(To any readers who have taken one of my classes, and I think there are a few out there, this is going to sound pretty familiar. Unless you slept through it or skipped class, in which case you should learn it now.)
Why are the media so ruthless in their mockery of Sarah Palin after six solid years of cheerleading the nation into the Iraq War, paving the way for two terms of Bush, and standing around thumb-in-ass as our financial system galloped toward oblivion? We could make a semantic argument about subtle differences in intelligence between Bush and Palin, for example, and concoct some ostensibly legitimate reason that the most recent President deserved to be taken seriously and Palin is a dipshit suspended over a dunk tank. That would be a waste of time. The answer is media bias.
Media bias is a very real phenomenon, but it isn't a political bias. When people hear the phrase they imagine the media having a political agenda and pushing an ideologically slanted product at unsuspecting viewers. That does not happen. Even at FOX. Media bias is commercial bias. The biggest influence on the product you read and see is the desire to make money – and that's why 'product' is the appropriate term.
You're not believing me about Fox News, are you? OK. So why does Fox News offer the most conservative product, stocked with plenty of "family values" talk and appeals to social/religious conservatives, while the Fox networks offer the raunchiest programming? Think about the crap on the F/X network or Fox – it's cartoons fueled by foul language and sex jokes as far as the eye can see. It's Temptation Island and The Littlest Bachelor. It's mindless T&A at every opportunity. They do it because they have a very keen sense of how to make money. They give the news watching public what it wants and they give people who don't care about news what they want. That it happens to be two different products is irrelevant.
What happened to Palin is little more than a cold business decision (while Fox doesn't outright hammer her very often, their preference for Romney, Huckabee, and other potential candidates in 2012 is explicit). And it's not hard to get out the message when they decide it's time to tear someone apart. Remember who the big-network and Important Print Journalists are – as Matt Taibbi points out, they're overwhelmingly sons and daughters of the wealthy, people who went from boarding schools to the Ivy League to unpaid "internships" on mom and pop's dime. Their entire lives have been one extended exercise in either explicitly kissing the asses of or not having the balls to disagree with their social and economic betters. So our media, being entirely controlled by about five corporate entities, make decisions at the top that are rapidly disseminated to legions of journalists eager to please anyone with editorial or financial power over them.
That is why our media flap so helplessly in the wind, going from rabidly pro-war and dismissive of traitor pussy liberal protesters to fawning over Obama and matter-of-factly discussing Iraq as our greatest national mistake. It's just business. They figure out what their consumers want no differently than The Gap tries to figure out what sweaters you'll buy next fall. Is it really so simple? Yes. I believe it is. The media serve a public purpose but they are not public servants. They are out to make money, and they ride bandwagons. In early 2008, establishment mascot Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee and Obama was some inexperienced rookie under the thumb of a racist preacher. When it became impossible to ignore the flaming wreck that was the Clinton campaign they turned on a dime and started the Obama the Anointed One narrative. It happens quickly.
I like Taibbi's conclusion, as it is a far clearer and more succinct version of a point I've tried to make for years: Teabaggers should be taking note of what the treatment of Palin really means. It doesn't mean that a couple of talking heads decided to bash her for cheap laughs and ratings. The entire media are using her as a punching bag. And the Beltway insiders and their corporate bosses in New York don't whack people without getting the blessing of all five families, so to speak. They have received a unanimous signal – from the establishment GOP, Wall Street, campaign donors, and everyone else who matters to big media – that it is open season on the idiot from Alaska. She is poison, and the legions of Beck-Bachmann-Palin acolytes are not to be taken seriously. Like the anti-war left circa 2002, Teabaggers exist only to be mocked and occasionally manipulated for ratings.
Palin would do well to remember the Abe Vigoda's remark to Robert Duvall at the end of The Godfather as the former was about to be executed. It's just business, Sarah, nothing personal.