, or an unverified accusation, in order to destroy the legitimacy of a right leaning contender. This same approach however, would be understandable if it were equally applied to both sides of the political aisle, but seldom is that ever the case.

{mosads}Each of the aforementioned Democratic heavyweights has more baggage than a gypsy caravan, but what few stories do make it to print regarding their issues are typically brief, excused, and quickly forgotten. It may not seem like much, but such a handicap with relation to past misdeeds or suspected skullduggery can (quite effectively and easily mind you), tilt and distort the public’s perception of a given individual. When this happens predominantly to GOP candidates, the hazards become quite clear.

Tea Partiers are dismissed outright, while socialist fringes on the left are never acknowledged nor addressed. Adjectives such as “wacko, crazy, radical, extremist, fundamentalist, and myopic” have become synonymous with the Republican Party, whilst Democrats are only reported to be pragmatic or “slightly more progressive”. Even thoroughly debunked claims have been routinely utilized to attack conservative hopefuls.

Two weeks before the Iowa caucus, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) surged to a comfortable and timely lead, although immediately upon attaining said position; questions regarding racist newsletters bearing his name were suddenly raised. Given the nature of the accusations, such inquiries could have been viewed as reasonable, if only the articles hadn’t been penned some 25 years earlier, and discredited no fewer than 10 times since. 

Unlike Paul however, the discourse surrounding New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has already pivoted from questionable associations, to his plans for statewide reforms. This has all transpired less than two weeks after it was revealed that the speaker of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver, had been taking millions in bribes in exchange for various kickbacks. Cuomo, although not charged, had been accused of interfering with the Moreland Commission, a body he started (and eventually disbanded) in order to root out said instances of corruption.  Yet now, rather than looking deeper, journalistic lap dogs, content with warming the thighs of a high profile Democrat, have moved on to more important issues, like raising the state’s minimum wage.

Predictably, this is just one of many such instances, but while Democrats can sleep off their scandals like Ted Kennedy nursing a hangover following a dalliance with a certain bridge, journalists are all too willing to hit 88 mph in the doctor’s Delorian in order to uncover (or retread) alleged GOP misconduct. Whereas evaluations of John Kerry’s service record were equated to blasphemy in 2004, coverage of the investigation into George W. Bush’s National Guard activities, were reported nightly until it was revealed that the story was completely fabricated. While the latter example did result in Dan Rather’s unceremonious dismissal from CBS, it unquestionably re-directed the national dialogue for weeks on end.

And yet the encumbrances placed upon conservatives by media outlets, extend far beyond refuting purported wrongdoing. Policy proposals are held against anecdotal sob stories and hyperbolic rhetoric, while missteps are often sufficient cause for the evisceration of not only the individual in question, but also all those with whom he or she is aligned. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in attempting to advance his plan for the economy was brutally denigrated because his agenda would “decimate the poor”, while Mitt Romney on the other hand was bewilderingly attacked for his “binders full of women” comment.

For Conservatives, it’s a no win situation, as the sins of one are often linked to distant cohorts in even the most tenuous manner available.  Todd Akin’s ignorant and inflammatory rhetoric regarding rape and pregnancy became a clamorous blunder that had media personalities demanding apologies from the likes of Reince Priebus in addition to other leading party figures. However, when house member Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) called Tea Partiers “white crackers”, and further emphasized how he only cared for life in war when the fallen looked like him, it’s was just business as usual; dumpster fires will burn and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas) will say astonishingly idiotic things, nothing to see, no further comment.

Frustratingly, the list goes on and on and the resulting predicament is rightfully distressing; successful democracies are dependent upon the informed consent of the general electorate, and when balanced reporting is forsworn in favor of advancing a given ideology or individual, it threatens the body in entirety.

Without question, many in the media see conservatism as an ailment that hinders societal advancement, while viewing progressivism as the logical cure. The trouble only arises however, when journalists begin to act as the attending physician, practicing medicine on a patient who neither wants nor needs their assistance.   In doing so, we have arrived at place where relativist absolutes hang around the neck of contemporary Republican candidates like a tire filled with petrol.  

As the scandal revolving around Walker’s remarks begins die down, leftist writers for both blog and broadsheet alike will soon return to hunting for conservative gaffes like petulant children in search of a snipe. With 2016 on the horizon, and with stakes climbing ever higher, we need to remind ourselves that the genuine challenge we face isn’t in dealing with one politician’s ill-mannered quip, but rather in confronting a cartel of ideologues who would like for you to believe that it is. 

Morris is a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, and am pursuing a masters’ in International Relations.

Tags Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton John Kerry Paul Ryan Rand Paul Ted Cruz

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