Friday, March 30, 2007


Read Glenn Greenwald Every Day

I want to add one point which I think goes to the heart of this matter. When Newsweek's Richard Wolffe recently criticized blogs while chatting amiably with his friend, the White House Press Secretary, and afterwards when he responded to criticisms of his commentary, Wolffe made exactly the same claim that Harris, in essence, makes in his reply here: namely, that media criticisms of journalists are "ideological" or "partisan" -- that what bloggers really want is for journalists to advance the bloggers' partisan agenda -- and those criticisms can and should therefore be dismissed, because that is not the role of journalists.

But that is not the principal criticism of journalists at all. It's a distortion of the media critiques made by most bloggers -- a total strawman.

In fact, virtually all media criticism is based on the exact opposite premise -- namely, that the problem is that journalists are partisan, because they now reflexively spout government claims and right-wing narratives and, worst of all, do so lazily (i.e, uncritically) and often with extreme factual inaccuracies.

For me, there is one fact that illustrates as vividly as possible the crux of the real problem with our political journalistic class. It is this, from USA Today in September 2003:

Poll: 70% believe Saddam, 9-11 link

Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists' strike against this country.

Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it's likely Saddam was involved.

Even six months after this country invaded Iraq, 70% of Americans continued to believe that Saddam helped personally plan the 9/11 attacks. That heinous fact, by itself, should have provoked a major crisis in political journalism -- a desperate effort to find out what went so fundamentally wrong. Yet it did nothing of the sort. Most of the energies of national journalists are devoted instead to defending how they operate and, most of all, condescendingly disparaging their critics as shrill partisans who don't understand the real role of journalists.

I honestly find it unfathomable that any national journalist like Wolffe or Harris can defend their profession, and deny that there are deep-seated and fundamental flaws in it, when this country started a war with the overwhelming majority of citizens -- 70% -- believing an absolute, complete myth, a known falsehood, one which, more than anything else, caused them to support that war. Leaving aside every other issue of gullible, government-propaganda-based reporting, that fact standing alone is a towering indictment of our country's press corps, and the fact that they continue to believe that the way they operate is proper, that they are sufficiently adversarial to the political powers that be, and that it is their critics who are "ideological" and therefore easily dismissed -- all reveals that they have not changed at all.

They may not know it, but the disaster of the Iraq War and the absolute myths which they allowed to take root -- and which they never investigated, exposed or attacked -- is an inescapable indictment of what they do. That is the foundation on which media criticism rests, and there is nothing "partisan" about it. It is the opposite of "partisan." It is instead a demand that the media fulfill their core responsibility -- to serve as an adversarial check on government -- a responsibility which they have profoundly abdicated.

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