“Long-Shot Winner Turns Dark Horse,” declared the New York Times in a Tuesday headline. “Simon Stumbles as the G.O.P. Nominee for California Governor.” Nowhere in James Sterngold’s story will readers learn that this “dark horse” leads in several recent polls. Why is that rather important fact left out? Because that’s not the sort of information the New York Times wants to convey to its liberal readers. It must reassure them that all is well on the liberal West Coast.
Sterngold simply rehashes the story line the herd media in California decided on a few weeks ago. Sterngold uses the same tired line — first trotted out in a Los Angeles Times “news analysis” — that the Simon campaign “appears to have lost the momentum.” How’s that for hardheaded, just-the-facts reporting? It “appears” to Sterngold that Simon’s campaign is petering out? “Appears” is a weasel word that simply means, “I don’t have the facts.” Wouldn’t it be a little more honest to say that it “appears to this liberal reporter” that the Simon campaign has lost momentum?
The liberal press would rather manipulate the California gubernatorial race than cover it. Mainstream journalists create political news in California, then treat the news created through their biased coverage as objective fact. Their perception becomes political reality, which shapes the candidates’ campaigning and largely determines the public’s reaction to the campaign. They never acknowledge this central newsmaking role in the campaign, but instead act like innocent bystanders to it.
The Simon-momentum-on-the-wane story is not a fact, but a wish that the media intend to fulfill through their coverage. Journalists could just as easily run stories titled, “Political Rookie Leads Incumbent In Several Polls.”
But the media have their story about Simon and they are sticking to it. Hence Sterngold, while ignoring polls that show Simon ahead, eagerly reports the notoriously unreliable Field Poll, a survey many pollsters consider methodologically flawed because it doesn’t even bother to identify likely voters. That poll shows Davis ahead. But it also shows Davis with incredibly high unfavorable ratings — another piece of information Sterngold doesn’t consider significant enough to pass on.
He breezily disposes of Davis’s endless scandals in one paragraph that begins with the understatement, “It is not that Mr. Davis has been without recent problems of his own.” As if Simon’s lack of “momentum” is a problem on par with blatant quid pro quos at the Sacramento Capitol.
Sterngold turns for a dim assessment of Simon’s campaign to Dan Schnur, a political consultant who worked for Richard Riordan. What exactly makes a political consultant who backed the wrong candidate in the primary an expert on momentum and winning? Nothing, except that he can supply the New York Times with a quote that supports their preconception. “It’s clearly taking them some time to shift out of primary mode and into general-election mode. And in a general election, you have to be prepared to go on the attack,” Schnur said. Usually the New York Times frowns on Republicans who go on the attack. But for the purposes of this article, it counts Simon’s restraint as a negative. Sterngold even finds a way to use Davis’s corruption to Simon’s disadvantage: “So far, he has not been able to exploit the governor’s stumbles.”
Sterngold can’t complete his story without a quote from the ubiquitous Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, the Norman Ornstein of the West Coast. Jeffe is a liberal political scientist at the University of Southern California who seems to spend much of her day returning phone calls to the dominant media. She is always ready to tell the reporters what they want to hear. “Simon has gotten no traction from his upset in the primary,” she said. “Simon’s really been under the radar screen since the primary, and he hasn’t defined himself.”
It is hard to get on the radar screen when liberal reporters control it. And if Simon is not “defining himself,” that’s because the liberal media do not like his definition of himself. He refuses to conform to their image of him as a conservative extremist. He is running a low-key campaign as a form of self-defense against a media ready to pounce. Sterngold manages to twist the “sunny tone that Mr. Simon adopts in his efforts to strike a Reaganesque pose” as another one of his problems. He “has cast himself in the Reagan mold. To some fellow Republicans, that’s a problem,” he writes.
Yes, heaven forbid if a Republican sought to emulate one of the most successful presidents of the twentieth century.
Clearly any media stick will do to cripple this “dark horse.”
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