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THE MEDIA NORMALIZE A RIGHTWING COUP D’ETAT


fiat simply awarded the presidency to their preferred Republican candidate. The

tricks by which Scalia and company accomplished this were extremely crude, their

judicial reasoning was puerile and cited no valid precedents for their actions

and rulings; and Scalia even wrote that the final ruling was no precedent but

was "limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal

protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." But

the ruling was quite clear that varying standards in counting votes violates the

14th amendment, and could be the basis of undercutting any election. As Vincent

Bugliosi points out in a crushing article in The Nation ("None Dare Call It

Treason," Feb. 5, 2001), "in other words, the Court, in effect, was

saying its ruling ‘only applied to those future cases captioned Bush v. Gore. In

all other equal protection voting cases, litigants should refer to prior

decisions of this court.’"

The

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.

This

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.

But

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).

The

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.

Although

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).

With

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

newsworthy.

Of

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

Hussein).

But

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.

 

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