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Bachmann: how the national press will present her

by Bill Prendergast on October 19, 2010 · 3 comments

The piece that I am linking to here is of interest because it represents “how Michele Bachmann will be presented to the nation,” if the Republicans win significant seats in the coming election.

The reason I can safely say that this piece represents “how Bachmann will presented to the nation,” following the election? Well…because the author of the biographical piece is a former producer for Fox News. Nonetheless, the piece is being circle-jerked through the traditional media as a credible bio/profile of Bachmann.

That means that mainstream publications are willing to accept this, as the standard of reporting on Bachmann and her views and her career.
Before you read the piece–I want to your attention to what the reporter omits. No one expects a reporter to document every incident that might cast doubt on Bachmann’s credentials as a sincere person of faith and representative of reform in Washington. But this piece is notable because it strives to omit any specific incident or documented Bachmann quotation that might cause a reader to have doubts about her sincerity, character and fitness for public office.

What’s remarkable about this particular Bachmann profile is that it amounts to practically an echo of the Bachmann profiles that have appeared in the two leading newspapers in Minnesota over the past four or five years. Incidents (both real and fictional) seem to be faithfully copied from those Strib and PiPress accounts.

This recycling of unchecked puffery (this time into the national rather than local press) is the reason that a few of us spent so many years screaming so loud and so long about news media failure here in Minnesota. When the Strib and the PiPress and broadcast outlets here chose spike relevant facts (documented incidents of Bachmann extremism)–they were making a determination about the future.

They were making “the record,” you see. A person (even a reporter of good faith) researching Bachmann by looking through the professional news archives will not find records of her craziest and most controversial claims. The publishers and editors and reporters in this state decided that researchers would not find such evidence, when they decided not to report these events as they took place.

Thus: they helped ensure that the most important facts about this politician would never become a part of the record. The most important facts were omitted by local journalists then, so they can be omitted now: that Bachmann’s a documented extremist kook, regularly caught on camera and radio telling lies and circulating conspiracy theories, working for a nationally organized conservative evangelical political hierarchy.

The reason we know all those things to be true is that non-professional journalists (bloggers, people who capture and post video to YouTube, activists who collect the documentary evidence) have been gathering that collection of facts for at least six years.

But none of that is in the journalistic “biographical profile” that I’m linking to, here.
If that fact pattern doesn’t make the traditional media reporting record–it might as well not exist. The fact of Bachmann extremism and extremist sponsorship does not matter unless it’s reported in traditional media sources. Low information voters who depend on traditional media for their news will never receive it–unless they’re liberals and Bachmann opponents who are inclined to seek it out via the blogs, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schulz.

18 October 2010

(Note the title. If there is one thing that a reader will not learn from the following profile, it’s how Michele Bachmann became a major player.)

By Shushannah Walshe
The Daily Beast

(caption: Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.)

Michele Bachmann was a Tea Party leader before the movement even had a name. She was a mom from a small town with no political experience outside of founding a controversial charter school in the early ’90s.

No. Not true that she had no political experience. Michele Bachmann was a student at an unaccredited law school owned by televangelist Oral Roberts. She studied under and assisted Professor John Eidsmoe, a law teacher who believes that the institution of American law must be reconciled with conservative evangelical understanding of the inerrant laws of the Bible.

One of the purposes of Oral Robert’s law school was to groom conservative evangelicals for leadership roles in American life. Bachmann’s first documented experiences in American political life was as a volunteer for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. She probably became a political conservative during her time at Oral Roberts’ law school. It was then called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; it was later sold to televangelist Pat Robertson and renamed the Regent School of Law. Its mission remains the same: to place believers in evangelical conservative Biblical law into policy making positions in American life. Robertson’s Regent University graduates were recruited by and populated the Bush administration.

Bachmann got an advanced law degree and then became a tax lawyer for the IRS here in Minnesota. Her subsequent involvement in politics included a stint as a pro-life activist opposing state funding of pro-choice services at hospital here in Minnesota.

The article also repeats the lie that Bachmann’s first run for political office began with a “spontaneous” run for a State Senate seat. Bachmann herself knows that that is a lie, but she has allowed journalists to faithfully repeat it. Bachmann’s first recorded run for elected office was as a Republican candidate for a school board seat in Stillwater, Minnesota. She ran on a partisan ticket, with the endorsement of the Republican party and with four other Republican candidates. All were defeated. Nonetheless, she campaigned strenuously for the office (appearing on local media) and the proceedings of the campaign and its results were reported at the time in the state’s news media.

Bachmann’s entry into politics was calculated and organized and partisan. It came about as a result of meeting with Republicans in the district, including one of the chief local Republican organizers. It is simply not true (as the reporter here states and as other reporters here have reported in the past) that Bachmann’s political career began “out of nowhere.”

Then out of nowhere, she captured a suburban Minneapolis state senate seat and parlayed it in just six years to national celebrity. Her telegenic looks and battering-ram style-blasting Democrats with over-the-top statements that on more than one occasion have stretched the truth-made her a staple on Fox News and a folk hero to the anti-establishment crowds threatening to sweep the Democrats out of power this fall.

The events of many years are conflated into just two sentences…and several extraordinary claims are made in these two sentences.

If all Bachmann ever did was “blast Democrats,” she’d be fairly unremarkable. Bachmann’s political rise in the state of Minnesota depended on more doing more than that.

It depended on Bachmann telling voters that the United States government (under George W. Bush and a Republican Congress) had created a new government structure to end the free enterprise system and prepare Americans for life in a Soviet style economy.

Her rise depended on Bachmann telling a broadcast audience of evangelical voters that “our schools would begin teaching homosexuality” if they did not turn out for a rally against gay marriage; because “our children” were “the prize for the gay community.”

None the specific bigoted and hateful smears spouted by Bachmann against Americans (not “just” Democrats) made this journalistic profile. None of them; and they are countless if you include her years in Congress. They are a core feature of this politician’s rise, and essential to explaining it.

So is her relationship to the national evangelical right. The name Beverly LaHaye is mentioned prominently: but the de facto political party that Beverly LaHaye represents is omitted from the reporting. Bachmann’s career-long relationship with this movement is simply omitted, just as it was in Minnesota political journalism. Michele Bachmann, in and of herself, is merely one of the more visible proteges of that movement–an extraordinarily important political hierarchy that seeks to turn evangelical faith into a de facto political party…grooming its own candidates, running them under the Republican brand, running its own political media.

And if the predictions of a GOP tidal wave come true, Bachmann will be well-positioned to lead a new generation of conservative politicians on Capitol Hill.

That–is true. But I don’t think I even made it past the first few paragraphs of this article citing all the omissions and false stuff–did I? You could fill a book with all the critically important omissions from this article. You could fill out the same book with the distortions about the origins and nature of Bachmann’s career that are still present in professional news reporting on her.

No matter. I suggest you read this political bio piece anyway. Another object lesson in the power of traditional news media to vaporize reality and substitute myths–in this case, myths largely of Bachmann’s own making.

Go through the rest of the piece yourself. Chances are that if you are reading this, you can supply your own examples of critically important information about reasons for Bachmann’s rise–that were omitted.

The lesson is one that observers of politics have to re-learn every week, and it is taught everywhere but journalism school: you can be a successful, working, and influential news reporter–simply by reprinting myths and omitting the most important realities.


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