Skip to comments.C-SPAN Falls Over the Edge
Posted on 03/17/2005 3:28:12 PM PST by alan alda
C-SPAN often teeters on the brink of self-parody, particularly when the hosts of its morning discussion program, Washington Journal, stare impassively at the camera while yet another crazed caller recites chapter and verse of the latest conspiracy theories involving the Trilateral Commission or the Bush familys Nazi/Saudi/Zionist/ KGB/CIA ties (choose one or more and dont think twice about any seeming contradictions).
Formed in 1979 as, in the words of its mission statement, a private, non-profit company...by the cable television industry as a public service....to provide public access to the political process, C-SPAN is deadly serious about maintaining a reputation for non-partisanship to the point even of allowing viewers to disseminate, unchallenged, all manner of unsubstantiated charges and outright lies.
But the ideal of non-partisanship, admirable when it comes to covering Congress and political conventions, can become something else entirely when used to provide respectability to lunatic-fringe ideologues who insist that a copiously documented, relatively recent historical event never really happened. And this is where C-SPAN has at last fallen over the brink and become a parody of it own sanctimoniousness.
C-SPAN had planned to televise a speech at Harvard by Emory University Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, whose new book, History on Trial, recounts her legal victory over Holocaust denier David Irving, who sued her for libel in Britain over material in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust. But then Lipstadt was informed by the sages at C-SPAN that, in the interest of balance, theyd also be airing an appearance by someone on the other side of the argument who, it turned out, was none other than David Irving.
Lipstadt refused to go along with this exercise in non-judgmentalism, and, for now at least, it appears that her Harvard speech wont be seen on C-SPAN.
In a letter to Connie Doebele, a C-SPAN executive, David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies director Rafael Medoff expressed his organizations opposition to your reported decision to broadcast a lecture by Holocaust-denier David Irving, to balance your intended broadcast of a lecture by Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt.
Added Dr. Medoff: Just a few weeks ago, we concluded Black History Month. Presumably C-SPAN did not consider broadcasting a program about black history that would be balanced by a program featuring someone denying that African-Americans were enslaved. C-SPAN should not broadcast statements that it knows to be false, nor provide a platform for falsifiers of history, whether about the Holocaust, African-American history, or any other subject.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was less diplomatic than Medoff, describing as mindless what he termed C-SPANs cockeyed version of fairness. According to Cohen, the aforementioned and, apparently, astonishingly vapid Connie Doebele told him, You know how important fairness and balance is to us at C-SPAN. We work very, very hard at this. We ask ourselves, Is there an opposing view of this?
Not that any of this is new to Lipstadt, who was already running into the robotic mantra of fairness and balance back in the early 1990`s. As she wrote in Denying the Holocaust, describing one of several exasperating encounters with talk show bookers:
"The producer was incredulous. She found it hard to believe that I was turning down an opportunity to appear on her nationally syndicated televised show....I explained repeatedly that I would not participate in a debate with a Holocaust denier. The existence was not a matter of debate. I would analyze and illustrate who they were and what they tried to do, but I would not appear with them. (To do so....would elevate their antisemitic ideology which is what Holocaust denial is to the level of responsible historiography which it is not. Unwilling to accept my no as final, she vigorously condemned Holocaust denial and all it represented. Then, in one last attempt to get me to change my mind, she asked me a question: `I certainly dont agree with them, but dont you think our viewers should hear the other side?` "
Jason Maoz is senior editor of The Jewish Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow. That is ridiculous. Just goes to show that fair and balanced doesn't always mean giving equal airtime to both sides of every debate. Holocaust deniers and other racists don't deserve that sort of platform under any circumstances.
That's when Brian Lamb et. al. really earn their paychecks, IMHO. I sure couldn't do it.
Agreed...I'd hate to play Brian Lamb in poker...The guy is a stone face.
What kind of freeper names himself alan alda? I personally think c-span does a real good job. She took herself off the air. I don't have a problem with them showing the other guy talking. They have plenty of people on all the time that I disagree with strongly. But I am an adult and can think for myself. I don't need anyone to protect me from someone's ideas, thank you. And I appreciate Washington Journal's androidic approach to hosting. In fact, I'd like to see actual robots programmed to do it. So there.
BTW how did C-Span come up with this guy. Is he on a speakers list?
Ha! How about a staring contest between Washington Journal hosts? Or does anyone remember that old show "Make Me Laugh"? How about a CSPAN Make Me Laugh tournament?
How is it at her expense? She has the facts on her side? Are we saying holocaust deniers don't have the right to speak? I don't care if they do.
They are using HER speech, to give the anti-semites a forum.
I think a good analogy here would be if C-SPAN had on an academic who studied the pathology of pedophilia, and then to "balance" it, brought out a pedophiliac.
Hey guys - back off. Brian Lamb believes that since most of C-SPAN is coverage (and bloviating) of politicians and pundits, he thinks it's important that the average person gets to have a say, no matter how wise or foolish it may sound.
The segments on Washington Journal and other CSPAN shows that allow call-ins are the venues for this vox populi. Even if some of the callers sound like they are from Area 51, you can't say that CSPAN doesn't let them add to the debate. It's refreshing to see true balance in the news and political discussion, even if means the oddballs are in the chorus.
To expand on your analogy LiveBait, CSPAN could put the President of NAMBLA on Washington Journal, sitting an arms length from a stone faced Brian Lamb.
This is one of the best things about C-SPAN. Brian Lamb is especially good at this. Sometimes he lets someone who sounds nutty go on for an unusually long time, much longer than any of the other hosts, and then the caller ends up saying something that makes some sense. Lamb has said of these people: "More than once they have been right."
As for Lipstadt, I sometimes get the feeling that people like her are in it for their own self-glorification.
I know exactly what Lamb would say about this scenario, that it's the job of the callers to tell this person off.
IMHO Brian Lamb suffers from Andrew Sullivan syndrome.
That's not what the facts say. The facts say they are giving time to her adversary in her book. What's wrong with that? If you think the guy's an idiot, fine. Since when did idiocy become illegal?
Why else does he have enemies of the President front and center day in and day out.
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