The battle in Madison, Wis., between new Gov. Scott Walker and the public-sector union hacks offers an amazing study in journalistic double standards. The same national media that have spent the last two years drawing devil's horns and Klan hoods on the tea party protesters have switched sides with lightning speed. In the Wisconsin protesters, they find sweetness and light, "hope and change."
From her Sunday soapbox, ABC host Christiane Amanpour snobbishly deplored the tea party as not conservative but as "extreme" last fall. In a special "town hall" episode of her show on the ground zero mosque debate, she accused an incredulous Gary Bauer of encouraging vandalism at a Tennessee mosque because somehow Christian rhetoric is offensive. The accusation itself was offensive because it was entirely baseless.
Yet in Wisconsin, the exact opposite happened. Amanpour took the extreme, vicious and wholly offensive signs comparing Gov. Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and embraced them as geopolitically accurate: "People power making history: A revolt in the Midwest and a revolution sweeping across the Middle East." She touted how "populist frustration is boiling over this week."
This is politically perverse. Last November, Wisconsin registered one of the most dramatic rejections of the Democrats in the entire country. Sen. Russ Feingold, once considered a shoo-in for re-election, was not only defeated; he was crushed by 100,000 votes. Polls convinced Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle to avoid running for re-election, paving the way for Walker. And the GOP swept into both houses, defeating both state Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan at the polls. The Republican Party was so successful that Wisconsin GOP leader Reince Priebus was elected as the national party chairman.
What incredible gall for the national media to try to transform Wisconsin from conservative juggernaut to Egyptian dictatorship in a heartbeat. Their political imagination (or delusion) is just staggering, completely ignoring the election returns. Liberals were crushed by the voters, and now they dare to put themselves in the "people power" category? This is reality turned upside down.
But it isn't just electoral reality that's been mangled. Where, oh where, are the media lectures on civility now? The same media that roundly and repeatedly condemned Sarah Palin for daring to put cross hairs on a congressional district -- not on congressional faces, but on counties -- now have absolutely nothing to say as protester signs put Gov. Walker's face in cross hairs with the words: "Don't Retreat, Reload: Repeal Walker." Another held a sign saying, "Political Death to Tyrants."
The same media that went into desk-pounding rage about LaRouche-wacko signs putting a Hitler moustache on Obama calmly refused to discuss signs where Gov. Walker was compared to Mubarak and Adolf Hitler. He was "Scott Stalin" and "Midwest Mussolini." Signs accused Walker of "rape," called him a profanity describing incest, and said he "terrorizes families." Any incivility there?
In a devastating video, the Wisconsin Republican Party put some of these images next to arrogant leftists insisting only conservatives do this kind of thing. "Violent political rhetoric and the threat of political violence comes almost exclusively from the right," declared Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on MSNBC. "Left-wingers don't talk that way," boasted Bill Maher to Jay Leno.
This was an ideal opportunity for the news media to deplore the insults, but the "civility police" were on vacation. They not only failed, but in their failure they proved they only pretend to care about civility to protect the public image of their friends.
Not every liberal is blind to this. Washington Post editorialist Charles Lane disagreed with his colleague Eugene Robinson: "This is hypocrisy on an epic scale. I can't think of a more overwhelming refutation of the claim that incivility is the unique province of the American right." This was only online, not in the paper. On Time's "Swampland" blog, columnist Joe Klein denounced the "disgusting mimicry of some tea party members' inflammatory linkage between Obama and the evil dictators of history." But these men were a tiny sliver of dissent from the media's "pro-union" party line.
It is weeks like this where the liberal media fail to understand what a bad joke they've become. Their offerings are not "news," but crude spin and blatant propaganda.
There's only one comfort. At least, we've been spared from the ugly sight of how aggressively Keith Olbermann might have embodied that "hypocrisy on an epic scale." On the other hand, it appears that Christiane Amanpour aspires to that mantle and is quickly earning Mr. Olbermann's level of credibility.