Late last month, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote an op-ed that sparked a megaton of discussion in Washington, D.C. and across the country. But not on the Sunday talk shows. Their premise is the same as in their new book:
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
Whether you think they hit the bullseye in their critique, or chose the wrong party to pick on, or should have stuck with their previous approach of criticizing both parties or don’t really know enough to decide whether they are right or wrong, you have to admit the subject is one worth delving into in some depth. Exactly the kind of thing that ought to lend itself to a thorough back and forth on the Sunday talk shows.
“Not a single one of the Sunday shows has indicated an interest, and I do find it curious,” Ornstein told [Greg Sargent], adding that the Op ed had well over 200,000 Facebook recommends and has been viral for weeks. “This is a level of attention for a book that we haven’t received before. You would think it would attract some attention from the Sunday shows.
If you were cynical, you might conclude that this has something to do with the Sunday shows’ relentlessly skewed guest list. When the Republicans were in charge in Washington, the guest list consisted mostly of Republicans (and whites and males). And, when the Democrats came to power? The guest list has consisted mostly of Republicans (and whites and males), as I documented over a 16-month period here and others have pointed out from time to time to time to time to time.
Okay. We get it. But that still doesn’t explain why Mann and Ornstein’s thesis didn’t get some attention from Face the Nation or Meet the Press or State of the Union. Surely, they could have found plenty of Republican guests to blast the two men to smithereens for bias. That, however, would require an admission of the subject matter itself. Which would be a problem, as I noted two years ago:
It’s not just who appears in the media, obviously. It is also very much who doesn’t appear, whose opinions aren’t seen at all. That, in part, is a function of the idea that all stories have only two sides, and as long as two sides are presented there’s balance. Never mind that those two sides on a particular day may well be from the perspective of the right and the center or center-right. The truth is that most stories – especially political, economic and cultural stories – have more than two sides. Because the media are so subordinated to external power, the bias covers not only what gets talked about, but also what doesn’t. Real socialized medicine? Carbon tax? The permanent war economy and the military-industrial-congressional complex? The economics of class? A serious discussion of racism or sexism, not to mention heterosexism? Not a chance.
Like so much of the rest of the traditional media these days, the Sunday talk shows are more about propaganda than actual discourse. They are, in the so very apt term of Noam Chomsky, all about manufacturing consent. If that requires ignoring what ought to be major topics of the day, and what in other venues are major topics, then ignoring it shall be.