The Latest Fad — Mindlessness: NBC Nightly News managed to devote almost two minutes of tonight’s opening segment to the standoff over Department of Homeland Security funding — after another, initial two minutes on the terrorist threat to the Mall of America. In that time NBC never says what the DHS funding fight is about, namely Obama’s executive action giving work permits and deportation protection to millions of illegal immigrants. (You can watch the astonishing newscast here.) The word “immigration” isn’t even uttered. Viewers tuning in would have absolutely no idea why the “big fight” — with 200,000 workers facing no paychecks, a possible “security risk,” and the “clock ticking”– is happening. Is it a budget dispute, with Republicans trying to lower federal spending and Democrats trying to raise it? An argument over long TSA lines? Insufficient leg room in coach? A union dispute? Mindless partisan animosity? The NBC story doesn’t even blame Republicans. A Democratic propaganda segment would at least have had a coherent story line.
I can see several possible explanations:
1) Partisan bias: Yes, NBC is the most pro-Democratic network. But then why not blame Republicans, at least? Instead, correspondent Chris Jansing ends her report by noting Senate GOP leaders are “working to find a solution.” Off message!
2) Pro-amnesty bias: A more subtle explanation is that Obama’s executive action isn’t popular, according to several polls. By not mentioning it, NBC is making it less likely voters will pressure Congress to block it. The network is in effect protecting what practically everyone in the MSM sees as the right policy, namely immigration amnesty. Incidentally, it’s also protecting Obama. But it might do the same for Jeb Bush. (I was going to say “instinctively protecting” — but the decision to not mention the substance of the dispute has to be deliberate, not instinctive.)
3) Neutral Story Line CW: NBC is just wallowing in the safe, comfortable, neutral-sounding story line that “Washington is broken.” It doesn’t really matter what the fight is about, who is on what side or who is to blame. No need for viewers to know those messy details. It’s broken, OK? A Kafkaesque nightmare. Ignorant armies clash by night and average citizens are damn frustrated! (Of course this story line isn’t really neutral — since NBC means Washington is broken largely because Congress won’t pass amnesty — but it may have taken on a life of its own.)
4) They’re capitalists: Maybe the word “immigration” is simply bad for ratings. Gotta move the Cialis.
5) They’re just idiot newspeople: The impending DHS story gets covered like a tornado or the snowstorm in the East — a big disaster bearing down on America. No cause. Nobody to blame. It’s all weather to NBC, complete with victims (plucky civil servants going without pay, FEMA beneficiaries not getting their checks) and Lester Holt as your sympathetic friend.
6) They’re just idiots: Never discount this possibility.
7) Post Bri-Wi disorientation: Brian Williams used to intrusively shape the coverage. Now there is chaos.
8) All of the above.