THE MEDIA NORMALIZE A RIGHTWING COUP D'ETAT
Republican activist majority on the Supreme Court, usually gung ho for deferring
to state rights, and who "almost never use equal protection jurisprudence
except in striking down affirmative action programs" (USC law professor
Erwin Chemerinsky), were brazenly explicit that they were overridding a state
court, and stopping a vote count, because it might cause "irreparable
harm" to George W. Bush. The fact that stopping it might cause
"irreparable harm" to Gore and deny voters their opportunity to have
their votes counted was of no concern. They then terminated the electoral
process in Florida because there wasn't time for a vote count which they had
delayed to assure that result.
was a genuine coup d'etat, with the the Republican Court majority simply
awarding the election to their favorite and denying the general populace the
right to determine an election outcome. Not only did Gore already have a
national majority, the actual retrospective vote count has shown that he won
Florida as well and thus an Electoral College majority.
this judicial theft of an election was quickly normalized by the mainstream
media. The court was criticized for its actions, sometimes even a bit severely,
but only for a day or so, and in a tone that hardly did justice to the events.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial on the subject was entitled "Hail To
the Chief," giving Bush immediate full recognition, and their text says
"Accept Bush's win, but also lament the high court's sad failure."
(Dec. 13, 2000) In the New York Times, the court was alleged to have
"rarely seemed so openly political" and "missed the chance to
reach an enlightened compromise" (ed., Dec. 14). These seem a wee bit mild,
considering that the activist Republicans on the court had simply taken it upon
themselves to choose the president, "abandoning any pretense at behaving
like a court of law" (law professor Anthony Amsterdam).
media had been full of election details for months on end, and here we had the
Supreme Court nullifying all that purported democratic activity by its hugely
political intervention, and we are asked to just "lament" this lapse
and hail the new chief. And in the succeeding weeks the media pretty much
dropped the subject. When in late January, retrospective vote counts disclosed
that the Court action had deprived Gore of a majority vote in Florida, The
Guardian of London reported this under the title "Florida 'Recounts'
Confirm Gore Winner" (January 29, 2001). But the Philadelphia Inquirer and
New York Times didn't even find this story newsworthy.
Bush not only didn't have a "mandate" but rather lost the popular
voting election and represents illegitimate authority, his monstrous selections
of Ashcroft, Norton, Chavez (then Chao), which were aggressive assaults on
minority groups, environmentalists, and labor, were treated very gently by the
mainstream media (even though both the Inquirer and Times came out against the
Ashcroft nomination). They didn't question these appointments in terms of the
non-mandate of voters, or juxtapose these appointments with his alleged aim of
"civility" and "unity," and the Times took at face value
"his drive for bipartisanship" (ed., Jan. 24). For the Times,
"Bush's Transition [Was] Largely a Success, All Sides Suggest" (Jan.
28, page 1).
Monica Lewinsky the media were pleased to stay with a topic that had no inherent
political relevance for months on end, giving it hundreds or thousands of times
the space devoted to the Supreme Court's coup d'etat. This is media manipulation
and corruption of a high order. Why have the media normalized the Republican
coup d'etat? One reason is that the Republicans are far more aggressive in
pursuing their political ends than the Democrats, and in fact the Democrats
quickly folded after the Supreme Court coup decision and failed to seek justice
either in the Senate or law courts. I am convinced that just as the Republicans
pursued the Lewinsky case without relent, so if the Court had treated them as
Gore was treated they would have fought back and the subject would be highly
course, the Republicans benefit from the fact that they dominate the pundit and
talk show host cohort and have the Wall Street Journal editorial page
continously available to press their agenda aggressively and with great
indignation. This enables them to push their cases a la Lewinsky, with
"liberal media" cooperation, whereas the Democrats repeatedly defer to
the "national interest" and need for "unity" in letting the
Republicans get away with serious political crimes (the Iran-contra scandal, the
"October surprise," the Bush administration's secret support of Saddam
the other factor is that the corporate media are part of a national
establishment that is highly sympathetic to the political and economic status
quo, and just as they treated Nader as outside the pale and the two party and
plutocratic domination of the election as highly satisfactory, so they are
anxious to legitimate no matter what the outcome. So while the Guardian of
London may be prepared to find deep flaws in the 2000 election here, and dwell
on the subject, the mainstream media are not. In his devastating analysis of the
Court's actions Bugliosi makes a compelling case that "These five justices
are criminals in every true sense of the word, and in a fair and just world
belong behind bars." Nothing like this in the U.S. mainstream media. The
Philadelphia Inquirer could editorialize that Clinton's last minute blitz of
pardons was "One last outrage" (January 23), which is what it was, but
the far more outrageous actions of the Supreme Court are merely something
"sad" and to "lament," not "outrageous." The
mainstream media are agents of power and in this role handled the 2000
presidential election well.