Comments: Just A Thought

Now THAT'S irony! It's so hard to find good examples of irony.

Posted by Jim at March 30, 2004 09:23 PM

Of course, the difference between "the media" and the Bush administration is that Bush and everyone who works for him are public servants and so owe it to the American people and, by extension, the American press to be, if not humble and pliable, at least forthright.

To put it another way, if John Kerry published a photograph of his hairy asscrack, would the fact that you have done the same bar you from critiquing his behavior? Of course not; you're not running for president. Context makes all the difference.

But of course, you know all that. So what's your actual point, if I may be so bold as to request a more succinct summation of your views on this matter?

Posted by Joshua at March 30, 2004 11:51 PM

I don't get the discrepancy, Joshua. Media by its very nature has placed itself as providing a service to the people. Granted we elect media with our dollars instead of pulling a lever but I for one am still holding them up against standards of decency and morality.

Posted by Jim at March 31, 2004 07:50 AM

Joshua, since when is a Presidential Administration supposed to be humble and pliable? Good Lord, I think you'd be hard-pressed to actually name an administration that was ever humble and pliable. But, never mind that.

I'm not being partisan here. I think the media is guilty of hypocrisy on both sides, right and left. The media, and again I'm talking about the established and BIG media organizations, have gravitated away from genuine reporting of news, to actively trying to unseat whoever may be in power. Think Bush Sr., think Clinton, think Bush Jr. I mean, I know that controversy and scandal sell better and all that, but come on.

Posted by Ryan at March 31, 2004 10:28 AM

Ryan, I think you misunderstood me. The passage, "Bush and everyone who works for him are public servants and so owe it to the American people and, by extension, the American press to be, if not humble and pliable, at least forthright," means that they are not, particularly, required to be humble and pliable. They are required to be forthright. Humble and pliable (or, more generously, "responsive") might be nice, but it's not incumbent in the job description (and, in most cases is actually contraindicated). Forthrightness, however, is a basic requirement for a functioning democracy.

The constitution recognizes the necessity of national security, but far too many administrations have expanded that protection to suppress information that would simply damage the credibility of a sitting president. The logic, such as it is, would seem to be that the president must be credible in order to be effective, and that anything that damages the president's credibility presents a risk to national security. I think that's bullshit and I find it extremely troubling that the Bush administration has made this policy a keystone of Bush's presidency.

I think the media is guilty of hypocrisy on both sides, right and left.

I understand that you're not being partisan-- I wasn't accusing you of that. What I'm saying is that "the media" isn't required to be consistent. To some extent, consistency would be counter to their mandate.

I mean, if the New York Times prints a front page story on Monday that says, "Drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge Will Cause Toxic Runoff to flow into Gulf of Alaska" and runs another headline on Friday after the drilling bill dies in the House that says, "Without Drilling in Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, Gas Prices Will Triple in Next Three Months" (assuming both of those things were true, which, obviously they're not), the NYT isn't being hypocritical so much as they're being circumspect and reporting both sides of a story. That it will consistently be the negative side, is an unfortunate byproduct of the economics of mass media.

I'll even go so far as to say that this can apply to a columnist. Joe Columnist has license to point out the negatives of Bush's refusal to let Rice testify and the negatives of Bush's eventual concession. Joe Columnist isn't setting policy: he's criticizing it. There are cons to any position. And here again— Joe will never have anything good to say about Bush because "good" doesn't sell. But also, Bush gets to boost his own position. If I want to hear the "pro" reasons for anything Bush does, I can just hop on over to whitehouse.gov. I can tune in for his state of the union. Whatever.

I have many complaints about how the media operates and has operated for the last thirty years or so (most of my life, basically). Hypocrisy in their handling of the government isn't really one of them.

The media, (snip) have gravitated away from genuine reporting of news, to actively trying to unseat whoever may be in power.

I sort of agree. I think a lot of it comes from a need to oversimplify in order to widen the audience, and a need to feed the negative: Rush Limbaugh's popular for a reason, and it's not "fair and balanced" commentary. I think Americans in general have pushed the media to do less honest reporting and less factual reporting. In any case, one of the consequences of a massive privatized media is that the media is exactly what we make it. This isn't the media's fault— it's ours.

Media by its very nature has placed itself as providing a service to the people. Granted we elect media with our dollars instead of pulling a lever but I for one am still holding them up against standards of decency and morality.

Jeff— hold them to any standard you like, they'll still be what the bureaucracy makes them. Nothing more, nothing less. As far as the media having placed itself as providing a service to the people— no. The constitution establishes, in essence, that anyone can print anything they want. Custom has dictated that "the media" become a specialized class (as in the issuing of "press passes" and things of that nature— all of which I disagree with on principle), but from a constitutional standpoint "the media" is actually just a bunch of regular citizens exercising their constitutional right to print stuff. Common law proscribes libel, so the press has an obligation to print the truth. But that's about it.

Of course, broadcast media is another matter. When the FCC gets involved, a media organization has a license to operate a public asset (a broadcast frequency), and that license may impose a narrower filter on content. Generally, as relates to the reporting of news, the tradition has been not to impose content filters on broadcast media because such filters carry a risk of partisan bias (and, obviously, that's gone right out the window during various wars).

More generally: the government operates on tax dollars, which we are required by law to pay. Therefore the government is and should be accountable to us. The media, insofar as it operates on private money, is not and should not be accountable in the same fashion.

Ironically, I believe the solution to the moronizing of the media would actually be to direct more tax money toward a wider range of national public broadcasting.

Ah. Unleashed from that stupid 2,500 character limit. Ha!

Posted by Joshua at March 31, 2004 01:14 PM
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