State Controlled Media

Obama Media Control CartoonYesterday, Teresa Kopec noted the strange convergence of the Left and Right over the healthcare debate, quipping “2009: Little Green Footballs goes left & Jane Hamsher goes right. Who’d a thunk it?”

She was referring to erswhile warhawk blogger Charles Johnson’s public break with the Right and progressive movie-maker and the FireDogLake firebrand’s going on the warpath against what she terms “LieberCare,” proudly making common cause with conservatives who oppose the plan for entirely different reasons.

Indeed, Hamsher sees much in common with the Tea Party protesters and her own compatriots.   Maybe she’s right.

See, for example, Brian Maloney‘s post railing against “state-controlled media,” in which he argues that MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program is being secretly controlled by the White House.  His source?  Ultra-left radio host Ed Schultz.

During his syndicated radio show Friday, libtalker and MSNBC host Ed Schultz relayed to listeners how he observed ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski take feedback directly from the White House during their program last week.

Schultz appeared on Thursday’s Morning Joe and directly challenged Obama’s David Axelrod on the current version of the health care bill under consideration in Congress.

[…]

And here’s what Ed told radio listeners the next day about the visit:

SCHULTZ (08:12): So Mika starts looking at her Blackberry and so does Scarborough and obviously the White House is texting them or emailing them or whatever and they didn’t like the show. Because Arianna had been on there, I’m on there, Howard Dean had been on there and they wanted some balance.

Now think about that – here’s the White House getting in contact with ‘Morning Joe’ because they’re afraid there’s too many lefties on the air! Now if that’s not sensitivity at its highest level, I don’t know what is! I told ya a few days ago they had rabbit ears! They don’t like anything that’s being said right now, they’re getting beat up!

[…]

Is it really possible that the White House has a direct line to MSNBC’s hosts, communicating with them during their live broadcasts? Now THAT’S state control!

And do MSNBC staffers actually carry out the administration’s commands? In this case, they certainly made room on short notice for a lengthy segment featuring Axelrod, there to rebut comments made by Howard Dean and other recent guests.

Now, imagine if Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, or another non-“progressive” host had been caught taking orders from Bush during the program. When would we ever hear the end of that?

Now, first of all, all we know if that Schultz claims he saw the hosts looking down at their BlackBerries during the show.  He doesn’t claim to have seen the messages or that the hosts said they had a question from the White House.  It’s pure wild ass speculation on Schultz’ part.

But let’s take a leap of faith and presume that MSNBC’s show hosts do in fact get emails from the White House trying to spin them.  Is that really that shocking?  The White House has a rather sophisticated communications shop, after all.   If the hosts are checking their emails while guests are on the air — which strikes me as a rather bizarre thing to do — then it stands to reason that they get whatever emails are sent during the show, including those from the White House.

How, exactly, does that translate into state control?

It’s the political equivalent of working the refs.  Watch any NFL game and you’ll see players and coaches pleading with the officials to throw a flag or reverse a call.  And every so often, the ref will change his mind after hearing the argument! Does that mean the refs are under the coaches’ control?    Of course not.

And, one presumes, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin did indeed get messages from the Bush administration and other Republican operatives during their broadcasts.   Hell, Limbaugh has admitted to “carrying the water” of the party, putting a spin on things contrary to his own beliefs in order to help Republicans win. (See “The Waterboys,” “Talk Radio, Partisanship and Hackery,” and “More on Carrying Water” for more.) He was getting his talking points from somewhere.

Does anyone really think Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida who many presume has future political ambitions, is a stooge for a Democratic administration?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

Cartoon: Beeler

FILED UNDER: Media, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Where has Rush admitted what you say he admitted to? I will be in contact with Rush concerning this, James. By the way, what do you think of the little clause in the health care bill which disallows future legislators from changing provisions concerning “doctor advisory boards” aka death panels? Seems dirty Harry does not what any future congress to be able to modify his creation without a super majority, changing the rules of the Senate.




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  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Heh. I get talking points from the DNC and RNC in my email inbox EVERY DAY. Not to mention spin from the Tea Party groups, CAP, the ACLU, the Heritage Foundation, etc.




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  3. PD Shaw says:

    I’m an intermittent watcher of the Scarborough show, and I believe I can recall them getting text messages on their blackberries from WH communications and reading them. IIRC they were things like, the President will have a statement on this on Tuesday. I thought it was savvy. Schultz sounds bitter and paranoid.




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  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    The issue is not white house staffers watching a show (though perhaps they should check out the ratings to better understand what the people are watching), nor is the issue ‘working the refs’ with comments. The issue is (if the assumptions are true) responding in a non-transparent manner. If msnbc got a message that they weren’t being balanced (in the eyes of one side of the debate) and agreed, then take 10 seconds and say ‘so and so from the white house doesn’t think we have been balanced so let’s hear from x’. It would even seem to be in their interest as it would make the show appear to be seen by the high and mighty.




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  5. alkali says:

    By the way, what do you think of the little clause in the health care bill which disallows future legislators from changing provisions concerning “doctor advisory boards” aka death panels?

    The Senate bill is here. It does not contain the quoted term, so far as I can tell.




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  6. anjin-san says:

    How, exactly, does that translate into state control?

    It just doesn’t make any sense.

    As I have said before, I don’t think you really understand the people you are associated with…




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  7. Now, imagine if Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, or another non-”progressive” host had been caught taking orders from Bush during the program. When would we ever hear the end of that?

    They did! Scott McClellen TOLD US they did. And it wasn’t so much a complaint that they had too many guests with opposing viewpoints as was this case. It was Bushie White House talking points. Where were the cries from the mountaintops about the Fourth Estate when Jeff Gannon/Guckert had an all access pass in the White House press corps?




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  8. Come on Carl, that was just to sell a war. Life and death … not as important in the conservative mind as stopping the socialism.




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  9. Dusty says:

    Ed Schultz is getting a bit paranoid.

    Being the feminist that Mika is, her husband text her about sounding like a nitwit defending something she argued about concerning Palin.

    I think it’s mostly family members that they’re getting messages from.




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  10. Drew says:

    “Life and death … not as important in the conservative mind as stopping the socialism.”

    Mindless drivel.




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  11. Zero content insults Drew? How surprising.

    McClellan and others have documented the Whitehouse push through journalists to make the case for war. It was a theme of the Libby trail. It is all widely accepted as fact.

    Why are so many silent on it now? Do they think they get a clean slate now that Cheney and Bush are gone?

    Certainly fear of teh socialists is bigger today than any soul searching about the run-up to Iraq.




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  12. PD Shaw says:

    I think it’s mostly family members that they’re getting messages from.

    That wouldn’t surprise me. Maloney seems like he’s never watched the show to be so flabbergasted at the possibility that there is texting going on during it. The show has got two co-hosts, often surrounded at a table by NBC/MSBNC’s B-team of show hosts (Pat Buchanan; Laurence O’Donnell; Michael Barnacle, etc.), plus some guy named Willie, who plays the Ed McMahon role, and finally the guests.

    If Mika gets up to visit the ladies’ room, get a bagel and check her e-mail, there will not be dead air.




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  13. Drew says:

    Nice try, odo. Read what you wrote:

    “Life and death … not as important in the conservative mind as stopping the socialism.”

    Pure, mindless, infantile crap.




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  14. I gave you my patient expansion Drew, and you gave me another zero content insult. LOL.

    You know, it would be fair (weak but fair) to say “‘smoking guns in the form of a mushroom cloud’ are ancient history, get over it.”

    No one has to care that we went though that phase. But you know, they should at least tolerate the reminder in good grace. It was true. It did happen. It’s sad that conservatives can whinge about Obama’s socialist medicine message control while pretending it never happened.

    … oh, and they can make petty insults too.




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  15. Drew says:

    “I gave you my patient expansion Drew, and you gave me another zero content insult. LOL.”

    You gave absolutely nothing, odo. And you know it.

    I am a conservative. I don’t put life or death decisions before socialist policy considerations. Many commenters here are conservative. And they don’t put life or death issues before socialist policy conderations.

    What you did was make a ridiculous, inane assertion. And now that I called you on it you are trying to squirm out of it with arcane, off point references.

    Sick. Just sick.




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  16. Drew, if you can show me where you criticized, or even just lamented, the Bush-Cheney media manipulation in the run-up to war, I will apologize in full.

    Otherwise, you are just criticizing me for reminding you of that of which you do not speak. You are exemplifying the thing I am criticizing.

    That wouldn’t even rise to “sick,” it would just be “weak.”




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  17. Wayne says:

    When has Scarborough ever indicated he had future political ambitions? He certainly doesn’t have any love for the Republican Party.

    The ref comparison is pretty good. Yes both sides try to work the Refs. However, if they were being e-mail during the game by only one side that would be very suspicious. If they were only talking to one side and seem to be giving all the calls to one side after and\or before talking to that one side, then their impartiality would be very much in question. Often people think refs are against their team when they are not, but sometimes they are.

    It has become quite obvious to most that the MSM is not impartial or fair.

    Rush has his conservative agenda and many consider him as one that does the heavy lifting and work for the conservative movement. He may have bit his tongue of few times (hard to imagine when) in hopes of furthering his agenda. However he has never allowed any politician to tell him what to do.

    Talk radio personalities and pundits are very forthright on where they are coming from and don’t pretend they are objective. News anchors are another case. Comparing the two is disingenuous. Doing so to excuse the News Anchors hypocrisy is lame.




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  18. anjin-san says:

    However he has never allowed any politician to tell him what to do.

    True. He tells the GOP pols what to do…




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  19. Herb says:

    There has been a lot of effort spent this year trying to convince people that Obama is a socialist. This is just a product of that.

    It also illustrates the laziness and stupidity of that approach. Better to just criticize Obama for what he is: a left-of-center American liberal.

    (I know, I know…where’s the birth certificate?)




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  20. Have a nice G.A. says:

    There has been a lot of effort spent this year trying to convince people that Obama is a socialist. This is just a product of that.

    Ha, It’s more like God, we all know he exists, but many try to disprove it.

    Reverse sociology.
    This is just a product of denial.




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  21. Wayne says:

    Anjin
    He tries. Unfortunately too many don’t listen to him.

    The press has often tried to tell pol what to do or at least question their actions. Today they are taking marching orders.




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