The American media's fringe ideological view of Pelosi's trip

The media's coverage of Pelosi's Syria trip demonstrates that it takes its cues from fringe ideologues whom it mistakes for the mainstream.

Published April 6, 2007 2:35PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

The media's hysteria-driven coverage of Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria is a real clarifying moment. As Greg Sargent notes (with video), it actually prompted CNN's increasingly absurd Suzanne Malveaux to ask: "And, Nancy Pelosi in Syria and in the crosshairs of Vice President Cheney. Is she on her way to becoming the most controversial House Speaker yet?" For doing what?

The American media, taking its cues from the Limbaugh/Cheney/AEI faction -- the world in which negotiating with a country like Syria is some sort of radical and highly "controversial" idea -- simply does not recognize how isolated and on the fringe this right-wing faction is, a fact which even the faction itself is beginning to acknowledge. Today, National Review's Rich Lowry warns of what he says is a scary group that is "on the verge of becoming the most significant force in the West, one that perhaps will shape our world for years, even decades, to come":

It is the Capitulation Caucus.

Its membership consists of most nationally elected Democrats in the United States, much of the American foreign-policy elite, the balance of the U.S. media, most international bureaucrats and nongovernmental organizations, and the European political elite.

They are loosely united around their beliefs that the Iraq War is lost or not worth trying to win, that we have to accommodate ourselves to anti-Western thugs in the Middle East and that the United States today is a reckless, malign influence in the world.

It sounds like the Capitulation Caucus pretty much includes everyone other than Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Michael Ledeen and Lowry. And Lowry forgot one other part of the Capitulation Caucus: the majority of the American people, who clearly share the subversive Capitulation agenda.

Lowry's colleague, Cliff May, this week had what he complained was a day-long exchange with readers of this blog over his false statements about American public opinion regarding foreign policy. But to May's credit, he now consequently seems to have recognized the reality which the American media is apparently incapable of ingesting -- namely, that it is May and his warmongering comrades who are the fringe. May -- citing the polling data (i.e., reality) with which he was bombarded this week -- acknowledged in his latest Townhall column (h/t sysprog):

We like to think of our politicians as leaders but most are followers: They do what they think the voters want them to do (that's the smoothest path to political power), and they divine the will of those voters by reading polls.

Back in November, even after the Democrats bested Republicans in the elections, it was assumed that most Americans would be furious over any attempt to de-fund troops engaged in combat. But recent polls, taken by such organizations as Pew, CNN and the Washington Post suggest that a substantial number of voters no longer see it that way: Confidence in the possibility of salvaging a successful outcome in Iraq is running low; support for Congress legislating a specific date when American troops will come home is running high.

The warmongering Right that the American media venerates and depicts as the mainstream is, in reality, an ever-shrinking fringe group. Other than the right-wing spectrum in Israel, their mentality and worldview really does not really exist anywhere else in the world, certainly not to any meaningful degree. It is a way of thinking that is widely scorned and discredited around the world -- that our country has been ruled by them is precisely why America's standing in the world is at an all-time and dangerous low point -- and their mindset really is confined strictly to (shrinking) right-wing elements in the U.S. and Israel (along with the Australian Prime Minister).

The idea that we should use military force against Iran, or simply refuse to negotiate with Iran and Syria, or stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to wage war there, or that a visiting politician's decision to wear culturally appropriate clothing when visiting a mosque is a sign that we are about to live under Islamic law and submit to our new Al Qaeda Rulers -- those ideas come from a fringe and radical group which lies outside of mainstream thought both in the West and around the world, yet those are the ideas that comprise the American media's dominant narrative.

A very astute blogger recently travelled abroad for the first time in several years, and was in England during the time Iran was detaining the British sailors. She sent me an e-mail which included this observation, one which is indisputably true for anyone who pays substantial attention to foreign media:

Even though I didn't bring a laptop and I was sightseeing and visiting as many museums and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, etc ... as I could, I still couldn't help hearing the news about the soldiers. It was unavoidable.

What I did not hear was anything resembling the bloodthristy right-wing rantings I (correctly) imagined were being broadcast over here. Perhaps if I paid closer attention to the news while I was there I would have heard something unreasonable, but in my limited exposure to the television, it was nothing -- nothing -- like what you were probably hearing.

This cheap, artificial, mindless Charles Krauthammer/Bill Kristol/Ann Coulter/Dick Cheney chest-beating faux-warrior-against-the-world mentality is now really a distinctly fringe American phenomenon. It does not even exist to any substantial degree in one of America's closest allies, Britain, the country historically most closely aligned with American political thought.

And yet the crux of our American media is beholden to that group, takes its cues from it, and treats it like it defines the mainstream. Hence, Nancy Pelosi's belief in engaging the Syrians in dialogue -- a belief endorsed by, among others: (a) the uber-establishment Baker-Hamilton Commission, (b) the Israeli government, and (c) the vast majority of American people ("By 64% to 28%, respondents favored the group's recommendation to open direct talks with Iran and Syria") -- is, in American Media Land, depicted as some sort of radical and fringe idea, something which threatens to make Nancy Pelosi, two months after she took office, "the most controversial House Speaker yet."

Of course, the American media has been working overtime to depict Pelosi as a failed and weak joke before she even was inaugurated (recall the grave, grave crisis over whether Jane Harman would become Intelligence Committee Chair -- have any of the Very Serious Pundits who exploited that very grave matter to suggest that Pelosi's leadership was "crippled" even mentioned the name "Silvestre Reyes" a single time or written a word about the House Intelligence Committee, once the fun, gossipy, petty, manufactured "Pelosi scandal" over the Harman-Hasting drama went nowhere? Highly doubtful).

It is staggering just how out of touch and frivolous our media is. Just contemplate all the substantive scandals during the Bush presidency which they have all but ignored -- they could barely contain their scornful, bored indifference over the fact that the U.S. Attorney General repeatedly lied to Congress about why federal prosecutors were suddenly fired -- but they can hardly contain their giddiness and their compulsive and bizarre cattiness over an event (Pelosi's meeting with Syrian leaders) that, to the normal world, is completely natural and mundane. But the media lives in the Limbaugh/Hannity/Cheney world (Matt Drudge rules it), and in that world, what is in reality fringe and discredited is, to them, the barometer of mainstream.

UPDATE: This video posted by Think Progress is just amazing: Matt Lauer and Tim Russert -- citing the condemnations by such ideologically diverse and objective sources as Dick Cheney, Fred Hiatt, and the Wall. St Journal Editorial Page (which, as Lauer noted, suggested Pelosi's trip might be a "felony") -- sit around lamenting what a grave mistake Pelosi made, call her trip "irresponsible" and "incompetent," and worry oh-so-much about how damaging this will be to Democrats in the eyes of "the American people" ("By 64% to 28%, respondents favored the group's recommendation to open direct talks with Iran and Syria").

It's a two-minute tribute to the fact-free idiocy of our media stars.

UPDATE II: I just received an e-mail from the P.R. Department of the Very Serious ABC News -- which I heard this week can be trusted because of its very long track record as a highly credible and reliable source of news -- touting a new, important "exclusive." This is what part of the e-mail said:

*Any media usage must credit ABC News.

Clinton Ditches Campaign Trail for Caribbean

Former First Family Trades Limelight for Sunshine in Dominican Republic


April 6, 2007 -- She's been running for three months and it's time for a break.

The Clinton family is ditching the public spotlight for private sunshine, escaping to an exclusive enclave owned by Oscar de la Renta in the renowned fashion designer's native Dominican Republic.

Life's a Beach

The former first family -- recently announced candidate, former president, and daughter Chelsea in tow -- will spend the long holiday weekend at the Punta Cana Resort and Club. . . .

Clintons of the Carribbean

The Carribbean has not always been kind to the Clintons.

On one particularly memorable trip, the Clintons, just prior to news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the president's subsequent impeachment trial, escaped to St. Thomas in the British Virgin Islands.

What can even be said? Drudge is already featuring the story, carried also by AP, though not with as much facsinating detail as those extremely credible investigative journalists at ABC News disclosed (only ABC, for instance, made the extremely incisive connection between this trip and the Lewinsky scandal, but that shouldn't be surprising, because that's what very serious, credible journalists do).

UPDATE III: In addition to Gingrich's solo foreign policy pronouncements in China, he also, as Greg Sargent enterprisingly unearths, travelled in 1998 to Israel and pronounced Jerusalem to be "the united and eternal capital of Israel" -- a pronouncement that, according to ABC News' David Ensor at the time, ran "directly contrary to official US policy, which holds that Jerusalem's future is a matter for negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis."

As Sargent also notes, Gingirch is one of those parading around on television condemning Pelosi's trip as "very dangerous." Seriously, can someone please teach journalists how to use "Google"?

Do you think Matt Lauer -- pompously condeming Pelosi's trip -- has the slightest inkling about any of this? Did he do a single thing to read about the history of House Speakers making foreign trips, whether what Pelosi did was at all unusual, whether those condemning her are doing so because they are expressing a principled belief or whether they said the exact opposite when the partisan positions were reversed? Or did he just hear an angry Dick Cheney and read the Editorials by the Wall St. Journal and Fred Hiatt and then uncritically regurgitate in front of a camera what he ingested? Those questions are rhetorical ones, needless to say.

By Glenn Greenwald

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