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November 21, 2012

The Other Benghazi Scandal: The Media's Performance

After noting the obvious -- that the press has given Obama a complete pass because he's a liberal Democrat they root for -- Peter Wehner concludes:

For some journalists, it’s fairly clear as to why: they had a rooting interest in Mr. Obama winning and they carried a deep dislike, even contempt, for Governor Romney. But for many others I think the explanation is more subtle and in some respects more problematic. They appear to be completely blind to their biases and double standards. If you gave them sodium pentothal, they would say they were being objective. Self-examination, it turns out, is harder than self-justification. And of course being surrounded with people who share and reinforce your presuppositions and worldview doesn’t help matters. (A model for today’s reporters is Richard Harwood, a Washington Post reporter who called his editor in Washington, Ben Bradlee, and asked to be taken off the 1968 Robert Kennedy campaign on the day of the California primary because he sensed he was, in the words of RFK biographer Evan Thomas, losing his “newsman’s reserve and … his objectivity.”)

In general, journalists receive critiques like this with indignation. They enjoy holding up public officials, but not themselves, to intense scrutiny. They insist that their personal biases never bleed into their story selection or coverage. But the outstanding ones and the honest ones would admit, though perhaps only to themselves, that the double standard is real and troubling, that it’s injurious to their profession, and that things really do need to change. Perhaps because they still know why they got into journalism in the first place—not for advocacy but to report the news in a relatively even-handed manner, to “speak truth to power,” regardless of the political views of those in power, and to pursue stories in a way that is fair and unafraid.

Today such an attitude sounds almost quaint.

He's correct when he notes how indignantly and angrily and dismissively the press responds to criticisms about their obvious liberal bias.

I think of it like this: If you tell someone who's not an alcoholic that he's drinking too much, he'll take an interest in your statement. He might be incredulous, but he'll ask things like, "Do you really think I'm drinking too much? Have I gotten out of hand?" Your allegation might come as a surprise to him, and he might doubt you, but he'd probably be curious to find out if maybe he does have a problem, or if, at least, he's engaged in behavior suggesting he's got a problem.

He'll actually cast his mind back to nights when he was drinking, trying to remember if he did something embarrassing.

Now, take an alcoholic who knows goddamned well he's an alcoholic and has chosen to continue being an alcoholic and is pretty goddamned sick of people telling him he's an alcoholic because he just wants to keep on drinking at an alcoholic level. Now tell him he's got a problem. He'll tell you "I don't have a problem, you have a problem, now why don't you mind your own business instead of sticking your nose into other people's lack of problems?"

He'll be angry about it because 1, he knows you're right, but 2, he has no intention of ever changing this and just wants you to stop noticing he's an alcoholic.

If You Want To Punk The Media... Call them up claiming to be a black activist, interested in hashing out whether the media has a bias against blacks. You'll find them courteous and apologetic and willing to kick the idea around, to see if it has any merit.

Now call them up claiming to be interested in a probe into whether they have an anti-conservative bias. They will be dismissive and rude.

See, no one's really offended to be accused of a flaw they don't have. They might be amused by the claim, or somewhat bothered, but it doesn't really get at them.

Accuse someone of a sin they do commit and suddenly all defensive machinery of the ego kicks in -- defensiveness, dismissiveness, derision.

Call a fat guy "Big Nose" and you'll just get an eye-roll. Call a fat guy "Fat Guy" and you'll get some angry words.


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posted by Ace at 04:46 PM

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