October 13, 2007
To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. – Edward R. Murrow
To be fair, I will assume that Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC, is not being mendacious in his defense of his subversion of democracy this week. I will assume that somewhere in his soul, he has actually convinced himself that the nonsense he uses as excuses is reality. Lastly, I will assume that he has forgotten the purpose of his role in the press. That purpose is to report without preference and bias. It is to report, not determine the news. In the era of Fox News, it is hard to remember the true role of the press. It is easy to sell your convictions for the price of believing you are doing something right. In the end though, turning your network into the American version of Pravda, does not serve the people you pretend to report to. It will only serve the machine which you have now become a part of.
At issue is the republican debate held this past week in Michigan, hosted and covered by the NBC family. No matter how the network might feel about the viability of one candidacy or the next, to openly decide to bias the debate against any candidate is not serving any greater good. It is certainly not responsible journalism. But to further subvert democracy by pulling a post-debate online poll because you didn’t like the results speaks volumes to the brazen stupidity of the network and relegates it to level of the National Enquirer, or the aforementioned Fox News. That means it cannot be considered a serious player in the news business. It simply no longer can be trusted, assuming it was to begin with.
First, the network slighted Ron Paul and the alleged “second tier” candidates by giving them such paucity of air time compared to the anointed candidates that the bias was palpable from the beginning. Ron Paul, who continues to out perform such mainstays as John McCain, was given the least amount of time to respond to questions and dramatically so. That aside, CNBC decided to run an online poll after the debate so that people could vote on how they thought the debate went. As usual, the online community felt inspired by Ron Paul, no matter how the network tried to downplay him. Soon, the results were overwhelming in favor of Dr. Paul. That is when Allen Wastler felt he knew better than the rest of you. He decided to pull the poll.
In his open letter the next day, after facing a flood of emails protesting his subversion of democracy, Wastler whined that because Paul does not perform that way in any “legit” poll, he decided that his poll was either hacked or the “target of a campaign.” Excuse me? First of all, Ron Paul has won every online poll after every debate, so the notion that the results were somehow out of the ordinary is stupid on its face. Secondly, Wastler knows darn well that his poll was not “hacked” and to insinuate otherwise is nothing short of an outright lie. Thirdly, the “target of a campaign” comment is equally silly. You asked the questions and people voted their answers in. That is how it works. Fox tried to get cute after their debate and changed it to a text vote to try and see if that would settle the Ron Paul question. The results had Sean Hannity in a conniption as Dr. Paul still trounced his opponents. The sorry fact that people like Wastler doesn’t seem to get is that he cannot control cyberspace as mainstream polls can control their outcomes. He doesn’t get to select or anoint the winner.
Let’s take a look at the first question on the pulled poll. “Who do you think stood out from the pack?” The result was 86% for Dr. Paul before being pulled by Wastler. Is it really that hard to see this result for what it was, the truth? On stage you had eight guys saying they could blow up Iran better then the other guys. The only one who said the troops should come home was Paul. On stage you had eight guys claiming they had the right to start a war without congressional approval and only Dr. Paul had the guts to remind them that Constitution said otherwise. Quite frankly, Dr. Paul was the only candidate who stood out from the pack because the gang of eight were merely carbon copies of George Bush.
Wastler continued in his open letter:
But you also ruined the purpose of the poll. It was no longer an honest "show of hands" -- it suddenly was a platform for beating the Ron Paul drum. That certainly wasn't our intention and certainly doesn't serve our readers ... at least those who aren't already in the Ron Paul camp.
Right, we can’t have that Mr. Wastler. We cannot have the truth getting in the way of your political agenda. You get to decide what your readers see. You get to determine that they do not need to know that the majority of people who voted in your online poll thought Ron Paul won the debate. Of course it was an honest show of hands. The poll was not rigged. Anyone could vote. Perhaps you could successfully argue that supporters of Paul are more Internet savvy than the other eight but to infer that the poll became unfair because the majority of people voting didn’t vote the way you would have liked is beyond disingenuous. You do not get to decide the truth Mr. Wastler, no matter how much you apparently think you do. Showing he is truly clueless, Wastler concluded:
Some of you Ron Paul fans take issue with my decision to take the poll down. Fine. When a well-organized and committed "few" can throw the results of a system meant to reflect the sentiments of "the many," I get a little worried. I'd take it down again.
Are you kidding me Wastler? Your description is what you are doing to the process. You have selected and anointed the RudyMcRomney trifecta as where the candidate will come from. You and your committed “few” decided this before the first debate was even held. All other candidates were automatically relegated to the second tier. You crafted the questions in debates to reflect this. You crafted your coverage to reflect this. You decided to throw the results of a system meant to be for the many and reduced it to the whim of the anointed few. Somewhere along the line though, the people revolted against this idea. Somewhere along the way, the people decided that the message of Ron Paul was resonating. To hear someone in the GOP who represents true conservative values, not neo-conservative values was being received with joy across America. But you couldn’t deal with that could you Mr. Wastler? No, it must be a conspiracy. It must be a hacked poll. It must be a “campaign.” It must be anything other than what it obviously is because you think you have the power to create the news.
Somewhere alone the line you forgot your job and as such, you no longer deserve to have your job. You open letter bragging about how you would do it again, shows that you truly do not get it. I hope the outrage continues to the point that your network is forced to do something about you, and your views of subverted democracy. Then you can be relegated to the garbage bin of history, not important enough to remember exactly what it was that you did. The small part you played is to remind everyone how the corporate media has sold out their journalistic ethics and are now but puppets of the machine.
Your colleague John Harwood at least was able to be intellectually honest enough to slap you back in place about your “hacked” poll nonsense, in his open letter. Harwood, the Chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC and Senior Contributing Writer for the Wall Street Journal, at least had to admit that the poll was not hacked and disagreed with the decision to pull the poll. Even though he was more honest, his rationale in the letter shows a glaring disregard for understanding the issue:
He lacks the support needed to win the GOP nomination, and would even if the media covered him as heavily as we cover Rudy Giuliani. Why? Because Paul's views--respectable, well-articulated and sincerely held as they are--are plainly out of step with the mainstream sentiment of the party he is running in.
Paul’s views are not that far out of the mainstream as Harwood would think. In fact, his views are more conservative and republican than the traditional neo-conservative views. The true fact is that the neo-cons have hijacked the Republican Party and if Harwood spent more time covering that than assuming traditional republicanism is dead, he would better serve his readers. Also, coverage goes a lot further than Mr. Harwood gives credit for. I disagree that covering Paul at the rate of Giuliani would have no effect. It would present polar opposite positions and that is what democracy should be embracing, not the notion that the press merely decides what is and what is not worth reporting. Why is it that Dr. Paul consistently gets the greatest applause? Why is it that he wins every online poll? Why is it that he out gains even top-tier candidates such as McCain? Those are the stories that should be covered. That would get Dr. Paul’s message out on par with the “blow up the world” guys. Then let people decide! That is democracy!