From Propaganda to CW
Glenn Greenwald explains how it's done:
STEP 1: A new right-wing gossip (Ben Smith) at a new substance-free political rag (The Politico) seizes on some petty, manufactured incident to fuel personality caricatures of Democratic candidates.
STEP 2: The old right-wing gossip (Drudge) uses his old substance-free political rag (The Drudge Report) to amplify the inane personality caricatures.
STEP 3: Right-wing hacks with pretenses of respectability -- like Mickey Kaus and others -- follow the script by "analyzing" the gossip and embracing it.
STEP 4: National media outlets -- such as AP and CNN -- whose world is ruled by Drudge, turn the gossip into "news stories."
STEP 5: Our Serious Beltway Political Analysts -- in this case, the very somber and smart Substantive Journalists at The New Republic -- mindlessly repeat all of it, thereby solidifying it as conventional wisdom, showing that "even Democrats and liberals are embarrassed by their candidates."
Quite true. One thing worth observing is that Step Five involves adopting this meta-posture. Instead of saying "I'm disparaging Polician A because I don't like blah blah blah" you just assert -- often over and over again -- that blah blah blah is a critical vulnerability. But, of course, these things wouldn't be vulnerabilities if the press didn't spend their time jumping up and down and pointing at them. Not that there's anything wrong with jumping up and down and pointing at real flaws, but this kind of doing-it-but-not-doing-it is sad.