It’s been a week of awesome guests here at Rosie Says. Ryan on the Slaughter work-life balance article, Alex’ international edition of So What Do You Do Exactly, and now frequent guest-poster Sara on the SCOTUS health care decision and media spin. Remember her? She reads the news a lot and knows more than me and has graciously offered to do the Rosie Says selective-coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) decision:
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Like approximately 866,000 other people, I spent the morning glued to the SCOTUSLiveBlog of the Supreme Court decisions, waiting for the ruling on the ACA. Once it came, coverage was fast, furious, and ridiculous. I have a lot of thoughts about the decisions themselves that make me sound like I think I’m a pretentious constitutional scholar, and most of the reading I did was parsing the decision, discussing its impact on things like the Anti-Injunction Act, Medicaid, and future challenges to the Commerce Clause that might make enacting social welfare laws more challenging. But, try as I might, I couldn’t avoid a lot of the meta-analysis. There were two examples that seemed to highlight how utterly focused we are on the things that matter least.
First, Fox News. I don’t make it a habit to visit foxnews.com (actually, if I’m honest, my browser didn’t even fill in the address for me), but I was curious to see how Republicans were spinning this. First, there was the front page (right). Are you a news organization or are you a sarcastic blog? Because “oh, yes it is” would suggest the latter. Twice during the article something is referred to as “so-called” – first the individual mandate and later the contraception mandate. Are the terms really that unknown or uncertain or unestablished that they must be so-called? Are you trying to show me that you don’t accept mainstream media terminology?
Chief Justice Roberts did indeed side with the four more liberal justices in this case, but you wouldn’t know it from this article: “Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the majority, a ‘genius.’ Graham said the law never would have passed if the mandate penalty were presented as a tax, claiming the ruling will redound to Republicans’ benefit.” What most news outlets reported was that Roberts sided with the four more liberal justices. Here, we get some serious spin claiming that Roberts, by voting to uphold as a tax, has made the law even more unpalatable to Republicans, Pavlovian as they are about not raising taxes. What I fail to understand here is this: the law has already passed. Calling it a tax now can’t make it retroactively less likely to pass.
Lastly, perhaps my favorite line in the article comes at the end, “Obama rattled off several more popular consumer protections in the law in arguing that it’s time to “ ‘move forward.’ ” This part is kind of genius. Notice how they subtly avoid actually saying what any of those consumer protections might be, preventing readers from thinking they might, in fact, like to be protected consumers.
Let’s not forget, though, that however ridiculous Fox might be, pretty much every other news organization got equally unfocused, spending far too much time discussing what everyone I follow on Twitter quickly dubbed #CNNFail. Yes, CNN declared the individual mandate struck down at almost the same moment most other news organizations declared it was upheld. Yes, this is embarrassing, and comparisons to “Dewey beats Truman!” seem apt.
But why are fully half the news stories about who got it wrong, rather than about the ACTUAL NEWS ITSELF? Why do we live in a world where the editor of a major news provider, the Associated Press, has to email his entire staff and tell them to stop taunting CNN immediately? Do good journalists report the news or do they make fun of others? Sometimes I’m frustrated by the way this country is going, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Commerce Clause.
Related Post: Sara’s guest post on Jezebel’s iffy science coverage.