The juggernaut was-and still is, according to a quick internet search, an enormous, towering wagon with the image of a deity or two enthroned at the very peak under a vast canopy. This structure is taken out for a grand procession once yearly, pulled by devotees through the streets of a certain city in India: no quick spin around the block and back again: this wagon is enormous, clumsy, and heavy. Picture Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, arriving to meet Mark Anthony, or the Persian emperor Darius grand entrance in 300; it’s an arresting visual, and often used as a metaphor to indicate a certain sort of power, will and devotion.
As the 2008 campaign began, I pictured our very dear mainstream press as deep-sea divers – so far into the tank for Obama that they had a couple of handlers and a pump feeding oxygen down to them, but by Election Day I visualized the Obama campaign vehicle as a gargantuan, creaking juggernaut, pulled along by the masses of print and broadcast media personalities, together with a fair number of the louder and more clueless popular entertainers. They strained at those chains and ropes which bound them, tugging the juggernaut painfully onward, while others leaned their shoulders to the rear, pushing the tottering structure towards the finish line. The power of their will – and the press and the TV camera – moved the One to glorious victory, regardless of the consequences . . . which were predicted (with a fair degree of accuracy, it turns out) again and again in libertarian and conservative-oriented blogs at the time.
It’s not been unknown for members of the working press to have sentimental favorites. Back in the day, they about got down and drooled over John. F. Kennedy: many of the old press guys and gals still view him through a hagiographic haze and addled memories of Camelot. Conversely, Lyndon Johnson was so universally despised by the press and the intelligentsia that I (as a middle school kid just getting interested in politics) rather felt sorry for him. Nixon was loathed, and Gerald Ford lampooned as a clumsy oaf… but in between all that, serious media still were capable of some degree of detachment, but 2004 and 2008 represented to me the last unraveling of press credibility.
The mainstream media couldn’t make the sow’s ear that was John Kerry into a presidential silk purse in 2004; not for lack of trying, although Kerry himself appeared to have all the personal charm and charisma of Frank Burns and Eddie Haskell combined. The last-minute 60 Minutes bogus Texas ANG story went down in flames almost at once, which proved fortunate for GWB. But in 2008 the mainstream press organs, almost without exception, doubled down hard for Obama, the Fresh Prince of Chicago.
I can only wonder if they hoped to became the organ of state, the state that they hoped would emerge when the juggernaut was dragged over the finish line . . . little realizing or caring that they had frittered away their credibility with – if not the largest part of the public – then that part of it to the right and center, politically speaking. Very few of those scattered along that spectrum believes that mainstream media is neutral and independent any more. Now, every time that a commentator like David Brooks or Peggy Noonan tries to walk back their Obama-worship of three years ago, the more obscene and pathetic they look. The information about Obama was out there, out there three and four years ago, but our so-called professionals of the 4th Estate, reporters, editors, commentators and TV producers and all – couldn’t be bothered to look at it.
What a pity – for a lot of the last century, being a journalist in the mainstream American media was a respected profession… and now they have reduced themselves to apologizing for dragging the juggernaut along.