As usual, Lucianne Goldberg gets it right: “Be gentle, feel the media’s pain. Believe less than half of what they write.” They’ll be on good behavior during the convention, trying to make you think that they aren’t 527’s in disguise.

Setting the stage for the convention, the New York Times had a bizarrely revealing piece yesterday by Robin Toner — it revealed little about politics, of course, but lots about the way the world looks to the chattering classes.

The headline was “Swift Boats and the Lessons of Dukakis.” Here’s a nugget: “[T]he Dukakis campaign was also scrambling to deal with a shadowy wave of rumors that seemed intended to raise doubts about a candidate who was still largely unknown. ‘You’re fighting an invisible enemy as much as anything,’ said Susan Estrich, the Dukakis campaign manager, now a law professor at the University of Southern California.

“One damaging rumor, that Mr. Dukakis had undergone psychiatric treatment, was pushed onto the front page when President Ronald Reagan was asked about it and joked that he didn’t want to pick on ‘an invalid.’ Mr. Dukakis’s advisers said later that he dropped 8 points in the polls after that report.”

Message: The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are dirty tricksters.

But the Toner piece fell short of the mark. “Toner writes as if the combative Kerry response [to the Vets] has been effective!” writes maverick liberal blogger Mickey Kaus of kausfiles.

The three major 527’s — er, networks — gave the Democrats a free ride on all sorts of things in Boston. We’d prefer that both parties were subjected to scrutiny, but Brent Bozell of the invaluable Media Research Center (which can be your tour guide through the week to come) tells you what the New York coverage would have to be to resemble the Boston tea party:

“If the networks are going to treat the parties equally, there will be very little discussion of President Bush’s record as Governor or President. Sound ridiculous? ABC, CBS, and NBC avoided John Kerry’s legislative and voting record entirely, and failed to notice how Kerry avoided it. CNN and MSNBC touched on it once. But PBS spent several minutes on Thursday night exploring why Kerry was avoiding his record. FNC also noticed Kerry’s biography seemed to avoid his Senate years. Fred Barnes said Kerry talked more about the flag than his Senate service.”

But the mainstream media’s ability to determine what a story is waning. The New York Post’s John Podhoretz writes: “At a panel discussion yesterday on the press and the election at the Harvard Club, two media doyens — Joe Klein of Time and David Gergen of U.S. News — pronounced themselves frightened by this prospect and the damage it might do to our democracy.

“Others on the panel — Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal and Jill Abramson of The New York Times — fretted about the capacity of the mainstream media to play the role of fact-finding truth-teller in an age dominated by cable news and the Internet.

“I was on the panel too, and I feel like I was the only one who didn’t arrive at the Harvard Club riding on my pet dinosaur.” So, as Lucianne say, feel their pain. But don’t believe them.