A Challenge to the Media: Defend Your Integrity
"[Haditha] will be treated as the story of the century, or at least the biggest story since Abu Ghraib. Souls will be searched, hands wrung, and overly broad statements about our stained national honor made. Let the wallowing begin. There is an obvious agenda here, aside from the instinctive glee much of the media seem to take in any failing of the U.S. military. Haditha is a chance to drive a stake into the heart of the Iraq war."This kind of assault on the free press is par for the course on the right. And unlike Democrats, Republicans at the highest levels willingly go after the media. For once, I'd like to see journalists rise in indignation and fury. For once, I'd like to know if the targets of this abuse have the pride and dignity to reject it, to stand up for their profession and their personal integrity. If the same attacks were directed toward any other profession or professional, the response would be overwhelming. Why do reporters take it lying down?
I challenge establishment journalists to stand up to the rightwing smear machine and condemn the maligning of their patriotism and of their values.
The media critique from the left and right is fundamentally different. For rightwingers, facts hardly matter. Any coverage that doesn't favor a lockstep, pro-administration stance is considered an example of "liberal" bias. According to rightwing media-bashers, reporting bad news from Iraq betrays an anti-American agenda. Covering events that are unpleasant for the White House such as Katrina, warrantless domestic spying, Republican corruption, etc., is a mark of Bush-hating.
For the left, the prime objective is to counter the effect of the right's decades-old war against the media. Oddly, we're defending an institution that refuses to defend itself.
We're demanding real 'fair and balanced' reporting. Not 'fair' in the sense that every reporter bends over backward to accommodate rightwing critics, but fair in the sense that reporters stop peddling narratives that favor the right. Not 'balanced' in the sense that any negative story about Republicans must be countered by the same story about Democrats or that panels must constantly be overweighted in favor of conservatives, but balanced in the sense that some measure of judiciousness is displayed, some center of gravity and ethics that is immune to the right's brazen assault against the entire media establishment.
As Jamison Foser so forcefully argued:
"The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.
The defining issue of our time is the media.
The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.
The dominant political force of our time is the media.
Time after time, the news media have covered progressives and conservatives in wildly different ways -- and, time after time, they do so to the benefit of conservatives."
The toxic mix of a rightwing machine bent on destroying an institution that serves as a check on government abuses and that institution's eagerness to please those very same destroyers is singularly dangerous to the functioning of our democracy.
I challenge the media to acknowledge and appreciate that danger and to have the guts and decency to fight back when stomped on by the likes of Rich Lowry.