Here's a good example of why I find it so difficult to trust any mainstream media.

On the front page of today's Toronto Star, there's a story about former US Presidential hopeful Howard Dean being invited to deliver the keynote address at the Liberal Party convention.

I agree that it's not a smart choice. If the Conservatives chose an American speaker, the Liberals would (rightly) be all over them, exploiting their ties to the US. However, that's not my problem with the story.

In the first paragraph, Dean is described as a "political brawler," which was once true, but certainly is no longer. He's a full-fledged member of the Democratic flock now. This man will not be brawling any time soon. Skimming down, waiting for the inevitable reference to the infamous scream, I find: "But some are greeting the scheduled appearance of the failed U.S. presidential hopeful, famous for his on-air scream, with resentment."

Those of us who remember how the crazed media brought down Dean's campaign will recall that the scream wasn't meant to be on-air, and that the scream - which the public heard more than 900 times in four days - was re-engineered to sound louder and crazier than it was.

Later in the story, the Star says: "He ultimately lost the race, in large part because the media captured a screaming rant he delivered to his backers after the Iowa Democratic caucuses."

The media did "capture it," that part is accurate. But Dean's speech was not "a screaming rant". It was a pep rally, delivered to a gathering of young volunteers who had busted their asses for Dean. He was giving them a pep talk, saying thank you, and shouting above the crowd noise. It was meant to be heard by those ears, in that context. It was grossly distorted, and purposely used to end Dean's bid for the Democratic nomination - which surely would have ended anyway.

Dean was a maverick who skirted the gatekeepers, using new media to reach people directly, and the mainstream media could not allow him to continue. He was also too direct and too liberal for the Democrats. He never would have won the nomination anyway (although his campaign succeeded in forcing the other candidates to address issues from a more liberal point of view).

So The Scream was convenient, and it was exploited, and overplayed beyond anything anyone had ever seen in campaign coverage, and that worked.

And here's a story, nearly three years later, describing Dean as delivering a screaming rant in Iowa. Which he did not. But that's the way the media has enshrined it, and that's the way it will be remembered.

When a little detail like that jumps out at me about an event that I remember first-hand, it makes me wonder about the presentation of events I don't remember or couldn't see. Are they portrayed accurately? Can I trust the sound bite that they've been reduced to?

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