Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why does the media HATE Hillary Clinton? Is it bias...

Maybe, just maybe, the media isn't unfair to Hillary Clinton. Maybe it's as fair as it ever is to anybody. Perhaps the reason she receives more criticism doesn't have anything to do with bias. It could be that she gets more roasting because she deserves it.

The media is tougher on Hillary Clinton than it is on Barack Obama.

Let's pretend for a moment that the statement is 100%, undeniable fact. It probably isn't, but for our purposes let's assume it is. Let's hypothetically embrace the notion that the media is constantly trying to beat the crap out of Hillary and that its members want to give Barack a backrub.

If the media is tougher on Hillary, the next question should be "why". Why might reporters and commentators shower affection on Obama while hurling insults at Clinton? What are the motivations? Here's a list of potential explanations with which we can play.

1. Hillary is a woman and the media is a sexist tool of the patriarchy.
2. Barack is black and the media is either super pro-black or has tons of white guilt.
3. Hillary can't shake her connection with Bill Clinton and lingering animosities toward the ex-POTUS.
4. Barack gives better speeches and is more television-friendly.
5. The media has an unnatural hatred of Hillary Clinton that defies rational explanation.

Let's consider these in isolation.


That's probably true, at least to some extent. I think it's relatively safe to say that our society is still sexist. I'd stop short of saying that the media wants to maintain a phallocentric culture in which women only exist as sub-human servants to man, but there probably is some sexism out there.

Overall, however, I'd also tend to believe that the alleged liberal bias of the mainstream media mitigates the potential for sledgehammer sexism. If anything, the folks on cable news and who write for the papers are probably more acutely aware of sexism in society and probably make a much more substantial effort to avoid sexist bias than do most groups. Your average press gathering probably contains fewer outright sexists and misogynists than a randomly selected factory, office or bar in the USA.

We might be able to blame some of the hypothetical Hillary hatred on the basis of media sexism, but it seems unlikely to be a major cause.


This one seems a little weaker than the sexism charge. Although the media, again, tends to be more liberal than other groups, it seems unlikely that its liberalism on issues of race somehow swamp its liberalism with respect to sexism. One would tend to believe that if the media was sexist enough to hate Hillary on the basis of her gender, it would be just as likely to be bigoted enough to reject Obama based on skin tone.

But let's be generous with respect to the argument. Let's say there is some of that so-called white guilt out there and that all of the media types have a soft spot for the black dude. Even if we make that rather substantial concession, it seems unlikely that would lead to anti-Hillary coverage. The impact would be slight at best.


Sure, some people have grudges against Bill. No doubt about it. Overall, though, the media was pretty friendly during Bill's presidency. Even when they went on various infidelity-related feeding frenzies, they tended to back his more substantive postions as president. Bill was pretty damn popular, folks.

It would stand to reason that an affiliation with the reigning poster boy of the Democratic Party would help Hillary more than it would hurt her. Being Bill's wife should be a positive with respect to press treatment.

Even if we're generous on this one, it seems unlikely to think that the Bill Factor is causing the press to rabidly attack Hillary Clinton.


Obama does give good speeches. He is, relative to other pols, photogenic and camera-friendly. Overall, though, his campaign isn't the greatest thing in the world to cover. It lacks the sneak attacks and snarky outbursts that usually provide grist for the media mill. Instead of throwing "red meat" to the press personally and via surrogates, he seems to be sticking with that incessantly positive thing. From a press perspective, that isn't really all that great.

Hillary's campaign, on the other hand, is all about having daily conference calls in which it brings up new reasons to attack Obama. It's a journalist's dream. Need a story? Wait for Howard Wolfson to explain how Barack Obama plagiarized part of his 5th grade social studies paper from Encyclopedia Brittanica. Wait for someone who'll be fired the next day to accuse Obama of selling PCP to children on the playground.

Plus, Hillary isn't a slouch when it comes to televised excitement. Although it's currently cool to claim that she's a bore compared to Barack, most people considered her a pretty damn persuasive person up until a few months ago.

Oh, and it is worth noting that there might actually be a shred of actual importance to the ability to communicate effectively. You know, a substantive reason to appreciate rhetorical skills. But let's leave that alone. We're trying to figure out why the press is UNFAIR to Clinton, after all.

Anyway, the idea that Barack gets a free pass because he gives a good speech isn't that strong. Bill Clinton is widely recognized as a master of presentation. Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, they say. I don't remember opponents of those two guys noting a media bias because of that. Hillary's getting coverage. She's not ignored. If she calls a press conference, the cameras are there.

I can't imagine that even the most ardent supporter of the "media hates Hillary" argument could believe that this rationale explains the bias.


Obviously, the media is tougher on Hillary just because. There is no cogent explanation. There is no primary cause. It just is. The media is unfair. Don't bother searching for causes, just look at the evidence: she's losing. That explains it in a nutshell, right?

Okay, she also gets the first question and a milllion different people have been on TV claiming that Barack Obama hasn't been grilled enough. Yeah, getting the first question is generally considered a good thing. True, the fact that million different people claim Obama needs grilling indicates that the media is on Barack's case, too. But you get the idea.

For some unknown reason, the media just hates Hillary. The end.


Maybe the media has been, overall, pretty fair to Hillary. Maybe this whole "media hates Hillary" thing is nonsense. We played with the concept for awhile, and it doesn't look like its holding up, so let's consider a few reasons why Hillary might be receiving critical attention that have nothing to do with bias. You know, negative comments that she might actually DESERVE.

Could it be the fact that she's surrounded by old school political advisors who've constructed a naughty little campaign fueled by "attacks of the day", innuendo, and cheap shot silliness? Is it possible that when that kind of campaign is contrasted against a relatively positive one, like Obama's, that she looks like shit?

Could it be that Hillary's frequently self-referenced record contains some ugly chapters? Maybe confused positions on NAFTA, that annoying little Iraq vote, and assorted other faux pas make it easy to be critical of her when she backtracks, loops around, and comes out with a deeply-held position that contradicts her earlier stances?

Maybe the media is critical of Hillary because she somehow managed to miss a slam dunk and has since gone on to make what should have been a one-sided crush of a victory into a nailbiter she'll probably lose? That's a pretty good story, after all.

Maybe, just maybe, the media isn't unfair to Hillary Clinton. Maybe it's as fair as it ever is to anybody. Perhaps the reason she receives more criticism doesn't have anything to do with bias. It could be that she gets more roasting because she deserves it. She may be on the receiving end of more criticism because she's a divisive, sneaky, cheap-shotting relic of an uglier partisan past who just keeps on slinging bullshit in the face of reality every single day. Personally, I find that argument far more compelling than I do believing that the fourth estate hates her for no reason at all.

If someone doesn't seem to like you, it might be because they're being unfair or have a secret agenda that doesn't involve you. Or, it might be because you're an asshole.

With respect to Hillary Clinton and the media, I vote asshole.


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  1. Here, here. I vote asshole, too. And whiny one, at that.

    That's my experience. The bigger the bully, the bigger the baby. And, oh my goodness, Hillary Clinton whines like a little bitch, don't she? I'm so tired of it. Goddamn.

    So far, this campaign has actually affirmed my belief in the marketplace of ideas, even in political elections, strangely enough. I can hardly believe it, because it is the one area of life that I have always assumed that that template did not fit because it was the one area of life where the market was most profoundly and routinely distorted.

    But, maybe, after all, contrary to all of my suspicions, better arguments, even for leadership, really will out. I certainly hope, because I sick and fuckin' tired of the alternative.

    Hillary Clinton is not a bad person. She just needs to sit and think honestly about why people don't like her, right now, and cut out the whining for just a bit to take it seriously for a moment. As someone who has had people think me an asshole many times in my life for which I have thoroughly deserved the ascription, I can testify that it is best to take responsibility for being one than it is to constantly put it off.

    And the truth is that I will likely love the shit out of Hillary Clinton if she were to do a little self-reflection on this one rather than being defensive about it. I'll be the first person to tell people to give her a fuckin' break. I just don't think she's the best person to be running the country, given her behavior, at this point. But I'd be willing to reconsider that notion at a later date.

    Best to say, "Sorry I've been an asshole," then blaming the world for calling you out on it. That's from someone who knows. And I bet Hillary will get this one figured out too. She's a smart cookie.

  2. My best guess is because Hillary doesn't come from the right social group. She came out of Arkansas. The media doesn't see her as one of them. So they hate her.
    I'm a republican and I feel sorry for her.