Truth Versus Facts

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Obama Administration

If you read only one thing today (after this blog post, of course) make it “‘Truth’ vs. ‘facts’ from America’s media” by Neal Gabler at the Los Angeles Times. I don’t want to excerpt big chunks of it, because I hope you read the whole piece. But here’s the critical point:

According to the Pew Research Center, 16% of the stories in its media sample last week were devoted to healthcare, but three-quarters of that coverage was either about legislative politics or the town halls. …

…To look at this in a larger context, journalists would no doubt say that it isn’t really their job to ferret out the “truth.” It is their job to report “facts.” If Palin says that Obama intends to euthanize her child, they report it. If Limbaugh says that Obama’s healthcare plan smacks of Nazism, they report it. And if riled citizens begin shouting down their representatives, they report it, and report it, and report it. The more noise and the bigger the controversy, the greater the coverage. This creates a situation in which not only is the truth subordinate to lies, but one in which shameless lies are actually privileged over reasoned debate.

Don’t think the militants don’t know this and take full advantage of it.

I dimly remember way-back-when, whatever Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon spun about Vietnam was quickly shredded by the press. Indeed, the Washington press corps was so hard on LBJ I actually felt sorry for him sometimes, even though I didn’t especially like him. Nixon, of course, waged war on media. The whole business about “liberal media bias” comes from the Nixon propaganda machine, and “facts” about the voting habits of journalists, manufactured and promoted by the Nixon White House almost 40 years ago, still turn up in rightie rhetoric.

Even though investigative reporting was glamorized by the Watergate reporting team of Woodward-and-Bernstein (one word, back then), post-Nixon Washington political reporters were a defanged and neutered lot compared to the pre-Nixon pack. By the mid-1970s many of the right-wing “think tanks” that bulldoze right-wing propaganda through news media and into the heads of American citizens were being established by a group of moneyed family trusts — Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Coors, etc. The Heritage Foundation, for example, was established in 1973.

Out of post-Nixon journalism ethics came the idea that “objectivity” means journalists and editorialists stopped calling out politicians and political hacks for lying. As Paul Krugman once famously said, “if liberals said the Earth was round, while conservatives said it was flat, the news headlines would read ‘Shape of the planet: both sides have a point.’”

And we also saw the “Jerry Springerization” of political discourse. Right-wing party hacks and spokespeople were coached to keep talking, loudly, over everyone else and not allow people with other points of view to finish a sentence. You rarely saw anything like that on television in the 1950s and 1960s; by the 1980s it had become the norm. (See this post, “Where Have You Gone, Edward R. Murrow?” touching on this phenomenon that I wrote back in 2003, and which I think holds up pretty well.)

News show producers no doubt encouraged the mayhem because it made for more entertaining television; in the old days, a political talk show consisted of a bunch of gray-haired white guys in suits speaking politely and soberly to each other. Informative, but dull. If you see old black-and-white clips of the pre-1970s Meet the Press, you might notice the guests even spoke much more slowly and at more length than they do now, never mind one at a time.

The critical point is that U.S. journalists pretty much stopped offering truthful analysis of what politicians and spokespeople were saying. Instead, we get “he said, she said,” and the readers and viewers have to sort our for themselves what the truth is. Reporters like to see themselves as “in the middle” between two equal opposing forces, but Jay Rosen says this is a coward’s way out.

Like the “straight down the middle” impulse that Taylor writes about, he said, she said is not so much a truth-telling strategy as refuge-seeking behavior that fits well into newsroom production demands. “Taking a pass” on the tougher calls (like who’s blowing more smoke) is economical. It’s seen as risk-reduction, as well, because the account declines to explicitly endorse or actively mistrust any claim that is made in the account. Isn’t it safer to report, “Rumsfeld said…,” letting Democrats in Congress howl at him (and report that) than it would be to report, “Rumsfeld said, erroneously…” and try to debunk the claim yourself? The first strategy doesn’t put your own authority at risk, the second does, but for a reason.

Going back to Neal Gabler, he reminds us of the months before the invasion of Iraq in which U.S. news media “reported the administration’s rationale without devoting more than a few sentences or minutes to dissenting voices, much less doing their own analysis.” After 9/11 and through the rest of Bush’s first term, to cast a shadow on Dear Leader — and especially to displease the Right — was a perilous thing that could (and sometimes did) cost a reporter his job.

The health care crisis has been building up for many years, and many of us saw it and realized our refusal to deal with it was dragging us off a cliff. But in all those years there was rarely a substantive discussion of this issue in mass media, and never on television or radio. Occasionally it would be addressed on a talk show, but the “addressing” inevitably consisted of a rightie hack screaming about socialized medicine and a slightly-less-to-the-right media personality allegedly speaking for progressivism who more or less agreed. All this would be encapsulated into a ten-minute segment that said absolutely nothing about the issue.

Gabler concludes,

What it comes down to is that sometimes the media have to tell the truth not because anyone really wants them to but because it is the right thing to do — the essential thing to do — for the sake of our democracy.

Taking refuge in the “middle” is not going to make journalism any safer going forward. The more journalists give in to the goons, the more they control you. And the goons are coming around to the idea that they are entitled to take a lot more than journalists’ jobs.

Update: Hot Air and other rightie blogs are promoting the video below as if it were cool instead of pathetic. This is, indeed, what it’s all about. I don’t think the Marine vet, David, is stupid. However, he is profoundly ignorant. He’s heard nothing but the spin. I’m sure you can see the holes in his diatribe as well as I — the part about Nazis being “leftists,” for example, or where he sarcastically tells the congressman that the government doesn’t have the right to tell him whether or not he can keep his health insurance (and I assume he gets VA care). And now the guy is so filled up with hysteria that God himself (assuming there is one) couldn’t explain truth to him.

There has always been a streak of pathological paranoia in American politics, but now the paranoids are as dangerous as they’ve ever been; it’s at least as bad as the McCarthy era, if not worse.

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43 Comments

38 Comments

  1. biggerbox  •  Aug 23, 2009 @12:24 pm

    I hope, for the sake of our civilization, that media organizations change their ways, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s so much easier to report the ‘he said/she said” and the ‘horserace’, not only because trying for the truth not only puts your own credibility on the line but it actually requires you to know something about what you are reporting on, and/or have the basic research skills to learn.

    It’s so much less work to be a stenographer, and you can make it to the cocktail party on time. If you’re earning big bucks for doing it the lazy way, why bother doing more work?

    I frequently notice reporters who ask questions in a way that betrays they know less about a subject than I do, or who get snowed by a clearly BS answer (“Well, since the Earth is flat, we know that….” ) because they don’t have the background knowledge that I have ready-to-mind, (and I have a day job doing something besides keeping up with the details of these stories!) They don’t, or aren’t capable, of doing the work involved in knowing the facts.

    We seem to have a crop of reporters who got into the business with no intellectual curiosity or desire to uncover the secrets, and who seem more interested in being seen on TV, and trying to be popular. Perhaps the intellectually curious secret-diggers are being filtered out by a corporate/marketing environment more interested in infotainment to keep the ads properly spaced than in “news” as Murrow would recognize it. Maybe the younger ones have never been exposed to actual reporting, having ‘learned the biz’ in the 90s. I don’t know. But it’s bad.

    Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the influence of bloggers, the success of Olbermann and Maddow, and the persistence of guys like Moyers, can lead to a different approach.

  2. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @12:33 pm

    “Perhaps the intellectually curious secret-diggers are being filtered out by a corporate/marketing environment”

    That would be my guess, although I don’t know what’s going on in journalism schools these days.

  3. Doug Hughes  •  Aug 23, 2009 @12:41 pm

    A very good article which goes to the larger issue of rational discourse over calculated deception. An aspect that’s missing from the discussion is revenue. I need to find or make a list of who is advertising in prime-time. What sticks in my mind (and my craw) is advertising by insurance companies, big pharma, the oil companies, the coal industry. These are the companies that profit from bad health care – global warming and pollution and an over-medicated populace.

    I think the editors who look at revenue are VERY cognizant of what articles might offend the hand that feeds them. And the truth is readily sacrificed for inoffensive ‘facts’. The founding fathers anticipated the function of a free press as the final firewall against tyrany. What they didn’t anticipate is the manner that tyrants could control the message by holding the purse strings.

  4. biggerbox  •  Aug 23, 2009 @1:02 pm

    One other interesting element of that video is the way he stalks out after delivering that (to me nonsensical) zinger about Baird fulfilling his oath to defend the country. He’s not interested in dialog, merely diatribe. Baird couldn’t say anything that would matter to him, he’s not open to any input. It’s not just ignorance, it’s angry, willful ignorance.

  5. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @1:13 pm

    What would happen if I ran things: The next time some rightie goes off about “defending the constitution,” he should be subjected to a pop quiz about what is actually in the constitution. Sample questions:

    What branch of government is discussed in Article I?
    Which article explains the powers given to the President?
    What basic right is protected by the 4th Amendment?
    Does the constitution say anything about the “general welfare”? If so, where?
    How many times does the Constitution mention God?

    I’ve got money — well, not a lot of money, but some — that says 99 percent of the tea party-townhall mobs screaming about the Constitution couldn’t answer any of those questions.

  6. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2009 @1:41 pm

    It was because we didn’t have a committed, truth-telling media that the country marched happily into Iraq,

    And that the American public didn’t have a through discourse and examine in what form exactly the mushroom cloud was going to be, and how that mushroom cloud was going to be delivered. Or how that mushroom cloud was going to materialize.

    I only found out how blatant a distortion that was, after the fact, by reading blogs of people who understood the situation and knew how unrealistic that threat was. There was not a peep from MSM to debunk or even question Team Bush’s fear mongering. What a shame that the main stream media just amplified the fear and became willing dupes in perhaps the most shameful page in America’s history.

  7. The plan  •  Aug 23, 2009 @1:56 pm

    I’ve been trying to push the plan at my name’s link for over two and a half years with absolutely no luck whatsoever. Instead of ranting, I want people to go to events like that and engage their reps in impromptu debates about policy. Perhaps this site would be willing to show HotAir, Instapundit, etc. how they should be doing things.

  8. tessa  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:07 pm

    maha • Aug 23, 2009 @1:13 pm
    Swami • Aug 23, 2009 @1:41 pm
    All these loveys putting down a young civilian who “dares” to stand up to a politician, who garners his wages from civilians. When the Buddhas start crying about the innocent slaughter of our young, abortions, then you can denounce this young man. Sadly, there is evil and we are lucky to have men who get in the middle so it is not in our face. Kind of like the lefties get in the middle of what abortion acutally is so it is not in our face. Real swamis hate abortion and would be grateful for those that keep us safe. You loons are not even real Buddists. Buddism is greatly against abortion. Have a nice day in safety and thank a soldier.

  9. moonbat  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:28 pm

    Although I’m not a journalist, this post touches on a theme that I’ve thought about for a long time; it’s something I’m very passionate about, because I see it as being core to all our problems. It’s the systemic failure of people, particularly media people, to find and defend the Truth. This is at the root of all other failures we’re experiencing. Fix this, and everything else will snap into place. A society that lives in, and prefers delusion isn’t going to last. Those who control the stories a society believes in, control the society. This is what it’s about.

    How much energy have each of us spent struggling with deluded right wingers steeped in lies? This rear guard expense of energy is a waste and a drag, considering how it could instead be used to move us all forward. It’s one thing for an opponent to have a legitimate basis for their differences; it’s quite another for someone to simply believe in a web of bullshit. And to be angry and militant about it, which is one of the purposes of the whole right wing package. Multiplied into millions of dupes, for that is what they are.

    The function of a Truth seeking media is to keep down the noise. When a society is drowning in noise and bullshit, how can it possibly find its way? It is delivered into the hands of those who deliberately create and benefit from this confusion. Because the media in this country has been cowed by a variety of forces to abdicate this noise-controlling function, we have more chaos and suffering than an intelligent people should have to endure.

    I’m not old enough to remember Murrow (but I saw Good Night, and Good Luck), but I do remember the age of Cronkite and what apparently was the golden years of American journalism. Octogenerian Bill Moyers is all that’s left.

    I remember how the lies crept in. How I and probably many others were stymied by the phrase “liberal bias” and all the other newspeak introduced by the right. All of this came about from right wing think tanks and PR firms organized from Nixon on.

    Our response should be at least two-fold. On the one hand, there’s the grassroots bloggers, which act like a vast neural network. A proposition or a news event is dropped into this net, like a stone into a pond, and various reactions bounce around, until the event is assimilated, moving the internet-mediated conversation forward. This is how newspapers and TV used to function, albeit less democratically, when they saw themselves as providing an important Truth settling role for the country.

    At the other end, we need think tanks of our own, where experts in communication can work to craft and promote strategy. If the prize is the story the country believes in, then communications people are the martial artists fighting to determine which stories prevail. The right figured this out back in the 70s, and we’re living with the sickening result. Until we become adept at fighting back at this level, the game will always be an exhausting up hill struggle, with many defeats.

    Finally, on an individual level, what each of us has to do when encountering someone steeped in bullshit and anger, is to calm them down and insist on a civil exchange. No more shouting matches and rudeness. Don’t even deal with the content of what they’re saying, deal first with the process issues of how they’re using communication to dominate and destroy others. This is the first step to restoring critical thinking for those who are completely unfamiliar with it, the first step away from their move into barbarism.

  10. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:30 pm

    All these loveys putting down a young civilian who “dares” to stand up to a politician, who garners his wages from civilians.

    So if I stand up to my congressperson and start screaming about how he is allowing Ant People From Mars to implant mircochips in our brains, exactly how is this helping anyone? The first rule of “standing up” is “making sense.” If all you’re doing is screaming out a lot of nonsense and ignorance, as the gentleman in the video is doing, it’s kind of counterproductive.

    Buddism is greatly against abortion.

    Not in the way you think, however. Abortion is discouraged but not forbidden. Buddhists for the most part understand that women are not brood animals and can make their own choices. Thus, we are “pro-choice.”

  11. Stella  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:34 pm

    Tessa – what is WRONG with you?
    Sorry, Maha, I’m just tired of the bullshit and always wanted to say that.

    We used to have journalists and we used to have manners. Unfortunately being civil just isn’t that entertaining.

  12. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:41 pm

    Finally, on an individual level, what each of us has to do when encountering someone steeped in bullshit and anger, is to calm them down and insist on a civil exchange. No more shouting matches and rudeness. Don’t even deal with the content of what they’re saying, deal first with the process issues of how they’re using communication to dominate and destroy others. This is the first step to restoring critical thinking for those who are completely unfamiliar with it, the first step away from their move into barbarism.

    Absolutely right. Somewhere I read that the “nazi healthcare” woman in the Barney Frank video was identified, and that people have been hounding her on the Web and in person. That’s not helping anybody.

  13. felicity  •  Aug 23, 2009 @2:49 pm

    “Shape of the Planet: both sides have a point” really sums up the state of American non-journalism. The ‘technique’ can be described as splitting the difference between two opposing sides as the best way of arriving at the truth – when actually the ‘truth’ remains unknown. (Whoever called journalists stenographers hit the nail on the head.)

    I have recently heard many friends and relatives, people who would normally listen to and read news accounts to stay informed, say that they no longer listen to or read the news because “it’s too disturbing.” Not only does that not bode well for a democracy, it may suggest that the ‘job’ of today’s news media is to create an ignorant public.? (Sounds conspiratorial, but the result is evident.)

    As far as the right-wing is concerned, for years it has been engaged in a campaign to denigrate those who do not agree with them. “This is designed to reduce the humanity of the ‘enemy’ and to prepare a social web of support for behavior that is basically cruel, immoral, and normally disapproved.” (From the August, ’09 Harper’s, “Kinds of Killing, the flourishing evil of the Third Reich. Read it; it’ll make your hair stand on end.)

  14. Ajay  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:03 pm

    Tessa,

    WTF is wrong with you? What are we supposed be thankful for to a soldier? Marine in the video is blatantly ignorant. By your twisted and stupid logic, all Germans should have been thankful to their soldiers (Nazis). You seem to have learnt nothing.

    Also, Nazis disliked socialists(Fox idiots wouldnt know it).

  15. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:13 pm

    Ajay: Some time back the Right seized on the name of the German Nazi Party — the “National Socialists” — to argue that the Nazis were socialists, in spite of the fact that Hitler hated socialists and sent many of them to the ovens. The name of the party was chosen for propaganda purposes, not to describe the actual ideology of the party. By the same logic, the People’s Republic of China is a republic.

  16. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:20 pm

    Before I comment I’d like to inform Mahablog readers that I am a combat veteran of Vietnam who holds two honorable military discharges

    * pause for applause

    I also have served as armed security for the President of the United States ( Nixon) with the authority to shoot to kill anybody who failed to heed my command. Even the Secret Service was subject to my authority. This clearly makes me the ultimate American.

    * pause for further applause

    And I have sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic.

    * more applause ( thank you for recognizing my glorious contribution to America’s freedom)

    My qualifications as an American being stated..I like to say that the jarhead in the video is a complete asshole, and if he is truthful about being a disabled vet( service connected) then he’s running at the mouth with insincerity or stupidity in claiming his medical coverage is in jeopardy. He’s just a bag of shit who is out looking for validation and praise for a job that hundreds of millions of men and women have performed in silence…satisfied within themselves for their service.

  17. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:28 pm

    Hey I’m not a real swami! I thought that would be apparent by reading my comments…maybe I’ll change my handle to “Dolt” so I can be true to my handle.

  18. tessa  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:37 pm

    Sorry, I am a hospice nurse who recently cared for a Swami. We had many talks There is nothing wrong with me. I am emotional when I think of all the women that died with deep regret that they ‘aborted” their children, I know, they cry in my arms. Call me angry, as you louts have no idea how your pro-abortions stance has fowled this planet. All women going for an abortion should have to meet one who regrets for a face to face, that may be their future. A future full of regret. Please, stop glossing over this fact. Please, go view a ‘partial birth abortion’ film.
    See the stories of all that regret. Then get back to me.

  19. maha  •  Aug 23, 2009 @3:56 pm

    Tessa,

    First, FYI, we don’t have swamis in Buddhism. “Swami” is, I believe, a Hindu title. Hinduism and Buddhism are different religions.

    Second, I respect your work as a hospice nurse. I doubt your job relates to abortion, however. Here in the U.S., because abortion is (still, barely) legal, the mortality rate among women who terminate pregnancies is low. In nations where abortion is illegal, women die by the tens of thousands from botched abortions. On my other website I have an article called “Buddhism and Abortion” that you ought to read, because it might teach you something. Here is an excerpt:

    Although Buddhism discourages abortion, we see that criminalizing abortion causes much suffering. The Alan Guttmacher Institute documents that criminalizing abortion does not stop it or even reduce it. Instead, abortion goes underground and is performed in unsafe conditions.

    In desperation, women submit to unsterile procedures. They drink bleach or turpentine, perforate themselves with sticks and coat hangers, and even jump off roofs. Worldwide, unsafe abortion procedures cause the deaths of about 67,000 women per year, mostly in nations in which abortion is illegal.

    Those with “moral clarity” can ignore this suffering. A Buddhist cannot. In his book The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, Robert Aitken Roshi said (p.17), “The absolute position, when isolated, omits human details completely. Doctrines, including Buddhism, are meant to be used. Beware of them taking life of their own, for then they use us.”

    Now, because abortion is way off-topic, and you don’t seem to have anything useful or insightful to say other than you hate everybody who disagrees with you, I am going to revoke your commenting privileges. (See “Comment Policy.”) Good bye.

  20. gypsy howell  •  Aug 23, 2009 @4:09 pm

    I’d like to remind all the people in the military that we civilians pay their salaries (and benefits and pensions and healthcare) too. There’s no organization or group of people more sustained by “socialism” than the military.

  21. grannyeagle  •  Aug 23, 2009 @4:15 pm

    Tessa: OK, you are a hospice nurse who gets emotional about her patients as if that explains everything. I am a nurse who once worked with hospice patients. It’s rare that a dying person does not have regrets about something. It is also not unusual for nurses to “get emotional”. After all, we are all human. The fact that you think because you got emotional about another woman’s regrets means that you have the right to make choices for all women is what is wrong.

    One other thing, I have serious doubts about a nurse who should be well educated and uses “fowl” for “foul”. But maybe I’m being too picky.

    By the way, it is not “pro-abortion”. It is “pro-choice”. Yeah, I’m tired of all the BS too.

  22. moonbat  •  Aug 23, 2009 @4:39 pm

    Swami, thanks for your background. [shaking your hand] I am honored to “know” you through this site.

  23. buckyblue  •  Aug 23, 2009 @4:51 pm

    Excellent point of the original post, didn’t really need the abortion comments, however. What I was thinking with the original post was John Stewert. Why are the journalists allowing a comedian to show them how they should do their job? I can’t believe that Stewert has any more time to keep on top of the different topics he has on his show, no more than a journalist would, so why are they, the journalists, not able to look at people lying to them and call “Bullshit”? One reason why this doesn’t happen is that the American people don’t ask them to do it. A major part of We the People are OK with people lying to them, or just don’t have enough intellectual curiosity to insist that people tell us the truth and come up with real life, realistic answers to problems. When you have a large part of the population, even some liberals, willfully ignorant, you have a press that can do a half assed job and get by with it.

  24. Ajay  •  Aug 23, 2009 @5:18 pm

    tessa • Aug 23, 2009 @3:37 pm

    What does abortion have to do with the soldier that you said we should respect. Why are you confused? What makes you think that everyone who doesnt agree with you is exactly opposite of you on all issues.

    By your own logic and your beliefs, you should never trust the very soldier you talked about. His job is simply: Anti Life. Killling more in the name of liberty is part of his job. You should detest him and ones like him if you were true to yourself.

    Also, I am from India and know a lot more about Swami them most would ever know. Just like anything else, there are good and bad. You seem to not able to comprehend the basics needed to understand about life. Also, not that it matters, I am not pro abortion but I am not a woman and I dont know if I can impose my will onto others for reasons unknown to me. Its a tough decision to begin with and bringing govt to tell you one way or other is simply wrong.

  25. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2009 @6:15 pm

    Thanks, Moonbat. It’s not easy being a real true red blooded American patriot…but somebody’s got to do it. :)

    You know, I wonder where this attention seeking jarhead in the video was when Bush was trampling all over the Constitution. The oath was to “defend the Constitution”, and what I saw Bush doing was violating it.. So to my mind…Bush was, and is, a domestic enemy of the Constitution.

  26. Ajay  •  Aug 23, 2009 @6:31 pm

    Swami,

    >The oath was to “defend the Constitution”, and what I saw
    >Bush doing was violating it.. So to my mind…Bush was, and is,
    > a domestic enemy of the Constitution.

    Conservatives are allowed to that. Bible trumps constitution.

    They are also very scared of T-shirts which show dissent. Gun carrying loonies to town halls are however considered normal.

  27. A Canadian Reader  •  Aug 23, 2009 @6:38 pm

    Maha,

    Usually, I can deal with the loonies, but thanks for banning Tessa. I have had enough of her posts.

  28. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 23, 2009 @6:41 pm

    Back the the original topic.
    I studied journalism in college for a year. My professor told me I had a great future in journalism – as long as I stayed writing about entertainment. She told me I was a terrific writer, but that I was a lousy interviewer. She told me I didn’t ask enough questions and that I believed people too much; that I couldn’t believe that someone could look me in the eye and lie to me, but that that was exactly what they would have to do to convince me.
    That advise made me a better reporter for the rest of the year. But it also told me that journalism, as I wanted to do it (this was only a few years after Watergate), was not in my future. I didn’t want to be an entertainment or sports writer, I wanted to do hard news, but I realized that I lacked either the toughness and/or the ability to tell when someone was brazenly lying to me.
    Too many of today’s “journalists” are good writers – of entertanment. They lack the same things that I lacked, which was the critical ability to tell truth from BS. They report both because it’s easier. I’m not going to say that it’s laziness. I’m not sure that it is. It’s that they can’t tell the difference and want you, the reader/viewer to help them decide.

  29. chris  •  Aug 23, 2009 @6:43 pm

    If memory serves me right, one of the reasons I understood that freedom of the press was established, was to essentially be a watchdog for the people and hold the government accountable. When television news was never designed to be a profit center, those standards were pretty much held.

    As it is, you have people out there who insist that this administration is the anti-christ but not just because Faux news says as much, but because their ratings are number one.

    *rolls eyes* When I ask how do ratings equate with facts they never seem to be able to answer that question. At least with not any structured logic known on this planet.

  30. Pat Pattillo  •  Aug 23, 2009 @7:46 pm

    Reporters like to see themselves as “in the middle” between two equal opposing forces, but Jay Rosen says this is a coward’s way out.

    They readily offer up a stage for the basest nonsense imaginable apparently without a hint of obligation to raise discourse from the slime. They confuse neutrality for objectivity insulting not only our intelligence in the process but their own as well. Then they try to sum up a Walter Cronkite as a suite of cursory behaviors such as taking his glasses off at some key moment.

    In these ways they have become the story itself but remain unaffected by the mirror of themselves reflected by that story.

  31. Doug Hughes  •  Aug 23, 2009 @8:25 pm

    Tessa – FYI, I am a veteran (Navy) who was offshore for the evacuation of Saigon. I never killed any ‘gooks’ or ‘ragheads’ so maybe I’m not a patriot you would respect. But I look back on my service with pride, and I believe I am doing a GREATER service when I try to speak to truth than when I was on an aircraft carrier as ‘Nam was winding down.

    I’m bringing this up because there are a lot of vets – including combat vets I know – who take a liberal stance on issues. Waving the flag and claiming God is on your side is a childish way to debate an issue. You took a stance far removed from ‘truth’ or ‘facts’ and for that you have my contempt.

  32. Crazy About Urban Planning  •  Aug 24, 2009 @12:05 am

    In regards to service to the country, its striking to me that “service” is viewed by many as strictly serving in the military. I’m proud I had the opportunity to go to Bulgaria as a Peace Corps Volunteer and work on issues associated with poverty in an emerging economy and creating projects focusing on intercultural exchanges between roma (gypsy) and Bulgarian populations. I think I was a positive influence for the kids I lead and taught! Yet, the only way to serve the country is joining the Marines? I don’t understand it.

    On a related note, I’m saddened by how the word “citizen” has evolved. It once meant participating in the public realm by offering constructive criticism to government proposals, attending neighborhood or other community functions, and volunteering. Today all you have to do to remain a citizen is pay taxes.

  33. maha  •  Aug 24, 2009 @9:41 am

    The interesting thing about Tessa is that there’s nothing at all on the site front page about abortion right now, yet she tried to hijack the thread to make it about abortion. That smacks of an obsession, IMO.

  34. maha  •  Aug 24, 2009 @9:46 am

    I have recently heard many friends and relatives, people who would normally listen to and read news accounts to stay informed, say that they no longer listen to or read the news because “it’s too disturbing.”

    Over the weekend I read a comment on another blog — leftie, I think — in which the commenter bragged that he hadn’t read a newspaper or watched television in years, and he considered himself smart for not doing so. But this begs the question, where are you getting your information about current events? Because as flawed as they are, the news bureaus of the major newspapers and television companies are about the only ones doing real news-gathering. Any other source, including blogs, are mostly picking up major news media information and using it second hand. There are exceptions to this, but the exceptions are no more reliable.

  35. joanr16  •  Aug 24, 2009 @1:23 pm

    [Tessa's commentary] smacks of an obsession, IMO.

    If you define “smacks” as a Mike Tyson punch in the face. Yeesh.

    May I make one itty-bitty correction to the original post… they were known simply as “Woodstein” back in the day. Before they became a gullible tool (RW) and an infamous philanderer (CB), that is. I remember because my brother and his best friend called themselves “Woodstein” when they wrote for the high school paper in 1976-77.

    Yesterday for the first time in ages, I bought our local Sunday paper, because I wanted the supermarket coupons. I was interested to find a front-page story that exploded several right-wing myths about the health-care reform debate. Then I turned to the Op-Ed page and found three editorials doing more or less the same. The Letters to the Editor were another story… one rabid screed after another in the mode of “Obama = Hitler.” Well, I asked myself, who writes a letter-to-the-editor anymore, anyway? Someone who has never been on the Internet, for one thing. And who doesn’t read the front page or the editorials, for another.

    As Dorothy Parker once said, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make [him or her] think.”

  36. BenYitzhak  •  Aug 24, 2009 @4:45 pm

    Slacktivist just did a post on this last month, with an eye on how to revive newspapers.

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/07/reporting-the-controversy.html

    I like your write-up too.

  37. bill bush  •  Aug 24, 2009 @7:50 pm

    The article you recommended from the LATimes is great. It spotlights the reason our local news on tv is unwatchable. Has anybody else noticed the increased use of the phrase “Some say..” as an introduction to any story for which there is no foundation?

    If there is an independent press, I wonder who can “own” it?

  38. Ben Franklin  •  Aug 25, 2009 @10:03 am

    Well, it would probably help if we didn’t have the intellectual equivalent of Chauncey Gardener in the White House. You can’t take anyone seriously when they say the government is flat busted broke and then in the very next paragraph they start talking about providing “free” health care to everyone. If Palin had said anything even half as stupid at any time in her life from elementary school on it would be widely and justly derided as sheer idiocy. It’s almost as stupid as paying the Brazilian’s to drill off their coast while not drilling off our own. It takes a truly special type of genius to come up with a plan such as that.

    But hey, who cares if the government has access to their health records? Nothing could ever go wrong with that. It’s not like they would ever use them against drug users, or people who had abortions, or the guy who likes a little anal sex from time to time. It’s not like they would ever allocate resources for political reasons. That has never happened. Nah, they only have our best interests at heart… and they are just so damn efficient too! Woo Hoo! I’m a’goin’ to get some of my neighbor’s money to pays for my health care!

    Let’s face it, of all the institutions ever created by man government is the LAST one we want to be responsible for providing health care. Indeed, the entire principle and purpose of the United States was to limit the power of government because of lessons written in blood throughout history. Just because 51% of the people vote to loot the other 49% it doesn’t mean they will get away with it. You can’t have a society based on theft and expect things to end in anything other than disaster.

    The nation is returning to its senses… and even the liberal press corp is starting to understand that the horse they are riding is a nag.

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