What I've Learned From the Old Media

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As anyone who reads this site certainly knows by now, Ron Paul raised $4.2 million in 24 hours on Nov. 5th. It was the shocking result of a "money bomb," organized — as usual with the Paul campaign — spontaneously, just three weeks earlier, by an individual supporter unconnected officially with the campaign. And, except for a few mentions by Dr. Paul after he found out about it, the official campaign had nothing to do with it.

That one-day total is about 80% of what Dr. Paul raised in the entire previous quarter, which itself was very impressive and garnered him a significant amount of mainstream media coverage — not significant compared to what they give the anointed front-runners whom they've been shoving down our throats incessantly for two straight years, but significant compared to the prior coverage they've given Dr. Paul this year.

The amount is also a one-day online record for any candidate, and is first-tier money no matter how one objectively looks at it. It's also more than McCain raised in all of the previous quarter, about half of what Thompson raised in the previous quarter, and more than one-third of what Giuliani and Romney raised in the previous quarter (not counting the loans Romney made to himself.) And he raised it all in one day.

Dr. Paul now has over $7.5 million for the quarter; if donations for the others are about the same as last quarter (and especially if donations for the others decline, as they did from Q2 to Q3), even without any more "money bombs," he's on pace to be in first place in fundraising among the Republicans for the fourth quarter — both in terms of gross donations and cash-on-hand. But there are more "money bombs" scheduled: one on Nov. 11th for Veterans Day, and another on Dec. 16th, the anniversary of the 1773 Boston Tea Party tax protest.

This is getting really, really exciting.

The Old Media

Even so, if you thought the staggering Nov 5th total would finally win significant coverage and respect from the establishment media, you were wrong. It's obvious now that nothing short of electoral success will (very, very begrudgingly) force the mainstream media to admit that Ron Paul is a serious candidate with a serious chance to be president. (Yes, higher poll numbers would also help, but the polls are controlled in various ways by the establishment, such as with whom gets polled, what types of questions are asked, and what kinds of options are given; a CBS poll last month still didn't even list Dr. Paul as an option. But fundraising, as Dr. Paul has proven, is much harder to control — even with the restrictive campaign finance laws. And somehow I get the feeling that, if Paul were like Huckabee and had little money, but were polling around 8–10%, suddenly money would be a more important criterion than polling.)

The next day's coverage was limited, compared to the magnitude of the story. And much of the print coverage was as dismissive and sarcastic as ever, continuing to use terms like "extreme long-shot" and "fringe candidate," along with a requisite, out-of-context photo of Dr. Paul scowling; while much of the TV coverage mentioned the story in passing, in between such urgent, earth-shattering news as the current price of gasoline and Britney Spears' custody battle with Kevin Federline. And in almost every TV interview with Dr. Paul, the interviewer asked if he plans to run as a third-party candidate now that he has all of this money. How come they never ask people like Giuliani or Obama that question?

(However, in fairness, some of the coverage was decent.)

The overall sparse and poor coverage is another sign of how irrelevant the mainstream media have become, how much they deliberately distort reality, and how the Internet exposes them. Is it any wonder why newspaper circulation is in such a free-fall that, if today's tends continue, most newspapers will be bankrupt in a few years (so get ready for the government to bail some of them out with your money), that almost no one under 40 reads them, and almost no one under 60 watches the evening network news?

To illustrate the Old Mediau2018s near-worthlessness, here is a list of what I've learned this year about the Paul campaign from them. (Some of these points will be either contradictory or redundant because they came from different sources, but that's not the point; the point is they're all lies, distortions and half-truths — or some mix thereof.):

1. Ron Paul doesn't exist.

As I discussed in an earlier column, the "legitimate" contenders for president were anointed by the Old Media two years ago, after the mid-term elections; all elections are mostly scams to con average, unsophisticated people into thinking that they control the government because they're allowed to choose between interchangeable socialist-fascist candidate A or B; and the establishment doesn't take kindly to anyone disrupting that script by telling people that there are other viable candidates.

CNN offered some of the better coverage of Nov. 5th; in one story, they admitted that the media has largely ignored Paul all year, and they cited a study from media-tracking company VMS that showed that, from Aug. 2006 to Aug. 2007, Ron Paul's name was mentioned by the media 4,695 times, while John McCain's was mentioned 95,005 times. In other words, for every time Paul was mentioned once, McCain was mentioned 20 times. (VMS apparently doesn't make their findings freely available online, but it's safe to assume that the deviation between Paul and any other anointed front-runner is at least as bad. In fairness to the media, rumors that Paul might run didn't leak until Jan., and he didn't start his campaign until Feb. But I'd wager that the results of a study of Feb. to Sept. of this year wouldn't be much better.) The media decides who the viable candidates are based on how much they talk about them, and the support for the front-runners is almost totally manufactured by the media — it's a mile wide, but an inch deep.

2. Ron Paul is a nut / wack-job / fruitcake / 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

Dr. Paul has stated repeatedly that he does not believe that 9/11 was an inside job, meaning the government orchestrated the attack. But, no matter how much he denies it, it won't go away. This charge apparently comes from his association, as a guest, with some in the media who espouse such beliefs, as if being a guest makes him responsible for what they say or that he agrees with everything they believe. It also comes from distorting his correct assertion that terrorist attacks like 9/11 are blowback from the United States' foreign policy, which isn't the same thing as believing that the government orchestrated and executed the 9/11 attacks.

The establishment paints Dr. Paul's other ideas, like sound money and abolishing the Fed, abolishing the income tax, ending U.S. imperialism, ending the Drug War and ending healthcare distortions like cartelization, with terms like "nutty" because they profit from the status quo, so they're trying to stop ideas from catching on that would decimate their pocketbooks.

3. Ron Paul can't win.

Despite his fundraising success this week, many in the Old Media are still saying he has no shot at the nomination. No honest, objective journalist could look at Paul's grassroots support — especially considering that he's the only GOP candidate with any significant grassroots support or excitement, or at his fundraising, and draw this conclusion. That is, unless they know something we don't about votes being rigged, which is doubtful. (It's not that vote fraud never occurs; it's that it's probably not standard procedure — and, if it were, not that many people in the media would be aware of it.)

Of course, if Paul really had no chance to win, they not only wouldn't bother to inform people of that, but they wouldn't even be covering him at all. There are dozens of people running for president next year who really can't win, but the media isn't covering them — and they certainly aren't informing people that those candidates can't win, because everyone already knows it. The fact that the Old Media is hysterically informing people that Paul can't win means that he can — and they know it.

The indicator most often cited for this assertion is Paul's standing in supposedly scientific polls. Aside from the other problems with polls, discussed at the beginning of this article, poll numbers at this point reflect only name recognition, and they don't indicate how fervent a candidate's support is. A recent poll asked people to name anyone running for president next year. This wasn't a test of whom the respondents support now; it was just to see if they knew who was running. The poll found that 48% couldn't name one candidate — not even media superstars like Rudy or Hillary. If that's even close to accurate, it shows how irrelevant candidates' poll numbers are now.

It's easy for political junkies to forget that most people, even if they vote and consider themselves politically active, have better things to do than to pay attention to the presidential race at this stage. And it's understandable; most people are too busy working, raising their kids, paying their bills, seeing their friends, pursuing their hobbies, etc. to worry now about a presidential race that's a year away. Most people won't start paying attention until the primaries begin. If Ron Paul wins New Hampshire, which even some mainstream pundits who don't even like him are starting to admit is a strong possibility, he'll instantly be seen by the average person as credible, and will likely be polling in double-digits within a matter of days.

4. The Internet is some kind of alternate, virtual reality universe that has no bearing on the real world.

This might have been a reasonable statement 10 years ago, when the Internet was largely a fringe phenomenon, used only by early adopters. I remember Harry Browne winning virtually every Internet poll in 2000 with 80–90% of the vote, but that unfortunately had no bearing on what happened on Election Day.

But when Dr. Paul is has won 21 of 42 straw polls (you know, where real people cast real votes in the real, offline world), and has come in second or third in 13 more; and is outdrawing his opponents by about 5:1 at rallies all over the country; when his supporters show up in droves at his debate media appearances; and when about 80% of Americans use the Internet on a daily basis now, this charge is ludicrous.

5. Ron Paul only has a few supporters who cleverly "spam" non-"scientific" polls to make their movement look bigger than it is.

Aside from the fact that it's impossible to vote more than once from the same cell phone, and very difficult to vote more than once from the same IP address, if this is true, then how did Paul raise $4.3 million in one day, and $7.5 million in five weeks? How does he keep winning so many offline straw polls? How does he draw such large crowds at his rallies? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is that the accusation is a lie.

6. Most Paul supporters only know about his stance on Iraq.

Since Paul's support has become too large to completely ignore, some in the media claim that, while he has a fair amount of support — but still not enough to win the nomination – most of his supporters only know about his stance on Iraq, and he's having such success because the war is so unpopular; if those people found out about some of his other "nutty" positions, like abolishing the income tax, unconstitutional federal agencies and the Federal Reserve; ending the Drug War; returning the balance of power back to the states so that people will again be free to do things like discriminate and employ children; etc., they'd be horrified and would immediately withdraw their support.

The most obvious retort is that, on the Democratic side, Kucinich and Gravel have come out as strongly as Paul against the Iraq War, plus are statists on domestic and economic issues; Paul began his campaign this year with no more money than they had; and Paul received no more attention from the media than they did, until very recently. So if those candidates are as strongly against continuing the Iraq debacle as is Paul, and don't hold his "horrifying" views on economics and domestic programs, then why aren't voters flocking to them?

Ron Paul has been totally open about his positions all year; they're all readily available on his campaign site and elsewhere on the Internet; and he has been this open about his positions, which have been remarkably consistent, for over 30 years.

How can any objective journalist think someone who's against the Iraq War could hear a politician like Paul speak out against it, and automatically throw their enthusiastic support behind him just based on that, without researching anything else about him — especially when information about him and his other positions is so quickly and easily obtainable online, and while evidently tuning out everything else Paul said in the debate/speech/media appearance where they first heard him?

The elite don't believe — or don't want to believe — that average people could be for liberty, sound money, peace and constitutional government, so they pooh-pooh that aspect of Paul's message, despite the fact that he's been totally open and consistent about his positions on such issues his whole career.

7. Ron Paul's supporters don't support him or his ideas as much as they're dissatisfied with the front-runners.

Much of the coverage of Nov. 5th claimed it showed "dissatisfaction with the front-runners." This is an example of how the mainstream media spins everything into a story about their anointed candidates.

This point is reminiscent of when Paul won the Nevada Straw Poll last month with 33%, while Romney came in second with 16%. MSNBC's headline on their website was "Romney Loses Nevada Straw Poll," and the entire story was about Romney; he was mentioned in every paragraph, while Paul — who not only won, but received twice as many votes as Romney — was mentioned only once.

The twisted logic is that the public is dissatisfied with the anointed, statist candidates due to one triviality or another (Romney's or Giuliani's flip-flopping over the years on a given issue between statist position A or B; Thompson's lethargy; etc.) and are clamoring for an equally statist candidate who doesnu2018t have such drawbacks. But since there's none to be found, they'll flock to anyone — even Ron Paul.

Sure; that's it.

So why the bias?

So why is the media so biased against candidates like Paul, rather than trying to objectively report facts and letting people decide for themselves?

I wish I could offer a brilliant Rothbardian analysis to address the question, but I'm not sophisticated or well-read enough to figure out all of the behind-the-scenes machinations. However, I can speculate; there are a number of possibilities, and probably more than one is true to some degree.

Harry Browne used to say that, in his view, there are basically two types of people in the world: Doers and Reformers. Doers accept the world as it is, even if they don't like it, and try to make the best of it for themselves and those they care about. These are the types of people who tend to go into business. Reformers don't accept the world as it is and wish to change it. These types of people tend to go into fields like the media, law, the clergy, and especially politics. There's nothing inherently wrong with being a Reformer; the problem is most Reformers don't know of any way to push for their reforms except through the state, through force rather than persuasion.

Most people in the media are Reformers and statists. As an example of their mentality, I remember Harry Browne appearing in 2000 with Paul Begala and Oliver North on MSNBC. They were both aghast that Harry wanted to end the Drug War. They asked him if he felt there was a drug problem in America, he said "yes," and they asked him what he'd do about it. Harry gave a brilliant answer that explained self-ownership, the history of drug prohibition, the similarities of the Drug War with the disaster of alcohol Prohibition, the economics of prohibition and black markets, and that most drug problems are due to their illegality, not to the drugs themselves. They looked at him blankly, verified that he believed there was a drug problem in America, then asked again, "Then what would you do about it?!" It wasn't just that they disagreed with his answer; it was like any answer that didn't propose more proactive state intervention didn't even compute in their minds.

This mentality was also evident in Dr. Paul's media interviews about Nov. 5th, where some expressed shock and disbelief that the "money bomb" not only wasn't organized by the official campaign, but that Paul didn't even know anything about the person who organized it.

The idea that society can self-organize from the bottom-up, based on individuals acting in what they believe is their own self-interest, and that there's nothing that top-down central planning can do to improve anything, but a great deal it can do to destroy, is incomprehensible to statists. But that spontaneous, bottom-up method is how the Paul campaign is succeeding; appropriately, it's a great metaphor for the market.

However, while journalists' statist beliefs are likely one part of the answer, the adage of "follow the money" is always a good place to look for answers to questions like this. While people in the media tend to be Reformers who only know how to accomplish their reforms through the state, the media also spend the bulk of their time covering government. So a limited, constitutional government would give them less to talk about and possibly fewer readers or viewers (and thus fewer advertising dollars), assuming they failed to keep those readers or viewers by offering something else. But, more importantly, many media companies are owned by larger corporations that benefit financially in other ways from the welfare-warfare state.

The media's treatment of Dr. Paul is nothing new, and it's to be expected; the establishment has used the mass media to spread propaganda that furthers its interests for as long as mass media has existed; for example, one of the earliest uses of printing presses was to spread political propaganda pamphlets.

RIP Old Media

Anyone who's been paying attention has known for several years that the New Media of the Internet were going to overtake the old, statist, establishment media in influence, and emasculate its gatekeepers; the only question was when, not if.

When a candidate for office who's been almost entirely ignored by the Old Media can still raise as much money as candidates who have literally received 20 times — or more — coverage from that same media, it's an unmistakable sign that the establishment's ability to set the agenda, and control and manipulate reality, through its media gatekeepers has finally been gloriously and permanently ruined.

The tombstone that the Internet started building about 10 years ago for the Old Media, and the establishment's ability to use that media to set the agenda, has been ready for awhile; all we needed was the date of death. Now we finally have it, and it's time to order the plaque from the engraver. Tell him to put this on it: November 5th, 2007.

Good riddance.

November 10, 2007