During the Bush years, the news media were the promoters of protest, the champions of dissent. Denouncing the president as a brain-damaged warmonger was the most patriotic thing you could do (just ask the Dixie Chicks), and it was guaranteed to please the press.
On MSNBC before the Iraq War in 2003, David Shuster elevated the "anti-war" movement as the equivalent of the United States military, only with a higher morality: "The size of the demonstrators, at least here, at least in Europe, seems to underscore that there are now perhaps two world superpowers," he told Chris Matthews. "There's the United States, and then there are those millions of people who took to the streets opposing U.S. policy."
My, how times -- and standards -- change. On the weekend of the vote for a massive government intervention in the health-insurance market, these same reporters had a different take. The Tea Party protesters were not going to be hailed for their courageous and patriotic use of their free time. They were going to be smeared for daring to be.
Democrats claimed racial slurs were used against black politicians on Capitol Hill, and an "anti-gay slur" was allegedly heard around Congressman Barney Frank. It is understandable that Democrats would want this opposition to their power grab to be reduced to absurdity, a spasm of racism and homophobia instead of organized conservative idealism. It is deplorable that our national "news" media went into overdrive on this Democrat public-relations initiative. To listen to the press, the Tea Party's presence in Washington was violent, dangerous, uncivil and unprecedented, and their protests threatened to ruin the Republican image -- as if that isn't at the top of the liberal media's To Do list every day.
In the Iraq War protests of 2003, the leftist protesters were on the wrong side of the polls. In the health "reform" protests of 2010, the protesters represented an angry majority. Since Shuster works for MSNBC, in that parallel universe, the majority had become a dangerous and ugly mob.
Shuster asked black conservative Robert Traynham to blame the conservative media for these overheard outbursts (not that any network had them on tape): "Do any conservative media outlets, Robert, bear any responsibility for that? Because when people hear over and over that this is Nazism on the march, or fascism, or that Armageddon is coming, of course some people are going to flip out."
The whole smear turned ridiculous when conservative radio host Mark Simone told Shuster that every protest has some overenthusiastic people yelling stupid things. Shuster insisted the left had never behaved in that fashion in the Bush years: "Nobody spit on a lawmaker. Nobody used a N-word. Nobody used an F-word."
Nobody? Ever? Assuming the illogical to be true, so what? I have a line Mr. Shuster will remember well because his network allowed it to be aired countless times: "Bush lied, thousands died." Maybe not the F-word, but he was accused of being a mass murderer.
Shuster wasn't done with Simone: "But the difference is, Mark, that whenever we asked Democratic leaders, 'Look, do you support using a Hitler moustache on a poster of George W. Bush?' Every single time, they said 'Absolutely not, we do not approve of that. We want, of course, we want people to protest. But not like that.' And you see, it's just like crickets from the Republican side of this stuff, and that's the difference."
This "crickets" claim was even more ridiculous on Shuster's part, since nearly every Republican responded to the question by denouncing the abusive remarks reported. RNC Chairman Michael Steele and House Minority Leader John Boehner insisted on it on NBC's "Meet the Press," which MSNBC had replayed.
If anything, conservatives and Republicans are failing to respond to the David Shusters by throwing this dead fish right back. Who on Earth is MSNBC to lecture anyone else about hateful rhetoric? The network where several hosts -- Ed Schultz and Dylan Ratigan -- said Republicans enthusiastically want to see Americans die, even large segments of the American people?
But MSNBC viewers see on-screen graphics like this one: "Crossing the Line: Anti-Reform Protests Take on Malicious Tone."
MSNBC replayed Democratic meanness as almost factual. Even in that "Malicious Tone" segment, Andrea Mitchell calmly relayed Barney Frank's Tea Party analogy, "comparing the situation to the Salem Witch Trials, with health care being burned at the stake." That remark apparently has malice toward none.
Liberal journalists have squandered any credibility they imagine they have as referees of political civility. They not only fail to decry liberal mudslinging, they do it all on their own.