Norman Solomon wrote the nationally syndicated "Media Beat" weekly column from 1992 to 2009. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a consortium of policy researchers and analysts. Solomon is co-founder of the national group RootsAction.org, which now has more than 700,000 active members.
transcriptSHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.On Sunday, January 30, the day before the Iowa caucuses, the New York Times editorial board endorsed Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president. Weeks before that, the Nation magazine endorsed Bernie Sanders as their candidate in the race for the White House. Here's a clip of Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Nation's editor and publisher, defending the Nation's decision on Democracy Now!.KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: For more than three decades, Bernie Sanders has championed ideas and issues which have essentially been off the radar of our downsize politics. Those very ideas and issues are ones which have animated the nation. At the heart of it I would say is you have someone in Bernie Sanders who is the real deal, who is honest, who has integrity and is a truth teller about the rigged system that is shafting so many people in this country.PERIES: To discuss these endorsements and the significance of it all, I'm joined by Norman Solomon. He is co-founder of RootsAction.org, and he is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Norman, so good to have you with us on the Real News Network.NORMAN SOLOMON: Good to be with you, Sharmini.PERIES: So Norman, let me begin with that clip of Katrina vanden Heuvel defending her position on why the Nation is endorsing Bernie, and why this is apparently only the third time that the Nation in its 150-year history has endorsed a candidate. This practice appears to be a bit of an American tradition. For example, newspapers such as the Des Moines Register endorsed, again, Hillary Clinton just days before the Iowa primaries. And if this is okay for them, why is it a problem for the New York Times board to endorse Hillary?SOLOMON: Well, I think it's traditional for newspapers to do endorsements, and they are usually in line with the overall perspective. It's very rare to get a major daily newspaper in a country endorsing the candidate who is as progressive and willing to challenge the economic power structure as Bernie Sanders is.PERIES: And in fact you recently wrote in an article you penned for Common Dreams that elite media often blurs the distinction between right-wing populism and progressive populism. What did you mean by that, and how does it manifest itself in these kinds of election coverage that we're seeing?SOLOMON: Well, in recent months we've had a lot of news media repeatedly lumping together the angry Donald Trump and the angry Bernie Sanders. And while there's an acknowledgement that the [issue] treatment from both candidates is generally different, there's a sort of a catch-all basket term that the public is angry, without really looking at why the public is angry and what the identified causes of the anger really are.So I think we've seen a real strong tendency of the corporate-owned and corporate-subsidized media such as NPR and PBS to not go very deeply into the realities of the economic progressive populism that Bernie Sanders represents. He's really taking on, with the strength of a presidential campaign that is unprecedented in this country in memory, the power structure of Wall Street. And that does not sit well with the mass media. There's very little explication of it, very little explanation of the deep-rooted, grassroots opposition to what Bernie Sanders actually calls the oligarchy of this country.PERIES: Now, a few weeks ago the New York Times was really called on by the Bernie campaign in terms of how little coverage he was getting in the first place in the New York Times. Why, why is the New York Times not paying attention to these smaller candidates that have a greater popular movement, support, and so on? On the one hand that seems kind of obvious, given that it is a corporate media, and they act in the interest of the corporate elite. But it is not good newspaper-selling. So why are they doing that?SOLOMON: Well, there's certainly been a progression in terms of the coverage of Bernie Sanders. As you note, early last year, and later on even, as he announced and then began to gain momentum for his candidacy for president, he got very little coverage in the New York Times. The announcement was on the back page. He was sort of pooh-poohed, and by omission discounted. And it was only because of the grassroots momentum of the campaign that the New York Times has been compelled now to routinely put him on the front page here in February of 2016.This is a pattern where it's not until and unless grassroots candidates are able to raise a lot of money and show that they can, perhaps, get a whole lot of votes, that the news media, including the so-called quality legacy outlets like the New York Times, are willing to even take them seriously. But now we're in a different phase, where after being almost ignored, discounted, pooh-poohed, put in terms of a fringe candidacy, the Bernie Sanders campaign is now being deluged with attacks and mischaracterizations by a wide range of media, where Hillary Clinton, even though she'd gotten some rough treatment from the New York Times in the past, because she is the corporate standard-bearer against the insurgent insurrections of the Sanders campaign, Hillary Clinton is getting a lot of very favorable coverage. Not only in the New York Times, but across a lot of news media. Of course, Fox is already gearing up to try to defeat her, they hope, in the fall.But you've seen a lot of just [puffery] for Hillary Clinton. Not only on the cable news such as MSNBC, but also in the editorials you mentioned. A few days ago when the New York Times editorially endorsed Hillary Clinton for president with a flourish, there was so much smoke that I couldn't recognize her. The New York Times editorial board was just depicting and describing a candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, who I absolutely could not recognize. She was this paragon of idealism, she was willing to challenge corporate and undemocratic interests. It was just this fantasy that, because the New York Times is eager not only to get her elected but to get Bernie Sanders defeated, she's got a halo over her head and she's some sort of great advocate for equality and the rights of people, no matter their economic station.PERIES: You in fact, Norman, charged the New York Times editorial board editorial on Sunday as having perhaps been written by the Clinton campaign itself, that it was so flowery.SOLOMON: Well, it may as well have been. And it's a problem that, frankly, afflicts people across a lot of the political spectrum, but certainly was very egregious in that case of the editorial. When people decide they're going to support a candidate, all of a sudden the candidate is an absolute saint, and there can't be an acknowledgement of some of their flaws.PERIES: Norman Solomon, so good to have you with us.SOLOMON: Thank you.PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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