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Corporate Media Playing the Hate Game, Aiming at Both Obama and Clinton

Media bigs seem to have reached the conclusion that hatred sells, so they're embracing their inner sexists and inner racists.

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But as awful as was much of the talk-show chatter and newspaper fodder of the presidential campaign, a great deal of it amounted to an accidental exposure of prejudice through poor word choices. (The woodshedding of MSNBC's David Shuster comes to mind; he accused the Clintons of " pimping out" their daughter, Chelea, by having her stump for her mother.)

The latest rash of racist and sexist commentary from the mainstream media is another matter entirely: It is premeditated, calculated for page views and buzz; poison carefully calibrated to create a harmful reaction in the body politic. Take, for example, the Washington Post video.

Post columnists Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza, in an episode of a presumably ongoing feature called Mouthpiece Theater , sit in wing chairs, dressed in cheesy smoking jackets, reading from a script aimed to spoof the beer-drinking summit convened by Obama between Henry Louis Gates Jr., the African-American Harvard professor arrested two weeks ago in his home for mouthing off to a cop, and the man who arrested Gates, Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge (Mass.) Police Department.

In the video, the two analyze the beer choices made by each of the men, and then suggest that beer diplomacy be extended to a wide range of Washington notables. (Both Gates and Crowley come under sarcastic criticism for their beers: Gates for choosing a "British brew," and Crowley for selecting a "Belgian white.")

Suggestions include serving a Happy Ending beer to Rep. David Vitter, R-La. (whose name was found in the D.C. Madam's book), a brew called Bitter Woman From Hell to former Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who was "just sued by his wife,",while suds suggestions made for Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, are Grumpy Troll and Insanely Bad Elf, respectively. You get the gist. It's a high-school-level, Wayne's World -style smackdown of Washington's powerful.

All but two on the list are male. A barley wine named Arctic Devil us suggested for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Then Milbank says, "And we're not going to tell you who gets a bottle of Mad Bitch." But a photo of Clinton briefly flashes on the screen.

One journalist friend privately suggested to me that no one will be fired over this, presumably because it will achieve its intended effect: lots of hits on the Post Web site.

A form of virtual rabies seems to have overtaken the arbiters of mainstream media. The rabies virus perpetuates itself by exaggerating the aggressive tendencies of the host animal; hence it spreads itself through attacks by the host animal on other creatures. The animal bites; the virus is spread.

The executives of mainstream media outlets have made a deadly bargain with human nature: Barking no longer brings the attention that advertisers demand, but biting just might spread the word. Nevermind the consequences.


Adele M. Stan AlterNet's acting Washington bureau chief.