The mainstream media in St. Louis, notably the daily newspaper monopoly of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, are used to controlling the flow of news by deciding unilaterally what is or isn’t news to disclose to the public. The rise of alternate internet and cable television news sources has jeopardized that monopoly, but it hasn’t prevented mainstream media from trying to restrict the flow of news.
A current example is coverage of the contest for the Missouri U. S. Senate seat now held by Republican Roy Blunt, the outcome of which could determine which party controls the Senate. There are five candidates for this office on the Missouri ballot, but most media only mention Blunt and his Democratic challenger Jason Kander. But the candidates who aren’t being covered are newsworthy. They aren’t being covered because the media are trying to help Kander and prevent votes that would hinder Kander’s chances if voters were better informed about their alternatives.
One newsworthy senate candidate is Johnathan McFarland of the Green Party. He was quite newsworthy (for example, here and here) before he became a candidate. McFarland has been a leader and sometime spokesman of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson. Prior to that he was a leader and sometime spokesman of the Occupy movement. He is an articulate young African American with leadership skills. He is exactly the kind of candidate who would be more attractive than Kander to black and liberal white voters who would otherwise vote Democratic. The media suppress McFarland’s story to prevent him from receiving erstwhile Democrat votes.
Another newsworthy senate candidate is Jonathan Dine of the Libertarian Party. He is newsworthy because he is a convicted felon, an identity thief no less. Candidates of the Libertarian Party ordinarily attract more support from Republicans and conservative independents than Democrats. But those voters would be less attracted to a Libertarian if they knew he was a convicted felon. As the Libertarian senate candidate in 2012, Dine drew a significant 6% of the vote, a higher percentage than Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is currently polling. The media conceal Dine’s important background information so that conservatives disappointed in Blunt will continue to consider Dine.
Since August, when Dine won the Libertarian primary for senate and the Green Party candidates were certified to appear on the Missouri ballot, the only mentions of either McFarland or Dine in the Post were the “The Senate forum also will include” sentence in an article before a debate with Blunt and Kander (with no mention of the participating third-party candidates in the followup coverage of what happened at the debate), their routine appearance in the Voters Guide, and passing mention in the “Also running” sentence in the editorial predictably endorsing Kander. Nowhere has the Post made any mention at all of McFarland’s activism or Dine’s felony past. No Post coverage, not even the print edition of the Voters Guide, has included photographs (other than Blunt and Kander), so readers wouldn’t even know McFarland is black. The left-leaning faux-nonpartisan League of Women Voters was complicit in compiling the low-information Voters Guide.
Update: The morning after this post was published, The Post printed front-page candidate profiles about both Blunt and Kander. The stories were at the top of the front page and jumped to a center-fold page, where the two stories filled the page. Neither story mentioned either McFarland or Dine. Not. One. Word.
In contrast, On October 3 the Post ran a front-page feature about the three minor candidates running for Governor. Why different treatment? In this contest, the minor candidates are less newsworthy than those running for the Senate. But two of the three gubernatorial candidates, if known to voters, would be more likely to draw votes away from Republican Eric Greitens, as both Libertarian Cisse Spragins and independent Lester Turilli, Jr. are fairly conservative with respectable backgrounds. While a Green candidate could concievably draw votes from Democrat Chris Koster, Green gubernatorial nominee Don Fitz, a 68-year-old socialist who combines a farther-left version of the policies of Bernie Sanders with the charisma of Gary Johnson, is not regarded as much of a threat. Similarly, the Post‘s coverage of the State Treasurer’s race included two paragraphs about the Libertarian candidate and one paragraph about the Green. In both the gubernatorial and treasurer contests, where all candidates are white, the Post provided candidate photographs.
St. Louis Public Radio (KOMU), which has emerged as the primary St. Louis news alternative to the Post‘s stltoday since its merger with the former St. Louis Beacon, is following the Post‘s lead in (not) covering the senate race. A search of its web site shows no mention of either McFarland or Dine since 2012. This kind of news manipulation is especially abusive when done by a publicly funded agency, an affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR).
The St. Louis media are concealing newsworthy information about McFarland that might cause some voters to vote for him instead of Kander, and newsworthy information about Dine that might cause other voters not to vote for him and vote instead for Blunt. It’s a small part of the “rigging” of elections by dishonest media that Donald Trump mentions frequently. It sounds crazy, but he’s actually right.
This behavior is consistent with the national mainstream media’s concealment of the Access Hollywood bus tape until a month before the general election, instead of during the primary season when Republicans still had a chance to nominate someone else. It is also consistent with the Post‘s concealment in 2002 of felony convictions of Al Hanson, Republican candidate for state auditor, until the day after he had upset the party’s recruit in the primary. That paved the way for Democrat Claire McCaskill’s first statewide win, which in turn gave her the political credibility to unseat Republican Sen. Jim Talent four years later.