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February 22, 2007

Decent CJR Piece On The Media's Anti-Blogger Animus

Kinda sorta balanced, which is surprising, coming from CJR. But only superficially so.

Because to get that balance, the writer has to draft Tony Snow into the media, which he currently isn't, in order to find an example of a right-leaning voice in the media speaking out against bloggers. Which just sort of shows you how difficult it is to find a conservative in the media.

What binds the critique of Gregory and Snow, it seems, is an annoyance with the blogosphere's insistence on seeing everything in political terms. Don't they understand? We are objective. The White House tells us all it knows, in as clear and direct a way as it can. And the press corps -- the people's proxy -- asks the questions it needs to get at that information.

They can't be so nave to believe this - to both imagine there is no spin or obfuscation, and that there is no political motivation beating in the hearts of reporters. The only other reason then for swatting away at what are actually - to be honest here - fairly powerless bloggers, is that they are genuinely scared. It's not that blogs have brought a new politicization of the coverage. White House briefings, for example, have always been charged with politics. After all, it is the president's version of events trying to beat out the others. What blogs bring is scrutiny. There is more of it. And this is what unites a David Gregory and a Tony Snow. They are being watched and picked apart by that many more millions of eyes. And this means journalists have to be more careful, choose their words more wisely, make their questions smarter and more aggressive. Press secretaries, for their part, have been forced to more quickly address criticism, answer questions more clearly than they have in the past, and be more accountable for flip-flops and lies.

Now, remind us again, what's wrong with that?

Couple of points. Snow's actual complaint was:

"You've got this democratic age of the media. I'll occasionally punch it up," he admits. "You've got this wonderful, imaginative, hateful stuff that comes flying out."

So Snow was noting, correctly, that there's some good stuff coming out of the democratic Young Media, but an awful lot of "hateful stuff," which is undeniably true. And while it's impossible to tally up all that hate and compare, it does seem that most of the hate is coming from one side of the aisle, the side where spitting rage counts as a coherent argument.

And very annoying is this:

...Richard Wolffe, Newsweek's White House correspondent, offered the coup de grace: "They want us to play a role that isn't really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. ... It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender... It's not a political exercise, it's a journalistic exercise. And I think often the blogs are looking for us to be political advocates more than journalistic ones."

At first, this seems unobjectionable -- until you realize whom he's talking about. He's talking about leftwing bloggers, as they're obviously the ones demanding the press corps admit its deep liberal biases and unapologetically act upon them. Which means, in turn, he's only reading leftwing blogs -- apparently they're the only ones whose opinions count.

I see this a lot from the MSM -- they only lower themselves to respond to complaints from the sinistrosphere, because 1, it's only the opinons of fellow liberals they respect and only their criticisms that sting, and 2, because they're only reading such blogs in the first place.

You are what you eat, they say, and your mind is similarly what you read. The media is defensive against and ultimately responsive to the leftwing bloggers' charge that they were too supine in acting as "Bush's stenographers" in the run-up to the war; and yet there are thousands upon thousands of posts written in the dextrosphere pointing out their much better documented anti-Bush, anti-war biases, and yet these complaints don't seem to cause any "heart-ache" whatsoever. They don't read them, and even if they do -- who cares what a bunch of rightwing nutjobs think, anyhow?

It's the critiques from the left that rankle, and, by jimminy, while they'll object to the left's call for them to be out-and-proud political actors, they are quite willing to meet them half way, and be tough, strong in their relentless criticism of the war, the president, etc.

As Pamela Hess pointed out, her media colleagues now take any question about the real national-security implications of a failure in Iraq as "carrying Bush's water." And yet they do not pause to consider that their stubborn refusal to consider such a national security debacle is, effectively, carrying John Murtha's and Nancy Pelosi's water for them. Only the first is forbidden; if Murtha and Pelosi happen to benefit from the media's, err, intellectual incuriousity about the true costs of defeat, why that's just a price they'll have to pay, isn't it?

This is exactly why I was so infuriated by the media's reaction to Stephen Colbert's criticism of them at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. For thirty years, those on the right have been exposing the media's blatant left-wing bias, and yet it only took a TV clown's comedy act to convince them that they were too biased in favor of Republicans and Bush. They acted hurt by his criticism, but it was the pain of a masochist saying "hurt me, hurt me" -- they took pleasure in the kiss of the whip, because it reinforced their pre-existing belief that they just weren't liberal enough in their reportage, and they'd have to start doing better. And boy did they.

Thanks to JackStraw.

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posted by Ace at 03:55 PM

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