Obama Manipulates Media, Media Goes Along

This passage from an otherwise mundane piece by Jim Hoagland on the attempts by presidential campaigns at branding jumped out:

I marveled at the sea of white faces nodding approvingly or cheering wildly behind Obama. Then I realized that only a sprinkling of the black voters and volunteers who helped power the candidate’s victory in my home state [South Carolina] had made it onto the platform seats behind Obama, in range of the national eye.

Was it possible these voters had not come to celebrate their victory? Hardly. Reporters in the hall saw Obama campaign workers usher photogenic white families toward the platform as they entered. The scene they composed was an effective, calculated rebuttal of the Clintons’ effort to portray Obama as a black candidate whose victory depended on race — a way of killing “this possible racial narrative before it could be born,” as Gal Beckerman wrote in a perceptive dispatch on the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk blog ( http://www.cjr.org).

Such manipulation has become so commonplace that few other journalists bothered to mention the Carolina campaign tableau in their coverage, even though Beckerman estimated that 85 percent of the crowd was African American.

Given thousands of journalists filing tens of thousands of stories on the same event, one would think that someone would have picked up on this angle by now, no? Surely, it’s interesting when campaigns orchestrate press coverage to give a decidedly mistaken impression of what is going on? Certainly, we hear about it when Republican convention planners make sure that the relative handful of black faces in attendance get on television.

Watching the video of Obama’s South Carolina victory speech, though, I’d say there are more than a “sprinkling” of black faces behind him. But it may well be that most of the whites in the room were strategically placed there, too.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Media, Race and Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Elmo says:

    Accuracy in today’s media? Get this man a cuppa joe purr ronto 🙂

    “Iran Nuclear Issues”

    CNN (oops … Reuters), the most trusted name in shoes.

    (Add bwahaha/season to taste).

  2. Alex says:

    Dear James,

    If Obama won South Carolina with only black votes, how come the margin was so huge? Can you explain to me how obama won in Maine? I think you should see a doctor, something is wrong with you!



  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    It is hilarious to me to see the left suddenly seeing perfidy in the Clinton’s actions or that the press isn’t always fair/accurate. If a republican candidate took a crowd that was 85% white and steered the few black faces to photo opportunistic points we would hear this trumpeted faster than you can say macaca. But Obama doing it warrants nary a mention. The answer is of course political bias. Maybe 16 years from now the left will start to notice the bias just as they have started to notice that the Clinton’s play a bruising game of politics.

  4. Our Paul says:

    Way to go James, always suspected you wore pink bloomers. How cunningly subversive!!! Posting the whole Obama speech, so we could all enjoy it one more time, while trying to count white faces…