How the Media Botched Coverage of Rand Paul in 2010

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post, of course|||Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has a long piece excoriating mainstream journalists' coverage of Rand Paul back when he was first running for Senate, particularly the focus–to the exclusion of much anything else–on his discomfort with the private property provisions in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Excerpt:

Three years later, it is beyond dispute: Paul is a leading opponent of civil-liberties abrogations, executive-power excesses, and militarism. Safe to say, after last week's filibuster, that his stands on those issues are the most visible and consequential that he has taken in the Senate. Even prior to that 13-hour spectacle, Paul mounted high-profile, sometimes lonely efforts to reform the Patriot Act; formally end the president's authorization to wage war in Iraq; reform drug laws; prevent indefinite detention; extend Fourth Amendment protections to electronic communications; require warrants for drone surveillance; reform overzealous TSA screening procedures; and stop an anti-piracy bill that would have onerously infringed on free expression online.

He's also opposed calls to wage war in Libya, Syria, and Iran.        

In light of this record, the establishment press ought to reflect upon the fact that its 2010 coverage utterly failed to anticipate the most important consequences of electing Paul to the Senate. Go back, as I just did, and read every story The New York Times published about him. Its coverage was representative: The paper paid little attention to his anti-war, pro-civil liberties, pro-checks-and-balances proclivities, though those issues were certain to loom large between 2010 and 2016; it paid some attention to the political import of a possible victory by a Tea Party Republican; and it focused intensely on Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation that passed when he was two years old and certainly won't be revisited in the foreseeable future.

Totally not racist! |||Here's a useful comparison and future test of media proportionality:

Compare the reaction to Paul's comments on the Civil Rights Act to Michael Bloomberg's ongoing stop-and-frisk policy and the NYPD task force he sent to New Jersey to spy on innocent Muslim college students. I understand why the Civil Rights Act is regarded as sacrosanct, but treating non-racist, abstract discomfort with one of its provisions as a more important than actual, ongoing state harassment of innocent blacks and Muslims is bonkers. It isn't that no liberal has ever objected to Bloomberg's excesses, but tell me this: If pitted against one another in the 2016 presidential election, do you think the press would give Paul or Bloomberg a harder time on matters of race? What do you think would garner more mentions, the Civil Rights Act or spying on innocent Muslim students for months without producing any leads?

Why is that?

Friedersdorf hazards some guesses in the piece. Reason on Rand Paul here, including my latest editor's note, our cover story from June 2011, and our first feature on the candidate in 2010. Link via the Twitter feed of Justin Raimondo.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Mainer2||

    First !

  • Whamodyne||

    This article should be required reading for all political journalists and bloggers - I loved it.

    I would pay good money to see NPR ask a Dem that 32 week abortion question.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Because the press loves statists, for many diverse reasons. Nobody seems to remember this, but they lionized Bush and pissed on the antiwar movement from 9/11 until things started going south in Iraq.

  • ||

    Oh, look, mainstream journalists are lazy, stupid, obedient, well-indoctrinated pieces of shit who would be incapable of thinking for themselves if their lives depended on it. That's an astounding revelation, isn't it?

  • Almanian!||

    The hell you say!!

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's a damned truth.

  • R C Dean||

    Bootlickers gonna lick boots.

    DemOp media gonna do Dem Ops.

    Blinkered partisans gonna, well, you get the idea.

  • ||

    In light of this record, the establishment press ought to reflect upon the fact that its 2010 coverage utterly failed to anticipate the most important consequences of electing Paul to the Senate

    They might if they actually had any interest in:

    1) being honest
    2) civil liberties
    3) rising above partisanship

    Since they don't, one can safely assume that they treated Paul exactly as they intended to.

  • ||

    Oh, good, there are comments.

    Damascusdean • 41 minutes ago
    Libertarians, like broken clocks, manage to be right twice a day. And the cool thing for them is that no matter your political view, you will find at least 2 things to agree on with any libertarian.

    But as a philosophy to govern a modern, 21st century, complex nation in an interdependent world? No way. It is 19th century thinking.
    2 •Reply•Share ›

    Nun Yerbizness Damascusdean • 31 minutes ago −

    and if you want a model of libertarian philosophy in practice look at Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia or any other failed state

    0 •Reply•Share ›
  • Pro Libertate||

    Interdependence? What the fuck does that mean?

  • Virginian||

    Russia was libertarian? When? Fucking when?

    When the regime in North Korea collapses and starving hordes flee to SK and China, the liberals will shake their heads and say "see, this is what happens when you don't regulate an economy."

  • Pro Libertate||

    They equate a formal limited government with the chaotic aftermath of totalitarian collapses every single time. I suppose the Nazis were libertarians by this logic.

  • ||

    Partisanship literally makes you a retard. In fact, I have it on good authority that it actually gives you an extra chromosome, a hat, and a job, but no one knows.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    As long as you bring home the bacon, nobody can tell.

  • ||

    And they're happier than you and me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Rand Paul can explain all he wants, but all the partisans will hear is "who wants cake?" And they all want cake.

  • prolefeed||

    Yeah, but the cake is a lie.

  • A Serious Man||

    See, I'm actually encouraged by those kinds of comments because if Rand does get the nomination for 2016 and puts up a staunch civil liberties plank in the platform the left will discredit itself when it has a complete and utter meltdown from the weight of the cognitive dissonance. It would get so ugly that it would turn off independents and undecideds.

    Rand Derangement Syndrome could be fatal for Democrats.

  • ||

    I'd like to see that, but they have shown that their capacity for what seems like it should be brain-melting cognitive dissonance is incredible.

  • A Serious Man||

    Oh I have no doubt that Rand would convert few of the Obama faithful just by being pro-civil liberties, but the mere thought that an evil, racist, corporate Rethuglican is undeniably better than them on what was once a key component of progressive ideology would make them lash out in such a nasty way as to reveal what they really are to the world: spoiled, petulant children with diminished mental capacity.

  • BakedPenguin||

    What's more, he could honestly discuss the racial aspects of civil liberties, and their heads would explode.

  • Duke||

    This kind of lack of self-awareness is why I cancelled my subscription to The Atlantic.

  • Jordan||

    But as a philosophy to govern a modern, 21st century, complex nation in an interdependent world? No way. It is 19th century thinking.

    Believing that Top Men can orchestrate everything is the nuanced view.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    But as a philosophy to govern a modern, 21st century, complex nation in an interdependent world? No way. It is 19th century thinking.

    Chronological snobbery AND special pleading? What an obedient and well-trained little serf you've found, Warty.

  • Loki||

    Obviously we've discovered Tony's twin over at The Atlantic. What a shitheel

  • R C Dean||

    Libertarians, like broken clocks, manage to be right twice a day.

    Thus beating the hell out of the average TEAM BLUE partisan.

    No way. It is 19th century thinking.

    Because human nature has changed in the last couple hundred years.

  • R C Dean||

    Meant TEAM BE RULED. I'll blame it on auto-correct.

  • Loki||

    and if you want a model of libertarian philosophy in practice look at Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia or any other failed state

    Right, because libertarianism = religious theocracy, post-communist hellhole, and authoritarian distopia. "Boy, he's sure got us by the nesmonds."

  • Jordan||

    Somebody read the comments over at the Atlantic and report back to me. I don't want to get mired in the almost certainly off-the-chart stupidity. I'll be reading some Youtube comments in the meantime. And then onto Yahoo Answers.

  • ||

    Lots of ABORTION and CIVIL RIGHTS ACT and RACIST. You're not missing much.

  • ||

    Lots of this guy, too. I hope he starts posting here.

    Nun Yerbizness Fattyfatman • 2 hours ago −

    you are just now waking up to the fact that journalism is long dead?

    yeah and I remember Tricky Dick, the assassinations of the 60s and Watergate.

    I remember Ronald Reagan and his henchmen negotiating with Iran's Republican Guard to ensure they didn't release the hostage until after the 1980 presidential elections in return for weapons and Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy and the Laffer Curve hoax that has transferred wealth from the middle class to the .1 percent for more than 30 years.

    I remember Donald Rumsfeld smilingly shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.

    I remember the Supreme Court appointing a president in 2000.

    Show 1 new reply 1 •Reply•Share ›
  • LTC(ret) John||

    Who says he hasn't?

  • wareagle||

    needz moar christfag

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy

    Talk about an idiot with mush for brains.

    'I have no trouble pitching for Wallace votes and black votes at the same time,' Carter told a reporter. Carter also said to another reporter, 'I can win this election without a single black vote.'"

    -from The Real Jimmy Carter

    I'll bet he doesn't remember this as it contradicts the narrative.

  • wareagle||

    the dirty little secret Dems never want to bring up is that Wallace got a lot of black votes, even after his stand on the UA campus door.

  • A Serious Man||

    Actually they are having a reasonable and civil discussion of Rand's opposition to that one clause of the Civil Rights Act.

    They acknowledge that he thinks businesses should have the right to discriminate against customers and they are debating how much the 14th should apply to them and how much of the need for the CRA was a result of state-sanctioned Jim Crow laws that actually compelled discrimination by private actors by actually banning the mixing of the races.

  • ||

    Sounds to me like you're just in the pocket of the railroads!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I think the media still wishes Rand Paul would just go away.

  • ||

    No doubt. They probably wish the same of Friedersdorf and Greenwald. Hell, some of my liberal friends complain about Greenwald, and his "histrionics."

    Funny thing is, I don't recall these complaints occurring before 2009.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Every "insider" I've heard can't stand the thought of Rand Paul. He's treated as the fringe of the fringe of the already far-right Republican Party.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Principles frighten the D.C. mandarins and their court eunuchs.

  • Loki||

    even if you think, as I do, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was extremely important legislation that ought to be celebrated by all Americans for the good it did; and that, if better executed, covering Paul's position on the subject would have been legitimate. Unfortunately, the actual coverage unfolded in a way that left the audience ill-informed.

    Huh, imagine that... I wonder why that was?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I seem to remember an incident at one of Rand's campaign rallies during which some of his supporters stomped on a protestor or reporter or someone, and the typical MSNBC response was lay blame on him until he took responsibility for provoking the attack.

  • ||

  • R C Dean||

    Not to be confused, of course, with the no-fooling curb stompings regularly doled out by union goons at political rallies.

  • John||

    "Civil Rights" to the New York Times means racial set asides, tribal politics, and political vote buying. It doesn't mean things like privacy and due process to the New York Times. When you understand that, it makes perfect sense why they would go after Paul for daring to question even the most egregious aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act while giving Bloomburg a free pass for stop and frisk and other such things.

  • John||

    The real meat of the civil rights act and what liberals never want to talk about is the "disparate impact test". That is what Republicans tried to kill in 1991 and what needs to die today. Under the test, it doesn't matter that you have rational or business neutral policies if the plaintiff can show that statistically minorities do worse under you hiring regime, you are done. Since the only way to make sure the math always adds up and avoid losing a suit is to have strict set asides, it is legally mandated racial preferences.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    How can we have an adult conversation about anything with Rand Paul in the room? We need Bipartisan Consensus.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I loved the crap McCain caught for criticizing Paul. Maverick my ass.

  • SugarFree||

    Look, kids have to learn about Aqua Buddha sometime.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    You know. Rand says he's a fan of Dostoevsky. Maybe Aqua Buddha was a sorta Church of the Subgenius/Flying Spaghetti Monster parody of organized religion.

  • wareagle||

    jesus, Matt..seriously? The media didn't "botch" anything; the coverage you saw of Rand was purposeful. The whole intent was to marginalize him as a kook if not racist, from the CRA thing to aqua buddha. It was bad enough the media had his dad around; the last thing they wanted was some new guy spreading a gospel of less intrusive govt that relied on that icky old Constitution. Botched indeed.

  • John||

    It is almost as if they pick and choose areas to fit the narrative or something. Funny how Akin's statement was front page news for weeks yet the Connecticut law maker who made the pass a the underage girl at the hearing and the Colorado lawmaker who insulted the female rape victim gets barely mentioned.

  • wareagle||

    but god forbid you mention double standard. Then again, most lefties will accuse you of having made up the CT or CO stories because only local media, if that, had any coverage.

  • Loki||

    The whole intent was to marginalize him as a kook if not racist, from the CRA thing to aqua buddha. It was bad enough the media had his dad around; the last thing they wanted was some new guy spreading a gospel of less intrusive govt that relied on that icky old Constitution.

    ...and who didn't have that whole "creepy uncle with wild conspiracy theories about black helicopters that you hope doesn't corner you at Thanksgiving" vibe, or the "racist newsletters" published in his name 15 years ago baggage.

    So they had to invent the "racist" baggage out of whole cloth. It's just too bad that Rand walked right into their trap. You know they're going to play snippets of the Maddow and NPR interviews on a 24/7 loop if he runs in 2016 until anyone who even casually mentions to a prog-tard or low information voter (same thing, I know) that they're leaning towards Rand feels compelled to justify why they're considering voting for that "racist, tea-bagging, child hating, old people starving, homophobic, WAR ON WIMMINZ supporting extremist".

    Sad how predictable they are.

  • OldMexican||

    It is important to point out that while Conor Friedersdorf criticizes the media for focusing on one single issue when reporting on Paul and his views (the CVA of 1964), he does take time to say that Paul's views on the CVA are 'wrongheaded'. Obviously, the author does not seem to require people to ask him to support his assertion but to merely accept it as a self-evident truth, committing the same sin he accuses others of committing.

    Overall, however, the article is a clear indictment on the media and how it latches on to irrelevant issues looking more to make the facile argument against a candidate than to inform the public.

  • John||

    They are not irrelevant issues at all. The media latches onto statements and issues that help them convince women and minorities Republicans and Libertarians hate them.

  • Coeus||

    It is important to point out that while Conor Friedersdorf criticizes the media for focusing on one single issue when reporting on Paul and his views (the CVA of 1964), he does take time to say that Paul's views on the CVA are 'wrongheaded'.

    Agreed. He ain't perfect, but compared to the rest of the writers at The Atlantic, he's Lysander-fucking-Spooner.

  • ||

    By way of explanation, Friedersdorf twice links to an article written by Julian Sanchez. Did so in the same paragraph he uses the word "wrongheaded".

  • Proprietist||

    There are two slightly tenuous reasons a libertarian could ostensibly support the CRA's private discrimination sections, and Friedersdorf implies both.

    First, because it is politically stupid and self-defeating to be perceived as racist or give any unnecessary fodder to the bloodsucking parasites in the media looking to wound any person that threatens their reign. If I were asked the same question as a candidate, I'd say "The CRA isn't currently up for debate, and any logical reforms to it would rank near the bottom of my priority list."

    Secondly, sometimes libertarians could be convinced to accept some level of government force as reparation for a worse previous force - such as reparations for slavery or false imprisonment, or taxation and regulation of drugs when the WoD ends. Fixing state-created injustices sometimes mean those who didn't participate or endorse the injustice have to bear the cost. While I agree that creating new victims does not fix injustice, I can see reasoned arguments for a compromised policy to replace a much worse injustice.

  • ||

    The best comment is the one from the chick who says that she prioritizes "human rights" over "property rights". Thus, it is OK to steal from some and give to others, if the people on the receiving end would have otherwise not had medical care or housing or some such.

  • ||

    She gets bonus points for later using the term, "world citizen".

  • Pro Libertate||

    The 21st century equivalent of "comrade."

  • ||

    Shut up, Jimbo. I saw her first.

  • ||

    lena mcfarland willallen2 • 6 hours ago −
    Ukranians and Irish were not killed by being over-taxed, contrary to the fears of civil libertarians. If there had been jobs and/or programs providing basic substance like food, they would not have died.
    5 3 •Reply•Share ›

    Mmmmm. DELICIOUS.

  • John||

    What, the Party didn't provide jobs and subsistence to the Ukrainians? Does Comrade Joe know about this?

  • R C Dean||

    Love the way he thinks "civil libertarians" get all panty-bunched by tax policy.

  • Fluffy||

    The Irosh died because the British banned the import of American wheat, to protect the interests of English tenant farmers and their aristocratic landlords.

    The British state couldn't have done more to kill the Irish without using artillery.

  • Virginian||

    I like how she conflates the Irish famine, which was caused by a potato blight, with the Ukrainian famine, which was caused by the Soviets knowing it's a lot cheaper to starve people to death then shoot them one by one.

  • prolefeed||

    Yeah, it's funny how "an overreliance on a single food source that suffered repeated massive crop failures" becomes "they needed more government assistance". Because the ruling British government in Ireland at the time was all about helping the Irish peasants.

  • The Dan||

    sure, sure, the Great Hunger was just about the potato blight. It didn't have anything to do with the British continuing to export tons of food to feed their empire

  • ||

    lena mcfarland sameolbs • 6 hours ago
    How many people are killed by their domestic abusers each year?

    How many people are killed by drones each year?

    How many people die because of a lack of health care each year?

    On a numbers basis, Rand Paul has a worse record on human rights (although not on property rights) than Obama does.
    8 2 •Reply•Share ›

    I'm in love. I wanna lick her armpit hair make sweet love to her during her period, while stopping every few strokes to ask her if she consents.

  • John||

    Something tells me there is some hair on that arm pit.

  • Coeus||

    Not that anyone gives a shit, but I think I was wrong about Rand. He's turning out to be far more libertarian than I thought. Not a big anti-war campaigner, but he walks the walk instead. Guess it's about time someone played the game the other way.

  • Paul.||

    The mainstream media is only interested in talking about civil liberties in the context of race and identity politics. Rand discusses civil liberties for every American. This doesn't compute.

    Bloomberg is a hero of civil liberties, Rand is just some tea fucker talking about obscure provisions in a document no one cares about.

    Here's the short path to getting a glowing civil-liberties press report:

    Offer, as policy, free abortions to young black women and send home healthcare workers into every home in America to do mandatory health checks.

  • Proprietist||

    Rand Paul needs to say to his rival Hillary in a 2016 debate: "Hey Hillzy, I understand back in the day you were a Goldwater voter? Perhaps I still have a chance to win your vote, then, eh?"

  • Josua||

    In order to watch his comments on the Civil Rights Act, I apparently also have to watch Rachel Maddow. This brings me to an important topic.

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