05 August 2013

Partisan censorship and primary responsibilities

Presuming that anything created by the "mainstream media" on the subject of Hillary Clinton must be a puff piece or a virtual campaign ad for an expected presidential candidate, the chairman of the Republican National Committee has issued an ultimatum to CNN and NBC. The networks must cancel their scheduled feature-length biography and dramatic miniseries, respectively, or else Chairman Priebus will call on the RNC to exclude them from the party's 2016 presidential primary debates.

From an aesthetic viewpoint, there's probably little to lose however this plays out. But leaving aside the paranoid assumption that either project will be propaganda for a Clinton 2016 bid, this is a brazen attempt at non-governmental censorship, or the pettiest of boycotts. The alarming part about it is Priebus's indifference to the concept of news. The reason anyone shows the primary debates on television is that they are news events. There is an assumption that the public wants (or maybe ought) to see the people aspiring for one of the major-party presidential nominations. The idea of excluding any network from covering these events is at least morally equivalent to the favoritism Priebus accuses the two networks of showing toward Clinton. If he goes on to justify an exclusionary policy on the ground that the Republican primaries are really private affairs, access to which is available on an invitation-only basis, than the two networks should respond accordingly. They ought to editorialize in favor of federal and state governments denying the Republican party any support in conducting their primaries. If the GOP can decide for reasons of privacy to restrict news coverage of their deliberations, those deliberations should not be subsidized by taxpayers in any way, since they will have ceased to be public events. Just to be fair, they should ask that we stop subsidizing Democratic deliberations as well. Something more immediate might make a stronger point. How about an appeal to solidarity among the news networks? For instance, if Priebus carries out his threat, how about all the networks refusing to cover the 2016 Republican National Convention? I'm sure one news network would reject such a plan, but that would still leave the GOP nominee preaching only to the converted at a time when they hope to broaden their appeal. For now, however, the best thing either network can do to punish Priebus and the Republicans for this despicable threat is simply to report it and let viewers figure out the truth for themselves. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But I thought the repugnicans didn't want government involved in business. Oh, right - I keep forgetting about their dual standards. Personally, I think their bluff should be called. And on top of that, they should be told if they do that, then NBC will not allow them to participate in debates nor run their ads.