The worst conspiracy ever, and right-wing self-affirmation

The worst conspiracy ever, and right-wing self-affirmation

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Just to expand on Julie Millican's breakdown of the Daily Caller/Breitbart "Journolist" freak-out: If there was a mainstream media conspiracy to kill the Jeremiah Wright story, then it was the absolute worst conspiracy in human history.

Here's the headline of the Daily Caller story: "Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright." And here's Breitbart's characteristically hysterical reaction to the report: "[M]ost media organizations are either complicit by participation in the treachery that is Journolist, or are guilty of sitting back and watching Alinsky warfare being waged against all that challenged the progressive orthodoxy." The story itself revolves around liberal journalists (writers from The Nation, The American Prospect, Salon, the Washington Independent, etc.) consulting with one another over the now-defunct Journolist listserv on how to word an open letter to ABC News objecting to George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson's widely panned performances as moderators of the April 16, 2008, Democratic presidential debate, which featured several questions to Barack Obama about Wright.

Let's look at this from a practical point of view: Did the alleged plot work? The short answer is "no," and the long answer is "Oh my god, are you kidding me? No." Jeremiah Wright was everywhere in the media in spring 2008, and a constant background presence for the remainder of the campaign. If "most media organizations" were in on the scheme, then that really wouldn't have been the case. Also, let's not forget who first gave the Jeremiah Wright story legs: Brian Ross of ABC News. It was his March 13, 2008, report on Good Morning America that first showed the now infamous videotapes.

And while I'm on that topic, let's take a look at the timing. According to the Daily Caller and Breitbart, these journalists were plotting to "kill Jeremiah Wright stories" in the aftermath of mid-April presidential debate -- more than a month after the Wright story had exploded. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse got out.

All the hyperventilating over the "Journolist" emails is predictable, though, as it feeds into the pervasive right-wing sense of victimization and their continuing frustrations at Obama's election. The clandestine nature of the emails lets them believe that there really, really is a secret liberal media conspiracy that's been keeping them down all these years and artificially buoying the liberal politicians they don't like. There's a reason people like Hannity and Breitbart still talk about Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers -- because they were absolutely convinced in 2008 that Wright and Ayers would be the undoing of Obama. The problem was that nobody cared about Wright and Ayers as much as they did, and people care even less now. When their incessant carping on the two was proved to be an utter waste of time, they lashed out -- who can forget the chorus of bitter complaining following the election that McCain just didn't spend enough time talking about Obama's "radical" associations?

Stories like this "Journolist" offering from the Daily Caller are therapeutic, in a way, because they allow right-wing hucksters to say "Ha! We knew Jeremiah Wright should have been a bigger deal, but that evil media conspired to keep it a secret! We were right! Liberal media!" They think they're exposing the men behind the curtain, but all they're doing is just wrapping themselves tighter in their own pernicious cynicism.

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