Friday, October 22, 2004

Why we can't trust the media

I was dropping off my fiancée and future mother-in-law at the airport (they are off to a wedding of a future cousin-in-law) and I heard the most amazing thing on NPR's Diane Rehm show.

A caller asked why the reporters on the show were talking about Kerry and Bush's misleading statements and ads with moral equivalence when even folks like ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin noted that Bush's statements are far more misleading (even outright lies)than Kerry's. John Harwood of the Wall St. Journal and NPR's Tom Gjelten, both of whom I used to respect, disliked Halperin's statements. Such efforts to weigh the two sides and point out which one is more truthful or which one is less truthful, they said is "dangerous" because it would "undermine our credibility" as objective, balanced journalists.

What? I grew up thinking that journalists were supposed to cover and get to the bottom of what was actually happening, they were supposed to be our seakers of truth. But here are these reporters saying that the quest for the objective truth is "dangerous."

When they talk about their concerns about undermining their credibility, it reminds me of Catholic Bishops worrying that they need to condemn Kerry' public pro-choice (although he claims to be privately pro-life) position because they are worried about undermining their moral credibility if they don't. This from the same people who allow child rapists and molesters to run rampant through their clergy for decades, and not only did nothing to stop it, but they covered up the bad apples and shuffled them off to other unsuspecting communities.

This is the same media who have been found to simply make up stories, to not do fact checking, to rely on unnamed sources with dubious credibility and again without fact checking the validity of their statements. The modern media is not in search of truth, it is in search of ratings. If parroting each (or just one's in the case of Fox News) side's spin on an issue gets ratings, then they are all for it. The media lost their credibility when they decided that keeping their Washington sources happy was more important than actually reporting what is happening. They lost their credibility when they collectively talked the nation into going to war with Iraq by unquestioningly believing everything the Bush Administration said. They lost their credibility when they repeated campaign distortions from the Bush camp in 2000 and didn't actually report what the truth was, but instead replied with a Gore campaign statement, making the truth seem untouchable.

Maybe our media is filled with Post-Modernists, who believe in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle when it comes to truth: if they try to find it, they will only distort it, or more perversely, there is no truth, just each person's view of the truth. Either of those two are the case, then we don't need reporters anymore, because ultimately their reporting it will distort it through their elitist holier than thou attitudes.

If they really think the truth is so dangerous, they should join John Ashcroft's Justice Department or the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. Even though they don't realize it, they are already part of it. By being unwilling to call a spade a spade (and instead saying "the president said it was a club while democrats are contend that the card is actually a spade...") they play right into the Bush campaign plan: push out as many distortions and lies about how things are going and who Kerry is that enough will stick in the minds of voters to win again.

Thankfully, the Blogosphere and other concerned citizens have pointed out repeatedly the flaws in this Beltway reporter thinking as well as the many flaws in their writing. The battle has grown more pitched and fierce recently, with the reporters’ argument basically being ad hominem attacks on bloggers as nerds with nothing better to do. Well, I may be a nerd, I may have better things to do (like study for law school) but to me the truth is so important that I had to spend all this time writing this because the media refuses to report what the truth is and what lies are.

If so-called journalists are so worried about objectivity than they shouldn't be afraid of calling out a lie when they see it, whether it be by a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent. I am in law school because I want to seek truth and justice as far as the law and the judicial system allows, not because I want to be fair to both sides of a legal dispute. Shame on you reporters; you are no better than those Catholic Priests who sit assuredly at their thrones pitying the sinners amongst them, never realizing they have a far greater sin to atone.

No comments: