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Joe Klein's Fatuous Fantasy

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Michael Collins

Time Magazine's Joe Klein is having an allergic reaction to free speech and public debate. The title of his latest column says it all: The Left's Idiocy on Health Reform. It's an ex cathedra pronouncement from a made man at one of the nation's oldest media properties.

What's got Joe so worked up?

Two things. He's upset at the lack of respect that internet based writers show for the mainstream media and Washington insiders. He's also beside himself that people are actually finding fault with the health care reform bill which many bloggers have the nerve to describe as just another government bailout for big business.

In the snarkier precincts of the left-wing blogosphere, mainstream journalists like me are often called villagers. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

That's some pretty nasty name calling isn't it. "Hey villager!" Accusing an entire class of people of idiocy pales by comparison. If I've ever read the term villager, I didn't pay enough attention to remember it. But let's take Joe's word that it's out there in all its rhetorical glory. According to Klein, leftist bloggers see villagers as "regurgitating spin spoon-fed by our sources or conjuring a witless conventional wisdom that has nothing to do with reality as it is lived outside the village." Now there's some idiocy from Joe's keyboard to our screens.

What Joe is doing at the start is an old trick called setting up a straw man. You create the perceived problem on your own but label it as your opponent's position. You tailor it for your purposes with a little accuracy added for effect. Then you blast the straw man to smithereens in a self righteous rejoinder. Those who fabricate a straw man are essentially talking to themselves. The straw man fallacy is one of the first taught in logic classes because it is so easy to spot and so far afield from any form of serious dialog.

It's a good thing Joe did this. Had he paid serious attention, he would have noted that over and over, on blogs and web sites of many persuasions, citizens refer to Joe's kind of mainstream journalism as " the corporate media. It's a dispassionate descriptor that invokes nearly immediate understanding.

Corporations almost never tolerate public criticisms or critiques of the corporate products and services from their employees. Corporate employees are aware of this rule. You go along or you find someone else to pay your salary. There are eight major corporations that "dominate" the United States news media. The obvious conclusion is that opinion journalists and reporters, to a lesser degree, have certain clear limits in their expression of opinions and reporting.

Given the problems with monopolistic behavior, predatory business practices, rigging regulations through bought and sold members of Congress, and the ultimate goal, the transfer of wealth from just about everybody to the financial elite running the major corporations, the corporate injunction against going after the company results in a corporate media that often fails to get to the bottom of our current troubles. It's not a secret or a veiled conspiracy . It's just the way parent corporations treat their subsidiaries and employees. But Joe doesn't want to go there.

Joe takes down the straw man of his own creation by accusing the leftists of living in a "claustrophobic hamlet," emulating Fox News, and a few other asides. However, once you know the straw man trick, it's hard to take the author's rebuttal seriously.

Actually, both the left and right opponents of health care reform are drinking from the same watercooler. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

After creating an interior dialog that he says represents a reality that he calls idiocy, Joe gets around to talking about health reform. He feels the need to explalin why there is so much opposition by citizens, his leftists. Klein offers this.

"The dyspepsia of the left blogosphere is less easily explained, though. It has its roots in an issue the left got right and almost everyone else got wrong: the war in Iraq."

This statement is factually incorrect. It was not only the left that got Iraq right, it was the left, the right (the paleocons, Ron Paul and his supporters), a majority of Democrats, and a majority of Republicans. Some of those good citizens were swayed by the scare tactics of a president we now know lied repeatedly about weapons of mass destruction and much more. This occurred with the support of Klein's mainstream media which failed to ask the tough questions we'd like from journalists.

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you are, once again, sadly right on target.the mor... by Joan Brunwasser on Friday, Jan 1, 2010 at 9:29:47 AM
I just loved this piece. Bravo! A while back and i... by Chaz Valenza on Friday, Jan 1, 2010 at 4:58:09 PM
Klein is the tipe of the decayed spear of media co... by Michael Collins on Friday, Jan 1, 2010 at 5:38:03 PM
is the description given to the Washington DC-base... by Richmond Gardner on Friday, Jan 1, 2010 at 6:09:53 PM
Klein lumps two disparate movements together and u... by Michael Collins on Friday, Jan 1, 2010 at 6:44:43 PM