Sunday, May 22, 2005

Response to Jay Rosen's Trust-Me Journalism and the Newsweek Retraction

Post #1


"We ought to fix responsibility for riots with rioters..."

Actually, the specific Scott McLellan and Lawrence di Rita charge was not that riots were caused, but that "lives were lost." "People died because these sons of bitches reported this story," as di Rita put it. So we also need to ask, "Why did these protestors in Afghanistan die?"

Because Afghan security forces shot to kill is the obvious answer. There are many "riots" around the world where 100% of the violence comes from the "security" forces. If it turns out that these "rioters" were shot by Afghan security forces under completely unjustified circumstances, what do we have to say to McLellan and di Rita's attempt to make Newsweek responsible for criminal acts on the part of American-trained Afghan "allies"?

Why are the Afghans shooting their own citizens? McLellan and di Rita appear to think it goes without saying. There is another agenda here that the Bush cartel is pushing on the domestic front and Jay's summary is failing to challenge: the position that protest is intrinsically illegitimate and that protestors who are shot are getting what they deserve. Of course, this is in tension with their simultaneous claim that it is Newsweek's fault, but it is also a necessary premise of the White House line on this story. This is the brand of democracy the Bush administration is exporting: protestors will naturally be shot on sight. Is it any wonder that in their minds non-complying media (media that report any whiff of the truth in any form) are traitors?

Post #2

Jay,
I would add to your thoughtful analysis the point that Newsweek's premise, that this is a question of government's own confirmation of previous allegations against it, again falls into the administration's game. The press is still trying to get the object of the investigation to confirm that they are guilty and they are being repeatedly burned by an adminstration that sends mixed signals and then hangs the media out to dry when it refuses to convict itself. GET ANOTHER STANDARD FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM! is the obvious answer. When was the last story from Greg Palast that the US governemnt confirmed? How supportive was the Nixon administration of the Washington Post investigation? When will the press GROW UP and stop letting the administration be the central player in investigations of its own wrongdoing?

The bottom line, which confirms your main point, is that the case has to be so airtight that the media outlet is able to rationally take on Scott McLellan and Lawrence di Rita for a number of weeks until their outrageous lies are exposed for what they really are. We need investigative journalism that is solid enough to support media calling lies lies and we need media owners with a passing interest in the relation between truth and their own credibility. The longer major media play footsie with the truth as the Bush administration demands, the more deeply their credibility plummets. It is their complicity with propaganda that leaves them defenseless when they are accused of treason for periodically telling the truth.

Seymour Hersh and Greg Palast are nearly the only journalists worthy of the name over the last five years, with Walter Pincus as honorable mention. When an administration lies on a daily basis, exposure of their lies is a consequence of their actions, not a consequence of partisanship. It is as if McLellan and di Rita were complaining that the media were exposing their own spousal abuse at every opportunity, even when it is not newsworthy. If they stopped beating their spouses, they wouldn't have this problem (This is a hypothetical example). If the Bush administration stopped lying routinely, they wouldn't have this "partisanship of reality" problem, either.

Post #3

Jay,
Can we expect a column on the spiking of the Downing Street memo story? It is pretty clear that while the aggressive White House offense on the Newsweek story violates their decertify the press strategy, it certainly sticks to the paramount Rovean strategy of name-calling and active distraction when items of REAL WORLD concern raise their heads.

No one disputes the veracity of the Downing Street memo that absolutely establishes the fundamental mendacity of the Bush catastrophe administration. Is that why we aren't talking about it? Because its good journalism and that's not interesting?

It's getting to the point where the mainstream US media is doing a parody of the Right's claims about it, they can only report bad journalism that challenges the administration. When good journalism challenges the administration, that's not newsworthy for some reason. What is the reasoning here? Are they afraid to be right and that they'll have to suffer the consequences of truth?

I have never seen Buzzflash's original, "Bush Lied, People Died" tagline disseminated in a major media story. Ever. Not once. But the right's rejoinder is all over the place this week.

That together with the refusal to run the Downing Street Memo on the front page of any American newspaper and buried inside the two papers that bothered to acknowledge its existence are a one sentence refutation of Hitchen's hacktacular accusation of anti-Bush bias in the press. It is empirically false.

There is an anti-lie, anti-failure bias in the press, timid as they are. Living with the consequences of your actions is called being an adult. This is a Peter Pan administration and the MSM is flying right after them into Never Never Land. Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News are a tagteam Tinkerbell.

When the White House attacks the media you may safely assume that the faith-based shadow that allows Peter Pan to fly is coming undone.

What is new about our current media environment is the overwhelming dominance of Media players whose career is built on excommunicating anyone who even timidly suggests that Never Never Land is not on the planet Earth.

How can tyrants be victims at the same time? That is the pretzel logic that dominates our public life. Go figure...