Monday, April 7, 2008

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You can't blame the media for everything

Glenn Greenwald is getting a lot of play with this post, in which he says the following:

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to "domestic military operations" within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73

"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16

"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607

"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079

It's pretty clear what Greenwald thinks this indicates -- it's an indictment of "our nation's coddled, insulated journalist class."

To me, this indicates the following:

1) Comparing NEXIS searches of events where the media cycle has yet to play out with events where the media cycle has played out is a really disingenuous way of making one's point;

2) There are more press mentions of an event when the target of the media inquiry actually responds to the press. To my knowledge, John Yoo has said nothing since the terror memo was leaked published, and the Bush administration has clammed up as well. Barack Obama, on the other hand, clearly did respond to the Jeremiah Wright business, leading to multiple news cycles about that issue;

3) Shockingly, the press appears to be more interested in events that determine the future (i.e., who will be the next president?) than in events that look back at the past. [Isn't that a slanted way of contrasting these events?-ed. Compared to Greenwald's slant? No, not really.];

4) Glenn Greenwald might be a good blogger/collumnist, but he's not that great at social science.

posted by Dan on 04.07.08 at 11:43 AM


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