Barack Obama

Obama Screws, Skewers the Media, But They Do Love Him So

The president who has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other combined tells the press to do its job better.

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Earlier this week, President Barack Obama castigated the press (again) not only for trafficking in the patently "false equivalence" of "he said/she said" journalism and failing "to probe and to question and to dig deeper" but for abetting the rise of (an unnamed) Donald Trump and creating "the current climate" of political vitriol.

The proper response to this is: Are fucking kidding me? Or, as Politico's Jack Shafer wrote, "Spare me your hypocritical journalism lecture, Mr. President." In fact, Obama has not just been hostile to the way he says wants the press to operate, he's sicced more legal dogs on reporters than any wary property owner ever sicced on bill collectors. From Shafer summary of some of the president's actions:

"Obama hates the press," New York Times national security reporter James Risen said not long ago, "and he hates leaks." AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has decried the "day-to-day intimidation of sources" by the Obama administration, judging it worse than the Bush administration on that score. And in a 2013 piece, POLITICO's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen documented Obama's mastery of "limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House."…

Obama holds infrequent news conferences, and he wastes reporters' time by refraining from answering questions with any candor. He claims to helm "the most transparent administration in history," while bending government policies and practices toward secrecy.

All of that (and more) is bad enough, writes Shafer, but things get positively unbearable when the president layers on all the vapid, banal, Hallmark greeting-card level praise of the press:

What makes Obama's speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work "indispensable," "incredible," "worth honoring" and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office.

Read the whole thing.

Ironically enough, the president was speaking at the award ceremony for the Toner Prize, given annually by Syracuse University to honor "the best national or local political reporting in any medium or on any platform." This year's recipient is Alec MacGillis of ProPublica, a watchdog group, Shafer notes, that has reported that at 

the same time the Obama administration has been paying lip service to protecting whistleblowers, it has pursued national security leaks to the press with a vehemence unmatched by any previous administration, using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined.

I've been a working journalist basically my entire professional life. I respect the field but don't think it warrants the often-overwrought mythic vision presented by Hollywood (see Spotlight for a recent, semi-hagiographic example) and journalists themselves. Obama's speech isn't simply hypocritical and diversionary (though it is both those things). By stroking the press's collective ego, he allows us both to pump up our significance in self-flattering ways that have little connection to reality or the news we're supposed to cover. Hence, The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof's genuinely awful Sunday column, titled, "My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump." 

Screw you, buddy, I didn't—and neither did anyone at Reason, for that matter. Nor did we help "make" George W. Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Saddam Hussein. It's interesting that folks at places such as The Times, which never fails to put itself in a different league when it comes to its reputation, start trading in collective responsibility the minute things go south. The fact is, there in no single media and to talk about the tens of thousands (if not more) of news-gathering and free-expression-enabling outlets and platforms under such a term conceals more than it clarifies.

And it also smudges a fact that many reporters or newsgatherers or journalists or whatever you want to call us have never pushed back against Barack Obama because they have been in the tank for him. That is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Toner lecture delivered by Obama: The very people he excoriates—and that he had thrown in jail on occasion and threatened with all sort of legal and other actions—lap it all up with a spoon.

Then there's what Reason TV's Todd Krainin has called the "reality show presidency" of Barack Obama. Forget Donald Trump's roots in The Apprentice. On top of all his other sins against transparency and freedom of the press, there's this:

"The White House has effectively become a broadcast company," says Michael Shaw, publisher of Bagnewsnotes.com, a site dedicated to the analysis of news images. Shaw explains how strategically composed photos, taken by official White House photographers, travel from social media sites that are controlled by the administration to the front pages of newspapers around the world.

The press publishes the official White House photographs because independent photographers and videographers are increasingly barred from covering the president. This practice has diminished the power of the independent media as an exclusive distribution channel while empowering official photographers such as Pete Souza, who are on the presidential payroll. 

And so, says Shaw, the public has been fed a steady diet of whatever kind of president the news cycle demands. When conspiracy theorists questioned Obama's patriotism, we saw images of Obama the American everyman. To celebrate the anniversary of Rosa Parks' 1955 refusal to move to the back of a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, we saw Obama reenact her famous image. Time and again, we see Obama striking poses out of John F. Kennedy's repertoire. The official White House photographers have created a presidential identity for every conceivable occasion — as long as the image is flattering, and almost always, larger than life.

Watch Krainin's video to get a full sense of how Obama is not dissembling to reporters or threatening them and playing fast and loose with them. He's actually tightly controlling what images are allowed to be published of him and carefully staging photo-ops and other fake press events in ways that erase their own falsity.

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  1. The Emperor has no clothes, bitches.

    1. He has no clothes and he’s mushroom-slapping just everyone!

      1. Was that a dogwhistle reference to the choom gang?

        1. I thought “mushroom-slapping” was another one of those euphemisms that keep popping up in the comments.

          1. It means to bop another person on the face and head with your semi-erect dong.

            1. Similar to the ol’ Arabian Alarm Clock, eh?

              1. What we called the “Koon Dog Dick Slap” in college, cause a guy in our fraternity named Koon Dog DID that to a chick at a party. That was before it wasn’t OK…

                /trogolodyte from the 80’s

    2. To be fair though Epi, you see everyone as naked all the time.

      1. It’s his gift.

        1. When it comes to Hugh, it’s a curse, dude. All those stretch marks…

          1. Those stretch marks you are mocking are the price you gotta pay if you want to be in the top tier of penis puppetry

            1. I’ll pass. Not enough mutilation for me.

              1. Do NOT turn this into a circumcision thread, dude.

                1. What if I gave a warning first? Maybe I could yell FORE or something when bringing up this subject.

            2. I saw link, I clicked. Goddamnit.

      2. “Little trick for achieving the proper competitive mindset: I always envision my opponent having aggressive sex with my mother.”

        1. What do you do when you are competing against your dad?

          1. That goddamned motherfucker!

          2. Epi’s mom is his dad. He admitted it last week.

            1. I come from a long line of hermaphrodites.

              1. A line of long hermaphrodites?

                1. Epi broke ground in the phallology world when his micropenis forced phallologists to invent a subcategory, the nanopenis.

                  1. “When your “innie” bellybutton is larger than your penis.” – Physician’s Desk Reference

                  2. I missed picopenis by *this much*. I’m so disappointed.

                    1. The proper term is “dickette.”

    3. no clothes other than the perfectly creased empty suit you mean.

  2. But he is sooooooooooooooo cool.

    1. #perfectlycreasedslacks

      1. Perfectly creased mom-jeans.

    2. Also, All The Presidents Men is really boring.

    3. His blackness makes him the coolest cat around.

    4. That is almost the exact phrase used by my local alternate rag.

      http://www.memphisflyer.com/me…..id=4540395

      1. That is, just, I don’t know what that is.

        His speaking pattern is masterful, full of seemingly thoughtful pauses that lead to complete sentences.

        Umm, yeah, let’s go with “thoughtful pauses.”

        And, from the comments:

        Hillary Clinton’s cool is 10th grade math teacher cool – the teacher everybody hates after the first day of class, but toward the end of the year decide she’s all right and by the time they graduate remember her quite fondly as one of the best teachers they ever had.

        1. And he can use the negro dialect when he so chooses.

      2. Fortunately, if she gets the nomination, she’ll probably be going up against the uncoolest candidate of my lifetime ? Donald Trump.

        I suspect that’s a time range of 15 to 20 minutes.

        1. OH JESUS. Man was I wrong. Ouch. Jesus, that just makes this column even worser.

  3. He only beats them because he loves them.

    1. They let him beat them because they love him.

  4. Who do you think Obama holds more disdain for, republicans or the boot-licking press?

    1. Oh, the press. Republicans are fellow politicians, and therefore better than the hoi polloi.

  5. “Nor did we help “make” Geroge W. Bush”

    And a good thing too, the Geroge W. Bush administration was catastrophic.

    1. You’re just saying that because he’s black.

  6. By stroking the press’s collective ego, he allows us both to pump up our significance in self-flattering ways that have little connection to reality or the news we’re supposed to cover.

    Speaking of Trump, perhaps Obama is using a little of The Donald’s tactics here. Flatter beyond what is warranted to stave off criticism and gain allies.

  7. “Obama holds infrequent news conferences, and he wastes reporters’ time by refraining from answering questions with any candor. He claims to helm “the most transparent administration in history,” while bending government policies and practices toward secrecy.”

    Is Jack Shafer a commenter here? In either case he is hitting the nail on the head.

  8. and failing “to probe and to question and to dig deeper”

    Sheesh, really? He owes his presidency, in large part, because the press did not probe, question, and dig deeper into his qualifications in 2008.

  9. Screw you, buddy, I didn’t?and neither did anyone at Reason, for that matter.

    In matters of politics, the news media certainly can make winners and losers. Trump didn’t spend much money but got a shit tonne of exposure. Obama was elevated by the press beyond his station as a candidate and Gore wasn’t fawned over by journalists as much as he could have been. To be certain, candidates can stoke or cool embers of interest with what they do, but they can certainly be doused or fanned with the stroke of a pen.

  10. In his defense it really is TOTUS’ fault.

    1. TheTaint’s fault? I hadn’t considered that…is that the Florida Panandle? America’s Taint?

      1. It makes sense when you consider what the rest of Florida looks like.

  11. “Obama hates the press,”

    They’re insufficiently deferential. Obama wants to give them the R. Kelly treatment, and they keep insisting on wearing raincoats.

  12. He can always do better with PR. We could have Obama’s International Friendship Exhibition. With a national mandate that everyone makes the pilgrimage at least once.

  13. The author fails to account for rich, white liberals’ psychological need for self-flagellation and self-criticism: smug self-satisfaction at one’s own magnimity is one hell of a drug!

    1. You think journalists are rich?

      1. I think he means their consumers.

      2. Depends on the journalist, and depends on how you define ‘rich’. Plenty of ink has been spilled on how the journalists of old did a better job of covering street-level issues because their pay and social class better reflected the street they were covering. I agree, the term ‘rich’ is certainly a stretch… maybe a big stretch, but the income strata of a journalist with a major outlet is far different than it was 75 years ago.

        I’m currently digging for a great article I read on this very subject some years ago. Having trouble finding it.

      3. The wealthiest man in Bedford Falls.

        1. I use Bernie Sander’s definition of “rich” as being an educated, privileged white person with more money than he thinks you should have, i.e. anything above the poverty line.

          It was not intended to be a scientific definition, mea maxiuma culpa.

  14. A part of me does want to say fuck journalists who whine about restrictions or impositions placed on them by Obama/politicians they cover because they cheer those same politicians fucking over everyone else.

    1. At least, many of them do.

  15. And it also smudges a fact that many reporters or newsgatherers or journalists or whatever you want to call us have never pushed back against Barack Obama because they have been in the tank for him.

    I got a headache trying to parse this. I know you’re pissed, Nick, but punctuation is your friend.

  16. “Are fucking kidding me?”

    Is Paco editing today again?

    Paco, you.

    1. I thought he got 5 errors before snark? 🙂

      1. Paco gets no leeway as editor.

  17. From Politico’s comments:

    “Dhachia Wright ? Scavenger at Main Force Patrol
    It’s not the real press being criticized for it’s failings, it’s your manufactured propaganda from the right wing bubble who have no accountability when they go on nationasl television and spout lies, like FOX 24/7.
    Like ? Reply ? 43 ? 17 hrs”

    She forgot derp, derp, derptity, derp, derp.

    1. Because Fox is too pro-Trump.

  18. Given press pool’s love to be institutional battered wife of progs, fact even they can’t quite self-program into Hillary love is telling.

    1. I tried to make the same point above, but Diane ruined it. Lol

  19. “Screw you, buddy, I didn’t?and neither did anyone at Reason, for that matter. Nor did we help “make” George W. Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Saddam Hussein.”

    OMG YOU JUST MADE DAVID BROOKS CRY.

    1. Is there anything that doesn’t make li’l Davy cry?

  20. What I find amusingly unfair is that these journalists are graced with Obama’s presence *because* they softball the news. If they played hardball, they wouldn’t be invited – they would be shaking their fists in impotent rage like Nick.

    So Obama is reprimanding them for behaving *exactly* the way they needed to behave in order to be invited into the room.

    1. They want to be invited to the hipster gin bars in DC. And you don’t get there by treating Obama the way Sam Donaldson treated Reagan.

    2. ” If they played hardball, they wouldn’t be invited – they would be shaking their fists in impotent rage like Nick.”

      Nick may be your idea of a hardball journalist, judging by his absence at Obama’s cocktail parties, but surely not by anything he writes. Here at least, he is deeply into Trumpism. It was through him and his colleagues at Reason I learned about KKK’s endorsement of Trump, Trump’s speculation on the murder of Scalia, and a host of other non-stories endlessly bandied about here.

      1. The point – I believe you missed it.

        1. “The point – I believe you missed it.”

          I didn’t miss your point. It is repeated endlessly through the comments. Blaming Obama for inane reporting.

      2. I’m pretty sure t.rump didn’t murder Nino, but he certainly displays all of the emotional maturity of a spoiled, semi-intelligent 7 year old.

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  23. “And it also smudges a fact that many reporters or news gatherers or journalists or whatever you want to call us have never pushed back against Barack Obama because they have been in the tank for him.”

    So, Red Diaper baby/community agitator treats the pressies like his personal bitch, and they ask ‘please sir, may I have another?’ Instead of pressing on the numerous violations of the Constitution and Federal Law?

    Who’d a thunk.

  24. uptil I saw the bank draft four $8760 , I be certain …that…my sister woz actually bringing in money part time from there labtop. . there neighbour had bean doing this 4 only about eighteen months and resently cleard the depts on there home and bourt a top of the range Chrysler ….

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  25. But when Ben Swann was hard on him with questions, Obama made him pay the price for it (lost his job).

  26. Obama Screws, Skewers the Media, But They Do Love Him So

    Of course the press loves Obama.
    No one hates or disagrees with Dear Leader.

  27. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
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  28. Dear Leader knows what’s best for you – a mere serf.

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