A Neutered American Lapdog is Advancing Agenda, not Reporting News

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2011

Dirty Journalists keep Politicians Clean

Poor Rupert Murdoch.  He’s getting no love from the British Establishment over the phone hacking scandal.  Those who once courted the “feral beast” (British tabloids) are turning against it.  Probably because the other political party wooed them more successfully.  And if you’re in politics, you want them on your side.  Because they’re good at their jobs (see In Defense of Hacks by Toby Harnden posted 7/21/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.)

Yes, they’re less Walter Cronkite and more Louie De Palma (a character on the American sitcom Taxi).  For a good journalist knows how to get dirty.  Like Louie, a good journalist is born dirty.

While the American press has certainly had its share of similar disgraces, it is true that American newspaper articles are in the main more accurate and better-researched than British ones; the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was not wrong when it ventured that Fleet Street has “long had a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true.” But stories in the American press also tend to be tedious, overly long, and academic, written for the benefit of po-faced editors and Pulitzer panels rather than readers. There’s a reason a country with a population one-fifth the size of that of the United States buys millions more newspapers each week.

For all their faults, British “rags” are more vibrant, entertaining, opinionated, and competitive than American newspapers. We break more stories, upset more people, and have greater political impact.

That’s the way American journalism was before the Political Class co-opted it.  And why ordinary Americans once read newspapers.  To keep an eye on the scoundrels we put into elected office.  It was one of the few things that kept our elected officials somewhat honest.  Or, at least, honest enough not to lose the next election.

In fact, for the British press, the most damaging revelation of the phone-hacking scandal is the degree to which it shows that journalists — or, to be more precise, News International executives — breached the inner sanctums of the British Establishment. A breed that had always taken pride in being made up of grubby outsiders was allowed in and made the most of the opportunity.

In the United States, journalists are already on the inside: Witness President Barack Obama’s private chats with op-ed columnists, the Washington Post and Time magazine types who effortlessly segue into White House press secretaries and the cozy consensus of Washington’s political-journalism-industrial complex. All too often, American editors, perhaps mindful of their future cocktail party invitations, would prefer their reporters stroke rather than stick it to authority. British journalistic excesses can rightly be condemned, but the American media could use a few more of them. It took the National Enquirer to bring Senator John Edwards to book — and Fleet Street would not have stood for the credulous U.S. reporting on the Bush administration that characterized the run-up to the Iraq war.

That’s the last thing you want.  Your journalists getting all warm and cozy with the people they’re supposed to keep honest.  You don’t want the media to be an adjunct of one party, following orders to advance an agenda while launching personal attacks on the other party.  A good journalist should hate all political authority equally.  And show no favoritism when destroying political careers.  

It is the very politicians who used every opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Murdoch and his acolytes who are now those calling for News International to be broken up — and for the media as a whole to be called to account. Their aim? A regulation system — probably headed up by new a government-appointed “independent” body — that produces a neutered press close to the American model. Having visited Washington and seen reporters stand up when the American president enters the room (British hacks do no such thing for the prime minister) and ask respectful, earnest three-part questions, no wonder our politicians would want more of the same.

The danger of the fevered atmosphere in Britain — where justified outrage over tabloid tactics is fast leading to a hasty public inquisition, with 10 official inquiries or investigations underway at last count — is that what Prime Minister Tony Blair once termed the “feral beast” of the media might be tamed and muzzled. Perhaps the worst outcome of all would be for it to be turned into an American-style lapdog.

If you want to learn about American politics (or journalism) read a British newspaper.  The British Establishment hates and fears them.  Because they do their job.  Whereas in America, the Political Class only hates and fears FOX NEWS and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc.).  Which tells you where to go to get your news.  Because if you want objective reporting, you have to go where they dare to be unflattering.  Unlike the sycophants in the ‘mainstream’ media.  For an unneutered feral beast is the only thing that will go for the political jugular.  And restrain the excess of our elected scoundrels.  I mean representatives.

And sometimes you need to get dirty.  Because getting dirty is sometimes the only way to keep politicians clean.

Good Journalism is more Reporting and less Stroke

If you watch FOX NEWS or listen to talk radio you’ll hear a different ‘version’ of the news than that on the mainstream media.  For example, the mainstream media has reported repeatedly polls citing that Americans want the Republicans to stop being intransigent and raise taxes already so the budget deal to raise the debt limit can move ahead.  Interesting how that ‘report’ meshes perfectly with the Obama administration policy agenda.  And yet Rasmussen reports a completely contrary poll finding (see Most Voters Fear Debt Deal Will Raise Taxes Too Much, Cut Spending Too Little posted 7/22/2011 on Rasmussen Reports).

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% of Likely U.S. Voters are worried more that Congress and President Obama will raise taxes too much rather than too little in any deal to end the debt ceiling debate. Just 26% fear they’ll raise taxes too little. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here…)

There’s a wide difference of opinion, however, between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Political Class is worried the deal will cut spending too much, while 63% of Mainstream voters fear it won’t cut spending enough. Those in the Mainstream worry more than Political Class voters by a near two-to-one margin – 70% to 37% – that the debt deal also will raise taxes too much.

It sounds like ordinary Americans don’t want higher taxes and more spending.  In fact, they are worried that any deal may raise taxes too much or cut spending too little.  Now this opposes the Obama administration policy agenda.  So I wonder which journalism is more reporting and less stroke?  And which is truer?

Entitlement Spending is the Cause of all our Budget Woes

Americans should be worried about raising taxes instead of cutting spending.  Because there is a much bigger problem out there (see Missing the Debt by Yuval Levin posted 7/21/2011 on The Corner).

…starting in the 2050s, CBO projects that health-care spending will be greater than all other non-interest spending combined, and the federal government will basically be a health insurer with some unusual side ventures like an army and a navy.

…health-care entitlement spending is basically 100 percent of our medium and long-term debt problem.

That thing that Obama and the Democrats refuse to put on the table?  Entitlement reform?  Especially all the health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare)?  They’re the cause of all our budget woes.  Ignoring this fact makes the budget debate pointless.  It’s just political theatre.  Fiddling while America burns.  Pity we don’t have an unneutered feral beast to put this issue front and center.  Besides FOX NEWS and talk radio, that is.

FOX NEWS will Report what the Political Class rather you not Hear

Interestingly, FOX NEWS is part of the Rupert Murdoch Empire.  And those on the left viciously belittle it as not being ‘real’ news.  But they sure incur the wrath of the Political Class.  Which should tell you a thing or two.  Because when it comes to news organizations, they only hate those who report things they’d rather you not hear.

Of course there is a chance that the FOX NEWS isn’t a legitimate news organization.  And that they are only reporting inflammatory pieces to make a buck.  And that the Political Class is pure and innocent as the winter’s snow.  That everything they do is for our own best interests.  Being the honest public servants that they are.

Yeah, right.  Pull the other.

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The Mainstream Media and their Owners are biased in Favor of Government Largess, not Objectivity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2011

The Mainstream Media is Biased after All

Problems with a for-profit education dependent on federal student loans beset The Washington Post.  Reveals a clear and present bias.  And threatens the venerable masthead (see The Washington Post’s dependence on the government it covers by Glenn Greenwald posted 4/10/2011 on Salon).

“The fate of The Post Co. has become inextricably linked with that of Kaplan, where revenue climbed to $2.9 billion in 2010, 61 percent of The Post Co.’s total,” the article detailed; “the company is more dependent than ever on a single business,’ [CEO Donald] Graham wrote in last year’s annual report, adding that the newspaper had never accounted for as large a share of overall company revenue as Kaplan does today.”

And that single business is an educational one.  A network of for-profit universities aimed at those who can’t afford a traditional college education.  These ‘poor’ people often pay for this education with federal loans.  And, of course, education is highly regulated by the federal government.  So this puts this The Post Co. into a bit of a sticky wicket.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration — the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable.

Which is another way of saying there is a conflict of interest.  Which may taint their objectivity.  At times.  Not necessarily.  But possibly.  Which may explain the dominance of FOX NEWS.  Who may be beholden to corporate interests, too.  But it is clear that they are not beholden to the Obama Administration.  No, the current administration doesn’t much care for FOX.  Which can’t help but to lend an air of objectivity.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it…

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make — something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware.

Of course, they left off two other entities that depend on not alienating the federal government.  PBS.  And NPR.  They have no corporate middlemen.  They get their funding directly from the federal government.  So they’ll be even more careful not to bite the hand that’s feeding them.

It would appear that journalism somehow went awry.  They will still criticize corporate fat cats.  Just not the corporate fat cats that sign their checks.  Or the government that signs the corporate fat cats’ checks.

The whole point of the First Amendment’s free press guarantee is that adversarial journalism is possible only if journalists are independent of political power. Yet the U.S. now has exactly the opposite dynamic: most major media outlets are owned by corporations that are anything but independent of government: they are quite dependent upon political officials for their profit in countless ways. We have anything but an independent press, which is another way of saying we have anything but a free press.

It is interesting that many attack the Republicans for being in the hip pocket of the big corporations.  And some of their loudest critics are themselves in the hip pocket of big corporations.  But claims of media bias are laughed off by those in the hip pocket of big corporations.  Meanwhile, they attack FOX NEWS for not being a legitimate news organization.  When many of these attackers are themselves far from legitimate.  So are these people inherently immoral?  Amoral?  Or are they just human?

Currying favor with political officials is how they secure scoops, leaks and access. Because media stars are now as wealthy and celebrated as the politically powerful whom they cover, they identify on socioeconomic and cultural grounds with these political officials; media stars are far more integrated into the halls of political power than they are outside of them.

They’re just human.  Craving attention.  Fame.  Wealth.  The good life.  And more fame.  They all want to be Walter Cronkite.  To become a legend.  By achieving greatness just for reporting the greatness of others.  That’s why reality television is so successful.  People watch rank amateurs achieve celebrity without any real talent.  And they say, hey, that could be me.  And so it is with many of today’s journalists.

FOX NEWS Dares to say the King Isn’t Wearing any Clothes

So how biased is today’s media?  Perhaps not that biased.  Here’s a newspaper story pretty critical of President Obama (see O meets the fog of war posted 4/10/2011 on New York Post).

Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded US military forces in Libya until control of the operation was handed over to NATO, told a Senate hearing Thursday that “there might be some consideration” of sending US ground troops to Libya to aid the anti-Khadafy rebels.

But President Obama said there would be no boots on the ground.  That we were only there on a humanitarian mission to protect Libyan civilians.  That we would be in and out in days, not weeks.  That there would be no mission-creep.  But this sounds like mission-creep.  A lot like in Vietnam.  We were only advisors at first.  To help an outmatched military force.  Then the mission crept.  And the next thing we knew we had hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground.  Could history be repeating?

The point being that situations, both on the ground and in the air, tend to change in unpredictable ways.

Gen. Ham surely knows this. Indeed, brand new second lieutenants know it.

But there’s no indication that President Obama and his defense team understand it — which probably explains why he doesn’t hesitate before making sweeping promises about the length and nature of America’s military commitments.

Perhaps.  While another Democrat president bungles us into another long-term military commitment in a land far from home that never attacked us.

Now that’s a pretty critical, objective news report on the Obama administration.  Perhaps the news media can maintain objectivity in the face of their corporate overlords dependent on the federal government for their profits.  Wait a tic.  The New York PostRupert Murdoch owns this, doesn’t he?  The same Rupert Murdoch who owns FOX NEWS?  Why, yes.  He does.  No wonder the New York Post isn’t afraid to say the king isn’t wearing any clothes.  Their income isn’t dependent on pleasing the king.

I guess a good rule of thumb for objective journalism is this.  Does Rupert Murdoch own the media outlet?  If so, it’s not an Obama administration toady.  And most likely objective.

A Detailed and Objective Mea Culpa

If you want to read more about the problems besetting The Washington Post thanks to its Kaplan division you can read a pretty detailed and objective accounting of it in The Washington Post (see The trials of Kaplan Higher Ed and the education of The Washington Post Co. by Steven Mufson and Jia Lynn Yang posted 4/9/2011 on The Washington Post).  It’s a fascinating read.  And quite the mea culpa.

Yes, they may be biased.  But they don’t like the position they’re in.  And that says something about the organization.  Besides, Charles Krauthammer is a columnist over there.  Not exactly a friend of the Obama administration.  And any paper that has Krauthammer as a columnist is all right by me.

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