Romney could have installed a rotisserie on his podium, roasted a live kitten on it, and glommed it down in front of millions of viewers – and the media still would have chalked up his performance in the “win” column. They had to; they needed a horse race to keep their viewers tuned in, and the first debate was going to be the game-changer they’d hoped for, no matter what.
But in the dawn’s early light, after the fact-checkers had done their work, what should have been the big news story was how many lies Romney had told during the debate – not exaggerations, nor the hyperbole we’ve come to expect from politicians, but out-and-out lies.
In fact, it should have been one of the biggest political news stories of all time: a man running for the highest and most powerful position on the planet had stood before the American citizenry and the world-at-large and lied over and over – without shame, without regret and, most importantly, without any fear of political consequences, thanks to a media that puts its ratings above journalistic integrity and its responsibility to the public.
No doubt the Romney camp was depending on the fact that today’s TV “journalists” don’t concern themselves with the truth, operating as they do in a world where a lie is as good as a fact, so long as the end result is an uptick in viewership.
In the post-debate high-fiving, several remarks were tossed around about how the fact-checkers would be weighing in before the night was out. And indeed, many of them did. But what is shockingly notable is that the mainstream media considers itself to be separate and apart from such an endeavor, as though facts have no place in real journalism. And sadly, they no longer do.
Somehow I can’t imagine Walter Cronkite praising Romney’s performance as a tour de force despite it being rife with blatant untruths. Nor can I conjure up the image of Edward R. Murrow describing Mitt’s denial of his very own words as being somehow presidential, and demonstrative of true leadership. But the Cronkites and Murrows have been replaced by the Blitzers and Hannitys – and those who show any potential similarity to the true pioneers of TV journalism never make it to the airwaves, lest their penchant for truth-telling result in a loss of audience share.
Sadly, the TV news media now consists of well-coiffed, well-outfitted bobbleheads, whose only claim to fame is an ability to tell it like they need it to be, instead of how it really is.
Let’s be clear. Romney’s debate performance was not a mere sprinkling of half-truths and exaggerations. It was instead a torrential downpour of bald-faced lies about his own previously-held positions and statements, along with “facts” and statistics that were obviously wrung from his own ass.
But again, he was safe in doing so. As we’ve heard from the newscasters themselves, fact-checking is someone else’s job, not theirs. And they weren’t about to let the truth rain on their preplanned we’ve got us a horse race! parade.
Several years ago, I wrote a piece about Brian Williams decrying the notion that “a guy named Vinnie” sitting in his apartment in a bathrobe and armed with internet access was about to usurp the job of real journalists who, like Williams himself, had studied their craft, earned their degrees and honed their skills in presenting the real news to the viewing public.
I said at the time that my money was on the Bathrobe Vinnie Brigade, people who took to the internet to get the truth out, not as a means of competing with the MSM – but as a means of replacing it for those of us who feel that the truth being an expendable commodity for the sake of horse races and ratings is not only unacceptable, but a national disgrace.
And so the Greatest News Story Never Told was left to the true investigative journalists – those who sit around in their bathrobes while checking the facts, with a keen awareness that true journalism demands something more than declaring a “win” for a man who has just stood before the world and lied repeatedly through his teeth.
It should be noted that in this particular case, the media has witnessed Romney’s penchant for lying since he launched his campaign. It’s not like he caught anyone off-guard; it’s not like any newscaster with even a fleeting awareness of Romney’s consistent lying was taken by surprise. But things being what they are, Romney could rest assured that no media type was ever going to point to his past transgressions, any more than they would question his truthfulness when the facts came rolling in – through no effort on their part – after the fact. And his confidence in that idea paid off handsomely.
I am not alone in railing against the so-called “news media” for years. I am also not alone in having abandoned them completely, recognizing that whores who will say anything that serves their own interests – even at the expense of their fellow citizens being informed in the lead-up to a presidential election – are never to be trusted. Unfortunately, they invariably prove my point time and again, without fail.
All of the above being said, my money is still riding on Bathrobe Vinnie. He is keenly aware that true journalism is a professional calling, and not a job by which to fill his closet with designer suits, get his hair styled by professionals before the cameras roll, and abandon his integrity in exchange for a paycheck.
Vinnie doesn’t need a horse race – he just needs the facts. And so do we all.