BOOK REVIEW: ‘Spin Masters’

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SPIN MASTERS: HOW THE MEDIA IGNORED THE REAL NEWS AND HELPED RE-ELECT BARACK OBAMA
By David Freddoso
Regnery, $27.95, 250 pages

David Freddoso’s “Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama” is essential reading for how the palace guard media stole the 2012 presidential election for Barack Obama. This wasn’t an election, but a media selection. Mr. Freddosso documents in vivid detail the double standards that ended with President Obama’s re-election, despite record unemployment, the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the fight over religious liberty and the Fast and Furious scandal.

To read “Spin Masters” is to understand the challenges that conservatives face in returning America to a limited government republic when the press, our Fourth Estate, knows no limits to its shame. The problem of media bias has become so acute that as the Fox News Channel’s Greg Gutfeld recently put it to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, denying media bias is like “denying science.” Yet many in the media continue to deny.

Mr. Freddoso’s list of media malpractice is exhaustive without being exhausting and deserves a careful read if you want to relive everything that went wrong: from deceptive editing that made Mitt Romney look like a dolt to biased, silly stories about women and supposed racial injustice. However, rather than reform themselves, the mainstream media have doubled down on their own dogmas. They had their headline: “First black president can do no wrong,” and proceeded to cover up his every wrongheaded policy, both in the stories they covered and (more often) in the stories that they didn’t. “The problem isn’t that journalists are too hard on Republicans,” writes Mr. Freddoso. “The problem is that they often won’t do journalism at all unless they are covering a Republican.” Given that the most left-wing president controls the executive branch, the media are AWOL.

Relying on polling data, Mr. Freddoso imagines what might have been had the media been more interested in what most concerned Americans — jobs and the economy — instead of what they were least concerned about — abortion and birth control. The media’s love of the trivial often surfaced — so long as it could hurt Republicans. Mr. Freddoso writes, “If you rely on the mainstream media for news, you would have gotten the impression that this centerpiece of Obama’s economic plan — the waste of billions of dollars creating a vanity industry with no jobs to speak of — was a minor matter, of far less significance than say, Mitt Romney’s tax returns or his dog Seamus.”

Ironically, the Romney campaign may well have been at its strongest when it (and the Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher) parried campaign consultant David Axelrod’s attack by pointing out that far from being a loving dog owner, Mr. Obama had actually eaten dogs back in Indonesia. Memes, not message, was how Mr. Axelrod won: “War on Women,” “Binders Full of Women” and so on.

The election’s crescendo was the transformation of Mr. Romney from a moderate Republican governor to a monster. To paraphrase left-wing satirist, Stephen Colbert, if corporations are people, Mr. Romney — former head of Bain — was a serial killer. Before our very eyes he became a corporate raider, a tax cheat and, finally, a snob with his 47 percent comment. Though Mr. Romney had given more money to charity than Mr. Obama ever had, it was he — not Mr. Obama — that was dubbed anti-poor. This caricature was enabled, of course, by Jimmy Carter’s grandson’s heavily edited, hidden camera footage of Mr. Romney’s $50,000 a plate fundraiser. This same media, which had attacked videographer James O’Keefe’s use of a hidden camera to film the son of Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, discussing possible voter fraud, fawned over David Corn’s use of the Carter video. Mr. O’Keefe got probation; Mr. Corn got awards.

While Mr. Freddoso’s description of the problem is sound, his solutions are lacking. Some are frankly wishful thinking. Sure, it’d be nice to have good candidates — why not great candidates? — but it would also be nice to have good consultants. Certainly, conservatives should hold themselves to a high standard but it’s hard to know just how high a standard when liberal nihilists have none at all.

If conservatives are “whiners” about the bias of the media, maybe more effort should have been spent thinking about how to develop a battle cry. For example, during GOP primaries, Republican candidates should avoid appearing on the major networks for a presidential debate. Republican debates should be moderated by Republicans. If the media whine, ask them why they have hired so few conservatives.

Conservatives ought to spend less time complaining about the media and more time thinking about how to replace them. We need fewer tweeters and more reporters; fewer blogs and more books. If the media have a “structural advantage,” as Mr. Freddoso describes, how do we disrupt it? Asking the media to do their job is silly. It’s in their nature to be dishonest. You can’t shame the shameless.

Charles C. Johnson, a contributor to the Daily Caller, is the author of “Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America’s Most Underrated President” (Encounter Books, March 2013).

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