Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Challenge to the Media: Defend Your Integrity

While major media figures and media outlets dizzy themselves trying to rebut factual critiques from the left and to justify unjustifiable reporting, herds of rightwingers wantonly slander them. Case in point: National Review's Rich Lowry uses his platform to write this outlandish statement:
"[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.


Blogger Allison said...

Oh, that darn left wing media!

via Navy Swan

6/06/2006 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're asking the slaves to rise up against their masters. I wouldn't hold my breath.

6/06/2006 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Ravenwood said...

Peter, you are one of the clearest, most articulate voices on this issue. Thank you so much! Please keep it up.

6/06/2006 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Janice said...

Thank you for your invaluable work! Your thorough scrutiny of the work of the Media establishment is sorely needed if our democracy is to be restored. I recently learned about you through the Media section of this Dartmouth report:

As recommended there, please make sure your voice is heard in the South and Texas. It's useless for you to preach exclusively to the choir of the liberal blogosphere and the coastal elites! Best of luck to you.

6/06/2006 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Deacon Blues said...

James Taylor wrote a song back during the Watergate era. To quote a few lines:

He seems to tell us lies
And still we will believe him
Then together he will lead us
Into darkness, my friends

Let it fall down, let it fall down
Let it all fall down
Let it fall down, let it fall down
Let it all fall down

Well, it ain't nobody's fault but our own
Still, at least we might could show the good sense
To know when we've been wrong
And it's already taken too long
So we bring it to a stop
Then we take it from the top
We let it settle on down softly
Like your gently falling snow
Or let it tumble down and topple
Like the temple long ago

Let it fall down, let it fall down
Let it all fall down

I have come to believe that the only way we will have a free press again is to destroy it. The Republican noise machine has corrupted it beyond repair. What form it might take in the future, I do not know, but I'm for letting it "all fall down."

6/06/2006 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Sunhawk said...

I have a theory as to why so few journalists do so -- it's against their training.

While I haven't taken classes in journalism, my undergraduate minor (almost a major) was in anthropology, which has a similar emphasis -- "I remove my bias in my reports".

In anthropology, it works -- when an anthropologist observes a culture, that emphasis works to help them create research material that is helpful to other anthropologists. Even so, there is often an effort in some styles of reporting to try and remove all traces of the anthropologist that might "contaminate" the view of the situation.

But in journalist, it has a fatal flaw -- they address the issues in public awareness... but they themselves are within that scope. So when they are IN the potential story, all their training screams "Stay out! Avoid getting in a mudslinging contest!" Many good journalists might feel that to respond directly would be to bring harm to their calling.

At least, that's what my theory be. Grantede, it COULD be completely off-base... but I think there's something to it.

6/06/2006 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Bill O'Reilly covered the same ground asserting that the "left-wing" media has run with the [Haditha] story. Then he goes on to say: Why do so many rejoice when bad things happen to the USA."

Well, I'm don't who he thinks is rejoicing, but I'm pretty sure that Haditha was a bad thing that happened to Iraqis, not the USA.

I parodied the video of this in my Stalking Points Memo which is entered in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival.

6/06/2006 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noise Machine attacks on reporters have grown more shrill, illogical, and downright bizzare as the news from Iraq has grown worse. Noise merchants are like the man behind the curtain saying, "Only pay attention to what's going on behind the curtain, not what's going on the other side."

Legitimate reporters might be reluctant to defend themselves because the right-wing has them boxed in. If they fight back, the smear-mongers will shout from the rooftops (and the studios of CNN), "See, I told you. They're all Bush-hating lefties. You can't trust them."

Commitment, courage, and accuracy from the press, and support from the public and the blogosphere. That’s what it will take.

6/06/2006 4:26 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

They won't defend themselves for the same reason FOX News won't. Liberal outrage just means they're doing their job.

They aren't the referees. They're on the other team.

The media is the enemy.

6/06/2006 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, I recommend you delete the comment from Janice/Jake/Dan (or whoever the hell he/she is).

If there really is a "Dartmouth Plan" he/she can prove it by emailing you a PLAIN TEXT (ie non-executable) copy of it; otherwise they can STFU.

6/06/2006 4:45 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/06/2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

They ARE defending themselves, the same way FOX News or Bush defend themselves -- by giving themselves a medal. The fact that non-Republicans are fuming means they're doing their jobs.

The media aren't the referees, they're on the other team.

The media is the enemy.

Wake up.

6/06/2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

There is some sh*t even fair reporters don't have to eat.

Remember in "48HRS" when Eddie Murphy walks into the redneck bar and announces, "I'm your worst f****** nightmare -- a n***** with a badge!"?

I'm the antimedia crowd's worst nightmare: a reporter with his own unedited blog ... actually, with two of them. You give me sh*t I don't have to eat, I ram it right back down your throat.

I won't lie: It's fun.

6/06/2006 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The words integrity, dignity, and honor are forbidden in media circles...they gave those concepts up long ago...

6/06/2006 4:58 PM  
Anonymous tchristi said...

I am amazed that there is this much outrage. The right has been attacking your nations teachers for several years in much the same way - by twisting the truth - and there has been little, if any, public outcry. It would nice to see this much support for this nations educators from john q public. It is impossible to defend against accusations made on a twisted premise without the support of the public. We should all be outraged that the administration is now blaming the media. The net and those reporters brave/wise enough to report accurate information may be our last hope.

6/06/2006 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bridge on the River Kwai is the perfect metaphor for the media. It has no idea that it has been turned into a grotesque caricature of itself.

6/06/2006 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the problem is that when the right wing, especially the upper echelon, criticize the media for a story, the media seem to take it as a personal failure and try HARDER to report the right's narrative. This only encourages the right to more critique, and hence more control over content. The media needs to become less intimidated and respond to such critiques agressively by taking off the gloves and hitting even harder. Then maybe the right would learn that it doesn't pay to punch the media, especially when they are essentially being neutral already.

(A good example is actually Letterman's response to the White House attempting to squash the Cheney hunting accident story...go to Crooks and Liars archive and search for Letterman and Big Bowl of Bad)

6/06/2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger LiberalPride said...

Let's look at another smear by right-wingers of the media:

The media isn't reporting the "good" news out of Iraq, but only the bad news.

Sound familiar?

The other day, I read a comment by a female reporter who'd been in Iraq who stated that the U.S. military command in Iraq had ordered reporters, especially the embeds, not to report the "good" news.

Shocking statement. And the only time I've heard this mentioned.

But why would the U.S. military commanders tell all reporters in Iraq to not report the "good" news?

Let's break this down. (And if you remember, these "good" news stories did appear out of Iraq for about the first six months after hostilities started in March 2003).

A reporter goes out to report on some school being painted, rebuilt or restocked with school supplies, or the reporter visits a power station that has been equipped with everything to get it running again, and reports on the "good works" of either U.S. military personnel or some of the private contractors...and within two weeks either the principal of the school is assassinated, the school is attacked and children die, or in the case of the power station, the same thing happens.

In other words, when the reporters filed their story reporting on the "good" news, people died and/or places were attacked, especially if the reporters gave specifics, like the location or people's names.

It was like the reporters' "good" news stories painted targets on the backs of everyone mentioned in the story, and gave the insurgents a heads-up of where to go to attack next.

Thus, if you've noticed, any reports coming out of Iraq at present involving either "neutral" or "good news" invariably don't go into specifics. In fact, any Iraqi interviewed either isn't named, uses a pseudonym or just uses one of their two names. And locations are only mentioned in a general fashion...nothing specific.

I had noticed this trend, but I didn't make the connection to the U.S. military command in Iraq ordering reporters to do this. But I should have realized this. The U.S. military controls all information either entering or exiting Iraq...or at least as much as possible under Rumsfeld.

So the wanker wingers have done it again. The media is being accused of doing something (not reporting the "good" news) when it is actually the U.S. military that is responsible for the dearth of "good" news coming out of Iraq, as the U.S. military tries to stop Iraqis from getting killed following "good" news stories appearing in newspapers.

And it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the U.S. military is also doing it to save the lives of U.S. soldiers because a "good" news story not only identifies the Iraqis being helped, but also puts the ones helping at risk.

From what I've read, insurgents have developed networks of spies who keep track of U.S. military movements, and if a "good" news story ends up identifying a specific location, then they are bound to keep an eye on it for any returning U.S. soldiers. Kaboom!!! I bet this has happened already a number of times...and might explain why the U.S. military command has sought to limit any stories coming out of Iraq, including any "good" news stories.

"Good" news stories can actually endanger our troops lives. Is this what the wanker wingers want?

6/07/2006 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that most of the media we hear, is from one of maybe only 3 major news organizations. Soon there will only be ONE news outlet ran by only God knows whom. I pray everyday that God has mercy on ALL our souls!

6/07/2006 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Carolyn Kay said...

This behavior is no different from the DC Democrats. Republicans say horrible things about them. It's been going on for at least 15 years, but the only time I can remember that any of them fought back was when Jean Schmidt called John Murtha, a decorated war veteran, a coward.

DC Dems keep saying they want the American people to think they will be strong in fighting terrorism, but how can anyone believe that, if they're weak in fighting Republicans?

Carolyn Kay

6/07/2006 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich Lowry is a hack whose previous experience was working for a Northern Virginia weekly newspaper. I have no idea what Buckley saw in him except he was willing to be a right-wing hack at a higher level.

6/08/2006 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter you're are so insightful. Insightful into the farthest reaches of your own imagination. Too bad you let your biasness overcome the truth and more sad that there are actually some who may believe it. But then as Hitler said, "the bigger the lie - the more people who will believe it". Or was that Hillary who said that right after that "vast right wing conspiracy" comment to noted journalistic scapegoat katie couric. Remember principles last - people do not. There is a reason that many Americans have forsaken the mainstream media. They recognize that it chooses not to report the news but to try to affect public opinion. Poll after poll will tell you that - if you had even bothered to look. I think the last poll I saw, with regard to credibility, rated journalists, as just under used car salesmen - and it was the used car salesmen who were insulted. Unfortunately, as someone who has no allegiance with either party - I find the lack of credibility in reporting a terrible disappointment and a terrible injustice. The media is in fact worse than the animal they set themselves up to cover. Moreover, they show their arrogance in thinking that the American public not bright enough to make an intelligent decision when provided the unbiased facts. There is no smear campaign against the media - only one by the media. However if there were - they would deserve it. If you wish to help the media - why not try and help it find some ethics. The following link may help you get started: http://www.mirriamwebster.com/dictionary/ethics

6/08/2006 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Gideon S. said...


You are SO right, the media is COMPLETELY dominated by liberals. Just ask the following people:

Rush Limbaugh, Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter, Rich Lowry, Bill O'Reilly, William Safire, Robert Novak, William F. Buckley, Jr., George Will, John Gibson, Michelle Malkin, David Brooks, Tony Snow, Tony Blankely, Fred Barnes, Britt Hume, Larry Kudlow, Sean Hannity, David Horowitz, William Kristol, Hugh Hewitt, Oliver North, Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, John McLaughlin, Cal Thomas, Joe Klein, James Kilpatrick, Tucker Carlson, Deroy Murdock, Michael Savage, Charles Krauthammer, Stephen Moore, Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Mort Kondracke, Andrew Sullivan, Nicholas von Hoffman, Neil Cavuto, Matt Drudge, Mike Rosen, Dave Kopel, or John Caldara.

And Anonymous: Feel free to look-up "asshat" in the dictionary; I understand there's a picture of you to help illustrate the definition.

(Names via this letter to the editor, reprinted at the Neil Rogers Show.)

6/10/2006 7:14 AM  

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