Accuracy in Media

Every pundit had his own opinion of who “won” the Democratic presidential candidate debates this week.

But the mainstream media has identified one problem Democrats must worry about: candidate Marianne Williamson.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza christened her “the newest Internet darling.”

But Vox, in its news pages, headlined Zach Beauchamp’s story: “Marianne Williamson isn’t funny. She’s scary,” and added a subhead that read: “Williamson’s views on depression and illness are dangerous. The media is complicit in spreading them.”

And NBC warned in the headline on Noah Berlatsky’s story that “Marianne Williamson’s Democratic debate performance raised eyebrows. But she’s no friend of the left.”

Williamson, a self-help guru and friend of Oprah Winfrey, has advocated spending up to $500 billion on reparations for slavery, has called for publicly financed campaigns, taxing the rich, implementing extensive gun control and essentially opening America’s borders.

But her answers have proven the most interesting on the Democratic stage. She’s “cutting through the clutter,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz. She “used her limited time on the microphone to maximum effect,” the Washington Post wrote.

After the second debate, she was the most-searched candidate on the Internet in every state except Montana, where more people searched for information on the state’s governor, Steve Bullock, who also is a candidate for president.

“This all needs to stop,” Beauchamp wrote at Vox on praise of Williamson.

“Marianne Williamson is not a serious candidate for the presidency. She’s a self-help celebrity who openly disdained public debate on stage Tuesday night [by saying wonkery would not be enough to beat President Trump]. Worse than that, she looms as a menace to public health – someone who has attacked antidepressants and vaccination in a manner that ‘can literally kill people,’” as Vox had written in another piece.

“The fact that a lot of media figures aren’t recognizing this – that they’re either celebrating her flashes of insight on issues like reparations for slavery or enjoying her kookiness – shows that they haven’t fully internalized the lessons of Donald Trump’s rise to power. Williamson is vanishingly unlikely to win, or even come close, but the amount of press attention she’s getting is troubling. Even if public interest in her mandates some level of coverage, at least it could be more muted and skeptical than what we’re seeing.”

Berlatsky shared some of those concerns in his piece.

“Williamson’s appeal to the left isn’t hard to fathom,” he wrote. “She uses loopy hippie rhetoric that feels like a refreshing change from default politician-speak and she embraces some parts of the progressive agenda.”

But don’t be fooled. “This supposedly empowering rhetoric masks a mean-spirited individualism,” he added. “Williamson, like conservative thinkers, often blames material problems on personal failures. Her ideology may sound airy and inoffensive, but it is ultimately one of neoliberal victim shaming. And it would lead to harmful policies if she were, by some miracle, to be elected to public office.”

Cillizza explained the level of discomfort of Democrats.

“While Williamson’s oddness is likely behind much of the search interest in her during these debates, she has also made several very key points about the state of the country and the race,” he wrote.

“Williamson was exactly right when she said that you don’t beat Donald Trump with a series of policy proposals alone. And her answer on reparations for the descendants of African slaves drew huge applause from the audience at the Detroit debate.

“Let’s be clear: Marianne Williamson isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee for president. But she’s already made the race a hell of a lot more interesting.”  

Photo by marcn

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