This week in the Huffington Post, my good friend Marty Kaplan has been documenting the scrambly responses of CNN to the charge that they protected the GOP candidates from difficult questions at the You Tube/CNN debate in a way they clearly did not protect Democratic candidates during their similar debate earlier this year. CNN has dealt with the charges by trotting out various spokestoads to deny them, to confirm them and then to justify them. (If you haven't read his piece, check the 12/7/2007 Huffington Post for the full story with a full complement of updates.)
When one escapes the oxygen-free hilarity of the CNN response, one reflects that a phenomenon of the past seven to twenty-seven years has been infiltration of CNN, PBS, CPB, and other news organizations with bush- or reagan-party flacks who don't think critically or analytically but only decide moment by moment what sounds least incriminating. (I try to distinguish between the Constitution-respecting Republican party and the Constitution-defiling bush- and reagan-partisans.)
Their behavior is reminiscent of the irresponsible elementary school student who arrives at school ill prepared. He asserts that the dog ate his homework until it's discovered that he didn't even write down what the assignment was, at which point it becomes the teacher's fault for not reminding him that there was homework. And besides, they don't even own a dog, so there's no way they'd use that as an excuse--that would be ridiculous and an obvious lie. What? Are you accusing them of LYING??? etc.
And a hundred echo machines go forth to sing "dog ate it, teacher didn't assign it, schools failed the student--the student didn't fail, and besides the dog ate it." Or as Al Franken liked to say, "He didn't lend me his platter, I returned the platter in perfect condition, and besides the platter was broken when he loaned it to me."
The reason these folks are such poor and obvious liars is that they have achieved their positions after a lifetime of toadying instead of a lifetime of professionalism. For those of us who have worked and struggled and learned the hard way to get the story straight, to tell the truth the first time, and to take our f*cking lumps if it comes to that, these little gems by bushites and reaganites sound like the excuses of children--cute almost to the point of being amusing--until one realizes that these children aren't going to grow out of this phase. They are already in positions of authority and have enough fellow toadies around them to keep them in power no matter how they abuse it. It would be no challenge for them to start spreading the most vicious lies about any of us, and they would not stop until we were unable to work, unable to pay a mortgage, homeless, hopeless, or dead. The recent past is scattered with examples of people murdered or at least destroyed as human beings by the news.
This infrastructure lies crumbling under the hideous, fallen-circus-tent kudzuscape of the news like a dead forest awaiting patiently a carelessly tossed cigarette butt. Just knowing this drains my soul of hope for the future. (If you've never traveled in the southeast, there are regions where you can drive for miles and rarely see a living, healthy tree because year after year the kudzu has climbed everything that protrudes from the ground and covered it with netting under whose weight buildings, fenceposts, telephone poles, and trees lean and rot, rust and crumble, and eventually collapse. It always makes me think of the Soviet ambassador's words in Dr. Strangelove: "...a doomsday shroud...")
Tonight on NBC Nightly News, Lisa Myers anchored a minifeature about Giuliani's business ethics, never once mentioning his involvement with the folks in Qatar who are suspected of having funded and helped to plan 9/11, (to the extent of having hosted Osama bin Laden) who escaped the FBI because someone (underscore "someone" as if I had a pretty good idea of who it was) let them know the FBI was on their trail, and who, most disturbingly, appear to remain clients of Giuliani Associates long after 9/11. No mention, Lisa? I remember Lisa covering the Bush campaign as if it was the return of Camelot. I really don't think she should have been the one to report on Giuliani, Bush's hand-picked successor. I am not saying Lisa Myers is a toad. Perhaps she is simply incompetent. Or there might be other equally valid excuses for her failure to pursue the story where it leads.
Recently I joined the mailing list of Media Matters. Ever since, I've been receiving three to seven postings a day of irresponsible journalism--and not just by Fox "journalists" but also by supposedly trained and seasoned newspeople at NBC News, the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and other so-called legitimate and mainstream media. They get the facts wrong. Or they allow their target to use an easily recognized technique like knocking down a straw man without following up or confronting the target. Sometimes they allow a pundit to egregiously misstate a set of facts without correcting them or even checking whether the facts are fictitious.
We need to become obnoxious about these practices, in my opinion. We need to start confronting the news organizations with their incompetence, their willingness to allow lies to stand as truth, and their unwillingness to track down the truth of a matter but rather simply state opposing positions as of they were commensurate (even when one is patently true and the other just a patently untrue). It's at least as important as our generally successful efforts to confront Congress with its failures.
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