Skip to comments.The Right to Know
Posted on 05/12/2008 5:31:32 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
I want . . Freedom of the press to be the right not to be lied to.
You are confused. So very seriously confused about the First Amendment, that you are not thinking any more clearly about it than I was before the mid-1990s, when I began to see through the system by which the "journalistic objectivity" con is perpetrated. And since I was already in my fifties by then, I have every reason to understand how you might see things the way you do.
Freedom of the press is much more like "the right to lie to you" than it is like "the right not to be lied to." And that is a good thing.
In the founding era, nobody claimed that a newspaper was objective - no more so than you would take me seriously if I claimed to be objective - or I, you. That was because the newspapers were actually independent of each other back then. Independent of each other, but not independent of the political factions of the day. For example, one paper was sponsored by Thomas Jefferson, to attack the politics of Alexander Hamilton - and to reply to the attacks on him by the newspaper sponsored by Hamilton himself. The idea of either of those newspapers ceding to the other respect for being "objective" - which after all implies wisdom - is laughable.
Why, then, does our culture have the idea that journalism should be, even could be, objective? Simple - the telegraph and the Associated Press transformed the newspaper business - and our culture - beginning back in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Prior to the advent of the telegraph, newspaper printers got their news about the same way that the other people in their towns got theirs - by word of mouth and by getting physical copies of other newspapers, delivered by sailboat and horse-drawn wagon. So in principle, any given local might easily have heard any given news item before the local newspaper printed it. Accordingly, most newspapers were not dailies, may were weeklies and some had no deadline at all and just printed when the printer was good and ready. Making it all the more likely that people would get news by word of mouth before the newspaper reported it to them.
Then along came the Associated Press. Suddenly the newspaper printer had a direct line to newspapers in all the other towns and cities of the country - and to reporters working directly for the AP who aggressively got the news from ships arriving from Europe before those ships even docked. The AP was an aggressive monopolizer of the use of the telegraph for transmission of the news; it cut exclusive deals with the telegraph lines which froze competitors out. That made the AP the target of criticism and challenge, since it was so obviously an unprecedented concentration of nationwide public influence. The AP proceeded to demonstrate that influence by deflecting those charges by asserting that since the Association was composed of member newspapers which famously did not agree on much of anything, the Association was - wait for it - "objective."
That was, is, and always will be absurd. First, of course, because thinking yourself to be objective is arguably the best possible definition of the word "subjectivity." And secondly, because the AP, and all of those "independent-thinking" papers which made up the AP, was selling something. The same thing - news, before you could get it from any other source. So the AP and every one of its members had the identical incentive to sell the idea that journalism - all journalism - was objective. How else to vouch for the news which suddenly was a pervasive, dominant theme of your newspaper which had not actually had that function before - when that news did not originate with your newspaper's own reporters but with those of a nominal competitor in a distant city? So with the AP, newspapers suddenly had not only the motive but the opportunity to claim objectivity as long as they did not compete with any other AP newspaper on the basis of objectivity claims. And the more opportunity they had to make that claim, the less compunction was necessary about taking care to vindicate the claim by actually being objective.
So what is the actual effect of the claim by all of journalism that all of journalism is objective? The actual effect of the claim of objectivity, running as it has for a century and a half, is to establish in custom the idea that journalists are a breed apart from we-the-people - more virtuous, more knowledgeable, and more civic-minded - and thus entitled not only to be listened to with respect by people who pay for the privilege but entitled to special privileges such as "shield" laws granting reporters the right to withhold the names of sources from courts of law which any citizen would be under legal compunction to yield up. And entitled to special rights to speak out about candidates for public office, to be denied, under McCain-Feingold, to we-the-people. Is there any real virtue in having our government officers selected by vote of the whole people on a date certain, when it would be far more manageable to simply read in the newspapers what the newspapers say is in the public interest? Or, for that matter, what the newspapers say the public thinks, based on "public opinion polls?" From the POV of the journalist - or anyone who thinks that journalists are more objective and hence wiser and more virtuous than the public at large - the answer would have to be, "No." What could be more patent than that the conceit of journalistic objectivity is profoundly subversive of democratic principle?
Before the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine and the rise of the Internet generally and FreeRepublic.com in particular, the public discourse was largely controlled by monolithic AP journalism. Journalism had extremely broad latitude to say whatever they wanted so say, and call that "objectivity." The most fundamental desire of journalism is to attract an attentive audience, and to be able to exploit that ability for fun and profit. The linchpin of the influence of AP journalism being perishable news - news that will soon no longer be new - journalism inexorably presses upon the public the idea that the news is important. The more important you think the news is, the less attention you will pay to things which change less, or not at all. That is why AP journalism is inherently anti conservative. Journalism also is maximally important when there is a crisis requiring public notice and action. But of course a putative crisis "requiring" government action implies that the powers-that-be have not already taken whatever action is needed, which is why the public should attend to the journalist and influence the politician accordingly. Again that makes the journalist anti conservative.
Another way of stating the above paragraph is to note that journalism's rules include "There's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper," and "If it bleeds, it leads." The former rule simply says that only what the public doesn't know yet matters, and the latter says that the bad news is most important. Journalism's rules also enjoin the editor that "Man Bites Dog" is news, and "Dog Bites Man" is not news. Which means that business-as-usual is not news, and if anything is reported in the newspaper it is probably not typical of what normally characterizes society. Most people never, in their entire lives, commit a murder or even know anyone who did commit a murder - but you will find plentiful stories about murders, and demands for the disarming of the general public, but rarely mention of how statistically rare murder actually is or how frequently the law-abiding use or, more commonly merely threaten to use, weapons to prevent crime. Likewise if our troops suffer casualties and deaths in Iraq that is news - even though the overwhelming majority of our troops return from Iraq without a scratch, and also with scant if any notice by journalism. All that comports with the rules of journalism - but the rules of journalism comport with the interest of journalism,. The rules of journalism purport to be about the public interest, but actually are only about interesting the public. And the two things are not only different, they are often in contradiction. So we see that journalism is anti conservative.
Since journalism not only has the inherent incentive to say what it wants to say, and since under the Associated Press regime journalism coheres as a single identifiable entity with identifiable interests and has a dominant position in the public discourse by which it is easily capable of stonewalling or otherwise dismissing contradiction, it is only natural to expect that journalism will promote those who scratch its back, and oppose those who do not. Conservatives are those who are least prone to scratch journalism's back. In this context the most satisfactory definition of American conservatism was implied in Theodore Roosevelt's famous speech at the Sorbonne in France in 1911:"It is not the critic who counts . . . the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . . who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds . . .That speech defines American conservatism - respect for those who take responsibility and work to a bottom line - and its opposite, which is criticism and second guessing of those who take responsibility to get things done. The latter is AP journalism's natural predilection, and it naturally tends to undercut the businessman and the policeman and the military man. There are others besides journalists who second guess the people who get things done, and journalists call them "liberals," or "progressives," or "moderates" - essentially any positive label but "objective." "Objective" is the label which journalists reserve to themselves but anyone who currently is labeled a "liberal" or a "progressive" can get a job as a journalist and instantly receive the "objective journalist" label without any change in his/her political perspective. George Stephanopolis is the outstanding example of the phenomenon; there is emphatically not any example of a conservative ever becoming recognized as an "objective" journalist.
It is interesting to note that American conservatives conserve a tradition which was started, not in the mists of time as in nations generally, but in a specific founding era in the second half of the Eighteenth Century. American constitutional norms do trace back to English antecedents, but they are codified as British and other nation's traditions have not been. The preamble to the US Constitution is a mission statement for America, and after all the specifics about providing for the common defense and so forth, it concludes with the nut of the matter, " . . . [to] secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity." American conservatives, therefore, conserve liberty - which, considering that liberty allows people to do things in different ways, and to do different things, than were done in the past, is such a unique form of "conservatism" that adherents to it have questioned whether that is even a proper term for it.
Indeed, the word which (anywhere outside the US, as recently as a decade ago) describes "American conservatism" is "liberalism." link Well one might ask, "how did the US acquire a definition of "liberalism" which is opposed to what is in America called "conservatism?" I make no pretense of specific knowledge of the event, but I have a hypothesis which I would defend against challenge until such time as more specific evidence is cited than has come to my attention. First, I would note that the term "socialism" would, on etymological grounds, be assumed to relate to support for organic societal decisions rather than - as we well know to be the actual case - relating to government control of things which in America are traditionally left to societal decisions made, perhaps most notably, in the marketplace. So I would argue that the term "socialism" was dishonestly coined by its proponents. And, everywhere outside the US, socialism was far more accepted by the public at large than it was in the US. We have had governments which were socialist in intent - FDR with his "New Deal" and LBJ and his "Great Society" perhaps most prominently - but at no time has a socialist run for POTUS openly advocating socialism as such, and won. Indeed there is exactly one avowedly Socialist senator - Bernie Sanders of Vermont - and he caucuses, surprise of surprises, with the senate Democrats. Essentially all of whom are readily classified as "liberals."
My inference is that since "socialism" was a failed brand name in the US but not elsewhere, people in the US who had the ability to rebrand socialist nostrums, and wanted to do so, seized upon the co-opting of the term for the political theory which already was popular. Associated Press journalism - especially in conjunction with academia, which as a group are critics and not doers just as reporters are - fits that bill exactly. It is a theory which seems to fit the facts as I know them perfectly - socialist-minded people had motive, in the US, and opportunity, to make the change. Certainly, or so it seems to me, it would have been impossible without at least the acquiescence, and probably the active support, of journalism. There would have been far less incentive for socialists in any other locale than the United States to make that change.
We see the process of the creation of a new word - a neologism - out of whole cloth springing out of the Democratic reaction to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign of 2004. In that case, the SBVT organization counted among its members the entire chain of command in Vietnam above John Kerry, and all his fellow officers on the other Swift Boats in Kerry's naval unit. If you wanted to ask anyone else but John Kerry and his subordinates on his boat, on the one hand, and the SBVT on the other, you would be embarrassed for want of anyone who could speak of about Kerry's performance on the basis of direct knowledge. You have to either believe one side or the other, and the SBVT group is far more numerous, and was more highly credentialed at the time and place in question, than Lt. John Kerry and his subordinates were. And their story was more consistent over time, and internally, than Kerry's story was - considering how certain Kerry was that he had been sent on a mission into Cambodia by a president who hadn't been inaugurated yet! Nevertheless, AP journalism and the rest of the Democratic smear machine has created, and imposed on the national dialog, the term "swiftboating" defined as the irresponsible and unjustified criticism of a Democrat.
So we have seen the imposition of a story line and a word meaning implemented before our very eyes, in real time. What reason is there to doubt that the same or similar things have been done in the past, when we didn't have the Internet and talk radio to help us keep our sanity when we thought that "objective" journalists were cooking the books! By the accounts of Ann Coulter and M. Stanton Evans, the coining of the word "McCarthyism" was done in exactly the same fashion, and with no more justification than the coining of "swiftboating" was done. And thus I have little doubt that the inversion of the meaning of the word "liberalism" was done the same way, by the same sort of people.
And "liberalism" is not the only word whose meaning has been inverted; the words "society" and "public" have received similar treatment. If you hear a "liberal" speak of "society" your very first impulse should be to question whether or not the speaker means anything other than government. Except in the absence of freedom, the two are not synonyms, but that is how the socialist "liberal" uses the word "society." And the socialist "liberal" uses the word "public" to exactly the same intent.
Predictably, much of the media only focused on the negative, used the story as a club to beat on the despised Bush Administration, and in the process, adversely affected the morale of highly competent and dedicated military doctors and nurses. Almost all of the positives that resulted from this story ended up on the cutting room floor.
Back in the founding era, nobody would have expected a newspaper to be objective - Hamilton and Jefferson sponsored newspapers in which to wage their partisan battles with each other, for example - and that is only the best-know example of the open tendentiousness of the papers of the day.
The difference between that open, free-fire-zone political milieu and our own frustration with the "bias" in "the media" is not that news ever was apolitical in some golden age but that - with the advent of the Associated Press - the news became far more political than it had been. Without the telegraph and the AP, "newspapers" weren't actually in the "news" business as we have known it all our lives. "Newspapers" were typically weeklies, not dailies, because they didn't have the AP newswire to provide coverage of distant affairs which was any more timely than you might have gotten by hanging out in town talking to travelers.
The consequence of the AP has been to unify the newspapers (and now broadcast news as well) around the idea that we should trust reporters from all over the country and even the world because journalists are objective. The idea that today's news is crucial but yesterday's news is "yesterday's news" is embedded in the business model of journalism as we, and our parents and grandparents, have always known it. And yet if it actually were true that the news was becoming more crucial every day that would imply that we were in an accelerating crisis which would inevitably overwhelm our institutions in short order. The very fact that they are unified around the idea of the trustworthiness and significance of "the news" is, in and of itself, the defining bias of journalism. It is a bias against conservatism - a radical bias. And the claim that expression of that bias is "objectivity" is the strongest bias of all. It is a, if not the, Big Lie.
The Associated Press is a monopoly, ruled by the Supreme Court in 1945 to be in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1945 it was undoubtedly difficult to visualize a world without the Associated Press - and thus without any system of timely reporting from all points of the nation and the world. With the Internet of today, that question could look quite different if SCOTUS were presented with a case which outlined the scope of the impact of the AP monopoly on the country. Because the bias of the AP is worth ten points to radicals in any election. With its quick reporting of victories in states for Gore and its slow reporting of victories in states for Bush - including the notorious wrong call of Florida for Gore before all Florida polls were even closed - AP journalism very nearly turned the 2000 election for Gore. I would argue that no Democratic president since Johnson could have won without the aid of the tendentious monopoly known as the Associated Press. And that is not to mention the effect on Congress and the Senate and - through the Senate, on the Supreme Court.
The Associated Press has lately threatened lawsuits against bloggers who quote the AP too much. And yet that monopoly assays to define the public discourse. Given that it is an established fact that the AP is a monopoly, there just has to be a way to sue their socks off.
This depends on citizens being informed. For that, we depend on newspapers. Even relatively bad newspapers give us far more of the information we need to participate in a democracy than other news media. Television news or talk programs, talk radio, blogs, or any other news media are, at best, supplemental vitamins.Television or radio news are not even "supplemental vitamins." But then, compared to founding era newspapers or to talk radio and blogs, the modern (Post Associated Press) newspaper is merely a "supplemental vitamin" itself.Online newspapers will replace print newspapers just as talkies replaced silent movies early last century. As newspapers transform themselves, they must find a way to be profitable, but they also must convince readers that it is in the best interests of readers to support newspapers. This requires that newspapers act not like any other business, but that they act as guardians of the public trust.
The problem is that Associated Press newspapers are fronts for the AP news monopoly, not truly independent actors in their own right. The newspapers have been coopted by the post-AP news model. The newspaper business is nominally to tell the public "what is going on" - but the actual business model is to promote and sell the perishable AP news. And continuously hyping the newest story at the expense of any real sense of perspective turns out to be a distraction from the serious business of discussing what is actually going on.
AP newspapers have always preened themselves as "act[ing] as guardians of the public trust" - even as they have distracted the public from the public interest.
there are some people who are writing on the subject who do go into the Constitution with the intent to read it, understand it, and respect itmost modern constitutional law casebooks largely ignore the Constitution itselfthe document that is ostensibly the subject of study and the source of constitutional law.
. . . as I know that you for one do.
The question is, on which topics does Justice Kennedy read the Constitution, and on which does he not do so? How coherent is he? It seems that we are always on the ragged edge of having a majority which consistently does so - and likewise of having a majority which consistently does not do so. But with Roberts for Rhenquist we held our own and with Alito for O'Connor the Constitution picked up half a vote.
My college studies were in engineering, not law, and the only law course I have had was entitled "Cases on Contracts." The instructor of which asserted that engineers typically were capable of understanding law. Law, perhaps - but are "constitutional law casebooks [which] largely ignore the Constitution itself" actually law? Not by my understanding of the word. Judicial lawlessness, more like.
But, in effect, I have been studying the First Amendment for many years. Ever since the Carter Administration, the time frame in which I read Reed Irvine's "Accuracy In Media" ("AIM") report for a couple of years, and came out convinced that "the media" were in fact "biased." But I dropped my subscription after that - I was convinced, and further examples proving the same thing that I already agreed with quickly became "a twice-told tale." The issue for me since then has not been "whether" but why. I have not, as some are wont to do, resorted readily and comfortably into a whine about the First Amendment protections of those with whom I have disagreed. I respect the Constitution and its authors far too much for that. I have been determined that the First Amendment was fine as is - provided that we understand its principles, and that we understand the facts that we are bringing to it.
It seems to me that we have, memory of living man not to the contrary, been led to misunderstand the facts of "the press" in our milieu. First, "the press" does not refer specifically to journalism. Book printers, after all, are under First Amendment protection as well. So, right there, we know that journalism is cooking the books when it calls itself "the press." It seems to me that the most satisfactory generalization of "the press" is to say that those who have a press spend money for the press and the ink and paper - and are free to attempt to propagate their opinions in that way. Furthermore, the freedom of religion clauses exclude the possibility of government defining truth or objectivity for the press. I understand "freedom of the press" to be the freedom of the people (individually or in voluntary association) to spend their own money in any medium, whether or not ink and paper are involved to promote the ideas they want others to accept.
Not only is journalism not the sum of "the press," journalism as we have known it since the Civil War era scarcely even existed in the founding era when the First Amendment was written and ratified. Because although there were of course "newspapers" in the founding era, the printers thereof did not in general have a systematic source of "news" to which the general public was, in principle, not privy. That awaited the telegraph and the 1848 founding of the Associated Press. Consequently the "newspapers" of the founding era were not in the business of selling "news" as the extremely perishable commodity which we associate with journalism. And not being in that business, newspapers typically were weeklies rather than dailies - and some had no fixed deadline and just went to press when the printer was good and ready. Newspapers typically were intimately associated in the reader's mind with what we would now call the "editorial page." Hamilton sponsored a paper to attack Jefferson - and to defend against the attacks of the paper Jefferson sponsored for the reciprocal purpose. Newspapers were independent of each other, and openly associated with particular political perspectives/parties.
In short "newspapers" of the founding era were more like our modern biweekly political magazines than like The New York Times of today. The newspapers (and broadcast journalists) of today are linked, even made dependent on each other, through the medium of the Associated Press. Being in the business of selling news, much of which originates with reporters associated with other newspapers, the newspaper as we have known it all our lives has been a promoter of "journalism" much more than it is of its own stated "editorial" policy. And the fundamental of journalism - that today's news is important and yesterday's news is "yesterday's news" - is inherently radical. If paying attention to the news is important, and if today's news is always more dramatic than yesterday's news, that implies that the people in charge of things must be letting things get out of control. Journalism is always "the critic," not Teddy Roosevelt's "man who is actually in the arena."
But it is not true that that makes journalism independent of politics. To the contrary, politicians can position themselves as critics, too - and, in doing so, align themselves with journalism and establish themselves in symbiosis with journalism. In fact, certain politicians do it all the time. In so doing they function somewhat like journalists, but they never take on that title - that would be bad form, bad PR. Journalists have far more subtle ways of discussing the alignment of politicians. Journalists apply positive labels to politicians who operate in symbiosis with themselves. Labels such as "progressive" and "liberal." Such politicians can, without changing their political philosophy at all, get hired as journalists - and, if so, other journalists accord them the label "objective" as a matter of course. The etymology of the word "liberal" is a case study in media bias. According to William Safire,In the original sense the word described those of the emerging middle classes in France and Great Britain who wanted to throw off the rules the dominant aristocracy had made to cement its own control.According to the preface Hayek wrote for the 1956 edition of The Road to Serfdom:
During the 1920s the meaning of the word changed to describe those who believed a certain amount of governmental action was necessary to protect the people's "real" freedoms as opposed to their purely legal - and not necessarily existent - freedoms.
This philosophical about-face led former New York governor Thomas Dewey to say, after using the original definition, "Two hundred years later, the transmutation of the word, as the alchemist would say, has become one of the wonders of our time."The fact that this book was originally written with only the British public in mind does not appear to have seriously affected its intelligibility for the American reader. But there is one point of phraseology which I ought to explain here to forestall any misunderstanding. I use throughout the term "liberal" in the original nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftist movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that "liberal" has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium.Hayek (b. 1899) actually learned English in America in 1923-24 (which skill enabled him, an Austrian, to become a professor in England before WWII), and yet he did not note the transformation of the word "liberal" which was an accomplished fact by the Roosevelt Administration.
English 101 from time immemorial.....who, what, why, where and when as close to the top of the article or posting as possible.
That's what Big Journalism would like you to think. It's not "from time immemorial," it's from the Civil War era. Journalism as we know it scarcely existed before the advent (1848) of the Associated Press. In the Founding Era the newspapers were all a lot like the ones sponsored by Hamilton and Jefferson in which they waged partisan battles with each other. Papers were about the perspective of their printers. They were usually weeklies, and some didn't even have deadlines at all.
But that doesn't mean that modern papers are less tendentious than those of the antebellum era; it means that modern newspapers have a lot of their tendentiousness hiding in plain sight. The planted axiom of journalism is that there is always a reason to meet the deadline. And there always is - but that reason has to do not with virtue or public good but rather the mere commercial interest of the printer.
Likewise, there is a reason for the position journalists take that all journalists are objective. That reason has nothing to do with the actual virtue of the least virtuous journalist - and everything to do with the fact that, through the mediation of the Associated Press, all "objective" journalists are in cahoots. In contradistinction to the newspaper of the founding era, the business model of the modern newspaper requires the printing of fresh news from a source to which the public is not privy - the AP. Thus, the business model of the modern newspaper requires that the public place its trust not merely in that newspaper's own reporters but in reporters working for other Associated Press newspapers nationwide.
I'm going to take that as a why bother then. How do you feel about the Republican party?I mean that we should know better than to take things at face value. My cynicism about journalism and the Democratic Party is essentially total.
I'll give you a hint on how I feel: No better or worse than the Dems (as a party). Some individuals in both parties are what I want in a congress critter, but not very freaking many. That would be why I want them to get the idea that we are watching them. Like hawks!
What good does it do to watch them do exactly what you already know, and they already know that you know, that they are gonna do?
That sounds like a counsel of utter cynicism and disengagement in politics - exactly what the pols want. But that is not my meaning. My point is that journalism has succeeded in wildly overhyping its own importance. Journalism styles itself "the press" - of which it is I admit a component, tho not the only component - but that omits some important points:
In this article, Thomas Sowell is merely arguing that one of the defining characteristics of journalism - its rush to judgement - is not in the public interest. No matter how useful journalists find it for the purpose of interesting the public.
- Journalism self-defines itself as being objective and - see for example "The National Press Club" - self-defines itself as constituting "the press" of the First Amendment. But the First Amendment plainly restricts the government from requiring "the press" to be objective - and if the government certifies that journalism is objective, and constitutes "the press," the government is thereby violating the First Amendment.
- Journalism as we and our grandparents have always known it - tracing back a century and a half, to the middle of the Nineteenth Century - is a creature of the telegraph and the Associated Press. It was only with the advent of the AP that "newspapers" actually began to rely on publishing news which the general public could not know until the newspaper printed it. We take such a steady stream news from distant locales as being the central, defining characteristic of the newspaper, the very heart of its business model - but news in that sense scarcely even existed at the time of the ratification of the First Amendment. The printer didn't have sources to which the general public could not be privy, and consequently there was no point to operating on a short deadline to try to put out the word to the public before they learned the news from other sources. Most newspapers were not dailies but weeklies - and some had no deadline at all, and just went to press when the printer thought he was good and ready.
- The business model of pre-Associated Press newspapers was not that of the AP newspapers but was much more like that of The Nation or National Review - they depended for their audience not on their news gathering/dissemination but on their interpretation of events - the perspective of the printer. They made no pretense to objectivity; they couldn't do so with a straight face, and their competitors were not about to accept any such imposture without engaging in the heaviest ridicule of which they were capable. They were not independent of the political parties; indeed I would argue that the paper which Jefferson sponsored to attack the politics of Alexander Hamilton - and to respond to the attacks by the paper Hamilton himself sponsored for reciprocal purposes - was possibly the embryo of the Democratic Party.
- The rules which journalism proposes as constituting their objectivity do not reflect the public interest but rather what interests the public - and that is quite a different matter. "There's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper" is a counsel of superficiality, "'Man Bites Dog,' not 'Dog Bites Man'" is a counsel of unrepresentativeness, and "If it bleeds, it leads" is a counsel of negativity. IOW, there is always news, and the news is always bad, and the news is always important even if it doesn't really signify anything enduringly true . In that sense, what defines newspapers is not the public interest, it is actually radicalism. Consequently there is no reason for so-called "objective journalism" to be independent of the Democratic Party, nor vice versa. In fact there is a powerful symbiosis between the two, which explains why there is a revolving door between journalism and Democratic, but not Republican, political operatives.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn quotes on the media and on lies, cited by PGalt.
In gratitude for being included in your excellent thoughts and essays.
Of all the sources available to me in sussing out the American political/news dynamic - you have been the outstanding source of information delivered with a wonderful style managing to stay grounded and factual.
Thank you again as always.
Thank you - and thanks for the bump to this thread.
Extremely frustrating, Mark. If the liberal media had done their job, Obama would've lost the nomination. The entire liberal establishment is in the tank for Obama.If you read the criticism of the Jerome Corsi book that is picking up speed in the liberal media, you will find much similarity and overlap. . . .
It is not surprising that the media have chosen sides, but it remains frustrating.
Part of the frustration can be alleviated, though - especially if Mark reads this and considers it. So much of the frustration is due to the way we-the-people, and not just Democratic and "moderate" sheeple, continue to buy one of the biggest con jobs since Eve took the serpent's word about the apple. Namely, that there is some reason that journalism as such could be, should be, and is, "objective." That actually is easily refuted.
The claim of journalistic objectivity didn't exist in the founding era when the First Amendment was proposed and ratified. For the very good reason that journalism itself scarcely existed back then. Yes, there were newspapers - but, lacking the AP newswire (the first telegraph (between Washington and Baltimore) wasn't opened for business until May 24, 1844), your local "news"paper printer did not systematically have access to news that the man in the street couldn't learn as fast as the printer learned it. In recognition of that fact, "newspapers" of that time were usually weeklies, not dailies - and some "newspapers" had no deadline at all and just went to press when the printer was good and ready.
Famously, Hamilton and Jefferson each sponsored a newspaper - and each used his newspaper to promote his political vision and to criticize that of the other. Obviously, neither of those newspapers was about to concede that its rival was "objective." And that was typical of newspapers of the day - their central mission wasn't dissemination of news but, like the National Review or The Nation of today, to promote their printers' political agendas. So much for the idea that the First Amendment "freedom of the press" clause was established only to protect the transmission of objective reports of the news. The framers had no reason to expect any such thing - no more than, in actual fact, you or I do today.
But where did we - you and I, scarcely less than the typical "sheeple" - ever get the idea that journalism could be, should be - even is - "objective?" Simple. We were told that by an illegal monopoly known as The Associated Press. The Associated Press was founded in 1848 as the New York Associated Press, and it was from its founding an aggressive monopoly institution. The AP systematically cut exclusive deals with all telegraph lines to transmit its "newswire" to its member newspapers and not to do the same for any other news service which tried to compete with the AP. More to the point, membership in the AP became the sine qua non for daily newspapers. If you weren't a member of the AP, you simply couldn't compete with any paper which was a member of the AP in the new business of disseminating news from all over the country.
That was too obviously an unprecedented concentration of public influence to escape notice and challenge. But the AP had an answer to the objection to their monopoly - it pointed out that the members of the AP were, as suggested a paragraph ago, famously fractious and independent of each other. So, the AP argued, the AP was not a monolith with a single opinion - and therefore the AP was "objective."
But of course we have seen that in fact, today, journalism does act as a monolith and not as a babel of competing voices of various political stripes. Even when the editorial page of a paper such as The Wall Street Journal unquestionably has an conservative outlook, the "straight news" - the body of the newspaper - has a "liberal" cast to it. The question of interest is not whether journalism is "liberal," but why (and, while we are on the topic, why "liberal" belongs in quotes). In the context of the above discussion, we need not look far. Essentially, the AP transformed the business model of the newspapers from the particular editor to the general "journalism" as an institution. From what we would now call "opinion," to so-called "hard news." But since news is only a subset of what is known at any given time, the political cast of journalism is simply the criteria by which that subset is gleaned from the totality of what the editor knows, or believes.
The essence of the business model of the AP newspaper is attracting the attention of an audience, now. The rules which journalism proposes as constituting their "objectivity" reflect what interests the public - and that is quite a different matter from what is "in the public interest." "There's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper" is a counsel of superficiality, "'Man Bites Dog,' not 'Dog Bites Man'" is a counsel of unrepresentativeness, and "If it bleeds, it leads" is a counsel of negativity. IOW, there is always news, and the news is always bad, and the news is always important even if it doesn't really signify anything enduringly true. In that sense, what defines newspapers is not the public interest, it is actually radicalism.
Consequently there is no reason for so-called "objective journalism" to be independent of the Democratic Party, nor vice versa. In fact there is a powerful symbiosis between the two, which explains why there is a revolving door between journalism and Democratic, but not Republican, political operatives. According to Safire's New Political Dictionary, the meaning of the term "liberal" underwent a transformation "Liberalism" previously meant essentially the opposite of socialism; by 1930 it mean, in America alone, essentially the opposite of that. Such a complete transformation could not have happened that rapidly without the participation of Associated Press journalism.
At the beginning of this post I styled the AP an illegal monopoly, and that was not mere rhetoric. It was found to be so by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1945. The McCain-Feingold act presumes to give Associated Press Journalism rights of free expression which it would deny to those who are not members of the AP. That is patently unconstitutional, and it is an irony of this campaign that patriots to whom McCain-Feingold is anathema find themselves with no option other than to vote for Senator McCain.
The FEC found the two were not coordinating their efforts, but even if they had been, the agency said it wouldn't have been a violation of the rules. Blogs fall under the "media" exemption of the campaign laws, just like when a newspaper quotes campaign materials or talks to campaign staffers or even champions a candidate.
This is good news, without a doubt - but in a better world, McCain-Feingold would have never been given the approval of SCOTUS in McConnell v. FEC - indeed, never been signed. No, never even been proposed, let alone passed.
Or, in a better world, you would have a spare billion that you could push onto the table and take Feingold back to SCOTUS, where the balance has shifted in the Constitution's favor by the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor from 5-4 against to, presumably, 5-4 for.
Without the conceit that journalists are super citizens who are "objective" and thus more equal than the rest of us, McCain-Feingold could never make any sense at all to an American. And without the Associated Press, the conceit that journalism is objective would itself never have made any sense to Americans. And, according to this excellent site, the Associated Press was held by SCOTUS to be a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1945.
This is the most powerful statement I've seen about the possibility that McCain will win the election.Mr. Obama is doomed to defeat.
The article does not speak of the "possibility" that McCain will win the election. It flatly states that McCain will win the election.
Right now it feels like there is a possibility - nay, a probability, based on the polls and on the betting odds - that Obama will win. On November 5 (presumably - there's always the example of FL 2000) that probability will collapse to zero or will explode to 100%. One or the other.
If you know that Obama will not win, you have already bet the farm against people who think that he will win. If you haven't done that, you don't know that Obama will lose.
And if in fact Obama does win, you not only will lose your bet, America will lose big time, and you with it. The fact that we would lose so much if Obama won may have motivated some people to hedge against that possibility by betting that Obama will in fact win. Thereby increasing the betting odds that Obama will win.
In reality a bet against Obama is a bet against the ability of Big Journalism to con the American people into voting for him. The fact that Big Journalism is a monopoly (due to the Associated Press, found by SCOTUS to be a monopoly in 1945) allows Big Journalism to promote its own interests in the guise of "objectively" promoting the public interest. And the interest of Big Journalism is in public regard for Big Journalism. Since the "capitalist system" and not Big Journalism provides us with our necessities, the interest of Big Journalism is to criticize, condemn, and complain about the capitalist system. The positive labels ("progressive," "liberal) assigned to socialists in America by Big Journalism are simply the symptom of the fact that socialists promote the same things that Big Journalism promotes.
Big Journalism - an industry which was created by the monopolistic (ruled as such by SCOTUS in 1945) Associated Press, calls itself "objective" and calls politicians who cooperate with their second guessing of the productive "progressive" or "liberal." "Liberalism" is a gutless choice because you guarantee a propaganda wind at your back that way.The Democrats are not attacking Palin, at least not directly. The MSM is attacking Palin, and they have nothing to lose.
So when you say that
what you really mean is that the socialists who call themselves "liberal" aren't attacking Palin, the socialists who call themselves "objective journalists" are.
But since a socialist who is called "liberal" can get a job as a reporter and instantly become an "objective journalist" (George Stephanopolis, poster boy) but there is no example of such a transformation from conservative to "objective journalist," the distinction between "objective journalist" and "liberal" is not even skin deep.
In other words, when Obama says that he will fire anyone in his campaign who attacks Bristol Palin, he is just playing "good cop" - secure in the knowledge that Big Journalism will continue its "bad cop" operation without restraint.
6 years vs 2 years as governor. Survived reelection as governor. Close but obviously more qualified.Tim Pawlenty seems like a terrific fellow and fine governor, but he is not obviously more qualified than Palin.
The whole issue of "executive experience" is slightly off the mark. I absolutely consider executive experience to be of great value. But it is not necessarily what the candidate learned in all that experience - it is what the electorate learned about the candidate.
IOW, it is not "time in grade" that counts but, in a real sense, the opposite - how long it takes the candidate to be considered worthy of promotion.
And that is actually an argument against John McCain, and for Barak Obama. If McCain wins he will set the record for attaining the presidency after a longer time in Washington than anyone else has ever done. To counter that argument you have to make the case against the Democratic Party which has elevated Obama to their highest position. What is the quality of their nominations in the past, and have they vetted their nominee?
If you look at the Democratic Party you have to consider that between 1968 and 1972 it finished its transformation into the party of criticism, condemnation, and complaint. The fallacy of that was delineated by Theodore Roosevelt in 1911:There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.Actually socialism - so-called "liberalism" - is really nothing other than the elevation of criticism over performance. So we see Democrats systematically criticizing the police and the military for brutality and/or ineffectiveness. And claiming that the oil companies do not provide enough fuel and demand too much credit for delivering the fuel that they do provide. And the same, essentially, for the medical profession and any other industry that gets too important.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds . . .
And what the Democratic Party has done in nominating Barak Obama is to elevate to its top position a man who is a lot better and slyer at criticizing than in actually doing. The difference between criticism and performance is actually embodied in what Obama claims is his executive experience running his own multimillion dollar campaign for the nomination. What he is actually claiming is that he knows how to direct people and resources into the task of criticizing opponents without getting blamed for being unfair.
The firestorm of media criticism of Sarah Palin, her husband who got drunk once (back at about the same time that Obama was using cocaine), her seventeen year old daughter (and for all we know her dog if she has one) is of a piece with official Democratic Party criticism of everyone who works to a bottom line. Criticism is what journalism is good at, and nothing in the world is more natural than for critics who are journalists to be in perfect alignment with critics who are politiicans. As the ease with which George Stephanopolis switched from "liberal political activist" to "objective journalist" illustrates.
Sarah Palin does not have the same duration of political experience as senator-for-life Joe Biden, and she doesn't have as much executive experience as dozens of Repulican governors could boast. What she does have is a record of accomplishment which has fueled a meteoric rise from PTA leader to nominee for vice president (not president, yet) of the United States. She is entirely qualified for a position which has no executive authority but rather is heir to that authority for a specific 4-year term. It otherwise carries an implicit 1/2 vote in the senate (an ability to vote only when the senate is otherwise tied), and carries the requirement that the candidate for it not be from the same state as the candidate for president.
That last provision is properly understood as a mandate for an identity which helps unify the country, and that arguably is served by a candidate who is a woman. It would also be well served by a black candidate - but Sarah Palin has far better executive credentials than any black American - of either party. And it could be argued that in fact the Democratic Party has in fact implemented that mandate in an inverted fashion by selecting not their vice presidential candidate but their presidential candidate with an eye to representing the diversity in the country (but that is hardly Palin's fault).
And could that be the real point of the attacks on the media? To unify the Republican Party?
No, that is simply the cynical, media view.
Though as Lily Tomlin says, "No matter how cynical I get, it's just never enough to keep up."
You know, Roger Simon, that's precisely the trouble we have had with Big Journalism - no matter how cynical we try to be about the Big Journalism, you consistently exceed our expectations.
It's to the point that we are gradually realizing that the "codes of ethics" you love to post on your walls are there just so you can snicker to yourselves that so many of us are such rubes that we actually think those "codes" mean something about what you will and will not do. All experience, frankly runs counter to the idea that those "codes" mean anything at all. They are just "boob bait" and nothing more.
What predicts your behavior is nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with what's in your own self - make that "special" - interest. Journalism is a special interest and, through the mechanism of the Associated Press, a monopoly one at that. It is not any objective reality other than your own interest which makes you collude with all other journalists to claim that journalism is "objective." The only thing which sustains that fatuous conceit is the fact that all journalists go along and get along with each other, rather than competing in the sense that the public takes for granted that you should. And really knows that you do not do.
I have a buddy who says that eventually the media will come around, but I dont think they will
. Actually, they can't. Their business model requires that the public buy assumption that journalism is objective - but it also requires that journalism function as a special interest which needs, and actually manufactures, bad news.
And the public is beginning to notice . . .
I appreciate your ping. Good article regarding our discussion. I have studied the media from a business perspective and have a somewhat different view, but I understand where you are coming from and appreciate that side of the elephant, too.
I like your handle. It speaks volumes.
A well deserved bump.
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