I've said it before: if Republicans went flat-earther, Wolf Blitzer, David Broder and their ilk dutifully would report that a controversy had arisen over the shape of the Earth. To the corporatist media, there are no demonstrable facts. Everything is political and subject to debate. Every story has two legitimate sides. Even proven science. Even provable truths.
As many have discussed, the Washington Post recently hired McCarthyite torture apologist and proven liar Marc Thiessen, as an op-ed columnist. To the Post's editorial page, the use of war crimes is open to discussion. To the Post's editorial page, honesty, integrity, and basic human decency are irrelevant.
Now, CNN has joined the Post in legitimizing extremism. They have hired RedState editor Erick Erickson as commentator. This isn't about some myth of political balance. Erickson is not balanced. As explained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman:
Increasingly, public life has become a carnival, a circus, a freak show. Admittedly, it has always had those elements — that’s part of what made it interesting. From the days when speakers gave stump speeches from actual stumps, they knew they had to be entertaining and provocative to hold an audience long enough to get their message across. Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine, among many others, knew how to express themselves in ways that brought attention to their cause and to themselves.
But it’s a long way from Henry’s "Give me liberty or give me death" to Erickson’s description of Supreme Court Justice David Souter as a child molester who engages in sex with goats (although he phrased it much less delicately). Erickson also suggested that President Obama should be sentenced by a death panel and that he got his Nobel through affirmative action. He suggested that voters ought to drag state legislators out of their homes and beat them to a bloody pulp, and defines feminists as women who are too ugly to get a date. His track record of posting unsubstantiated allegations on his blogs also should have been of concern to CNN.
But the critical point is that Erickson wasn’t hired DESPITE those utterances. To the contrary, those utterances got him the job. He is providing what the modern marketplace demands. In that sense, to direct criticism at Erickson is to miss the point: he is not the cause of the illness affecting our public discourse, he is merely a symptom. Political media requires ever-higher levels of conflict, hype and hyperbole to draw eyeballs, and by virtue of personality and intellect, Erickson happens to fit the bill.
As Salon's Alex Koppelman succinctly explains:
Forget Erickson's politics and whether you agree with them. It's not whether he's on the left or the right that matters -- it's the way he expresses his beliefs that's the problem. Among other things, he's had readers send fake dog poop to Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., because of the congressman's support for his party's healthcare reform proposals, he's celebrated Chicago's losing the 2016 Summer Olympics by writing, "Obama's pimped us to every two bit thug and dictator in the world," he's said that "leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider because they view the loss of life as a vindication of their belief that they are right."
Such examples are countless. The great digby provides a short list of Erickson outrages. She provides the links and quotes, but here is a summary of her headings:
Erickson defends Beck's statement that Obama is "racist" and lashes out at "Obama Brownshirts." Erickson calls Michelle Obama a "marxist harpy wife." Erickson calls Souter a "goat fucking child molester." Erickson: "At what point do the people ... march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp?" Erickson: Purpose of Bachmann rally is "to tell Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel." Erickson on Obama's Nobel Peace Prize: "I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota."
And she links to Media Matters, which has even more.
Needless to say, if people on this blog used such terms, including advocating violence while discussing the political opposition, they would be banned from the site. But to a major media outlet, this is someone to be hired and put on television. CNN has joined the Washington Post in undermining civil political discourse and legitimizing extremism.