I saw two headlines scroll across the TV yesterday that convinced me the media has absolutely failed America. The first read “New Poll shows majority of Americans Disapprove of Congress Inviting Netanyahu to Speak Without The President’s Approval”. The second read “Israeli P.M.” Reports that US-Israeli Relations are weaker are wrong”. In both cases, the media, as evidenced by nothing BUT the headlines have failed America.
On the first of the two, the media has truly failed to assist our failing education system in helping Americans understand how our divided government works. It is not up to Congress to get Presidential approval on it’s invite list. The President is not the owner of a club who gets to decide which VIPs get behind the velvet rope and then asks his Congressional doorman to keep out the riff-raff. Congress is a co-equal branch of government, not a cabinet agency, and is entitled, as such, to manage its own affairs. That the American people believe there is anything at all inappropriate in the invitation is an indication of how badly the media has failed us? Where is the headline that says, “New Poll indicates majority of Americans have NO IDEA how their government works”? Where are the media stories about how shocked people are to discover the three branches are supposed to have separate but equal powers? We are a nation that has fundamentally come to believe the President is an elected King, and not merely a representative of ONE of THREE governing bodies.
The second headline points to another failure, and it is one the media demonstrates OVER and OVER again. The media asks the Israeli P.M. if relations with the US are good, and rather than being COMPLETELY unsurprised when he says yes, they report it as breaking news. Well what did they think he was going to say? Did they think the Israeli P.M., like Hugh Grant in Love Actually, was going to be upset that the American President just made a move on his girl and throw 70 years of good relations under the wheels of the diplomacy bus? Did they expect a tantrum of Hollywood-esque proportions? Does anybody honestly believe the Israeli P.M. would say, “Well, I fundamentally believe our greatest ally is giving aid and comfort to our enemies and is making the world fundamentally unsafer due to their ignorance”? Of what possible benefit would it be for the Israelis to call out the President in the media? When your friend with the terrible breath is in earshot, do you talk about how his mouth smells like a bowl full of rot? Or do you have those conversations in back channels in the hope that someone will buy him a toothbrush for his birthday? Diplomacy works the same way.
The media, however, is failing to do it’s job in reporting these stories the way they do. Whether it is because they fear losing access to the social circuits of the powerful, or because they simply don’t know better, then the Fourth Estate has failed us. And when the Fourth Estate fails to understand, appreciate and do its job, we are lost.