M$Mers blithely ignoring the terrible to horrific consequences of their work

I think Klein’s evolution in the past couple of years has been admirable. After getting beaten up for being Crazy Pete’s sock puppet on FISA he began to be a little more critical, and he’s done a real service in pushing back on the neocons’ charges of anti-Semitism. By virtue of his standing in the Village and his Judaism there aren’t too many people better placed to do such a thing, and again I admire him for that. I know he took a lot of heat for it. But he still does crap like this and it makes me insane. It also makes me feel not the slightest bit self-conscious or egotistical to say that you, me and our fellow travelers in blogtopia (y!sctp) provide higher quality analysis than the newsweeklies or major dailies.

That’s Dan’s comment on Athenae’s First Draft blog Friday taking Time’s Joe “Joke” Klein to task for writing this Thursday:

This year, the liberal insistence on a marginally relevant public option has been a tactical mistake that has enabled the right’s “government takeover” disinformation jihad. There have been times when Democrats have run demagogic scare campaigns on issues like Social Security and Medicare. There are more than a few Democrats who believe, in practice, that government should be run for the benefit of government employees’ unions. There are Democrats who are so solicitous of civil liberties that they would undermine legitimate covert intelligence collection. There are others who mistrust the use of military power under almost any circumstances.

Klein goes on to say, “How can you sustain a democracy if one of the two major political parties has been overrun by nihilists? And another question: How can you maintain the illusion of journalistic impartiality when one of the political parties has jumped the shark?” But Athenae won’t excuse Klein for his baseless attack on the left:

Who are these America-hating Democrats, Joey? Can you give me some names? If there are “more than a few,” it shouldn’t be hard. Who are the Democrats who are so enslaved to the horrible idea of civil liberties (gasp, pearlclutch, faint) that they would make the Baby Jesus cry like that? Who’s in the pocket of the teachers’ unions (those terrible people) and who’s a complete and total pacifist who thinks we should melt down every tank in existence to make swingsets for bin Laden’s kids?”

Joe Klein is not the same journalist since Glenn Greenwald attacked him in several posts in 2007 and an avalanche of commenters descended on Swampland to shake Klein into more responsible thinking and writing. Yet, in his effort to be an “objective” journalist, Klein slips into old habits by unfairly slamming Democrats without any proof with some very careless generalizing.

Many in the M$M are so married to stenographer “journalism” that they feel compelled to come up with any nonsense just to “balance” things and keep the congress critters believing in their “fairness.” After all with sources and baseless generalizations who has to do any real research work or consider the impact of articles that could stop wars and human suffering. Keeping sources happy is far more important. And if proved wrong on such monumental failures as Junior’s presidency or the Iraq War, just do like the Repugs and forget the tragedies that result, never admit you really regret the part you played and act and write like you were on the right side all along.

On Friday Digby wrote:

Last year at the Democratic convention, I was on a panel with Jonathan Alter in which he oddly asserted that people don’t pay attention to what’s said in the media. I asked him where he thought they got their information and he said “from each other.” I found that somewhat interesting coming from a journalist, needless to say. There’s a weird propensity among villagers to think that they don’t affect public opinion, that it just exists out there in a vacuum and can be gauged separate and apart from what’s being reported.

Jamison Foser in his Media Matters post Friday, How the media made this summer’s polititcal insanity inevitable, went for the kill on M$M hypocrisy:

The most striking aspect of this summer’s political insanity isn’t the frothing at the mouth of a loud minority of Republicans that President Obama is a secret Kenyan bent on subjecting an unwitting American public to government death panels, or the mass confusion among the rest of the public about health care reform. It’s that any reporter who has been paying the slightest bit of attention is surprised by any of this. It is, after all, the inevitable result of the way the media do their jobs.


Why on earth would anyone be surprised by this? The last time America had a Democratic president, right-wing activists, with the help of some in the media, said he was responsible for the murder of his close friend and aide, Vince Foster – and dozens of other murders, too. Why would anyone think that people who are willing to baselessly and falsely accuse one president of murder, drug smuggling, and an assortment of other crimes be unwilling to claim that the current president was born in Kenya?

You’d have to be hopelessly naive to think that people who spent years calling President Clinton a murderer wouldn’t dare demand that President Obama produce a birth certificate. Or that people who believed one president was a murderer never would believe another was born abroad.

Ah, but maybe reporters are just surprised that the birthers were egged on by some congressional Republicans? They shouldn’t be. Dan Burton, the Republican congressman who chaired the Government Reform & Oversight Committee, shot up a melon in his backyard in order to “prove” that Vince Foster was murdered. We’re supposed to be surprised that some members of Congress are trying to capitalize on the birther conspiracy theories? Come on. Be serious.

President Clinton’s opponents accomplished three things with their nasty and false claims that he was a drug-running murderer: They angered and energized millions of Americans who didn’t like Clinton, created doubt and confusion among millions more, and hijacked control of the national dialogue (due in large part to the media’s inability to resist shiny objects and their weakness at making clear what is true and what is false.) Why wouldn’t they try to do the same to President Obama?

And the barrage of health care lies, and accompanying mass confusion about the most basic facts? MSNBC has spent much of the past week, if not longer, expressing shock at the lies and their effectiveness.

Have these people been asleep, Rip Van Winkle-style, for the past few decades? Conservatives buried the last serious effort at universal health care under an avalanche of (media-abetted) lies. And they won the 2000 election on the strength of (media-abetted … and sometimes media-invented) lies. And they took us to war in Iraq based on (media-abetted) lies. And … well, you get the point. When was the last time conservatives approached a big fight without relying heavily, if not exclusively, on misinformation and deception? Why would anyone have thought this time would be different?

The M$Mers, especially in the Beltway, have evolved into an illogical thinking that they can have it both ways just like the Repugs, and can bury their consciences in their wallets and purses. They rationalize, I am a “balanced” journalist and it is not my fault when my reporting leads fools into atrocious acts and even assassinations because I am just telling the public what both sides are doing. I bear no responsibility because I do not make decisions for others only report on their decisions.

They are so blinded by this rationalization that they fully accept congress critters who constantly do the same thing and condemn the left for having a conscience and showing compassion and attacking bad judgment regardless of who makes it.

They keep underestimating left bloggers and the power they have assumed because doing so would mean having to admit your own weakness and faulty thinking. The M$Mers see their role diminishing and colleagues disappearing and since they have not learned to take personal responsibility for the consequence of their decisions, they blame bloggers instead of looking within for the truth.

Joe Klein realized that he was supporting Israeli leaders both in the U.S. and Israel who while trying to do the best for Israel, were causing far more harm than good. So, he took responsibility and has clearly made an impact. He has tried to do the same with American politics with some failures and successes because he lapses into the faulty thinking that kept him from practicing journalism.

This faux journalism has led to feeding faux congress critters and faux government leaders to make decisions without ever having to eat their words that have had terrible and horrific consequences for Americans and victims all over the world.


  1. cocktailhag says:

    Great post, Paul, I especially liked the part about the swingsets. The stupidity and lack of accountability of the media is clearly what drives our disordered discourse, and I have no doubt will continue to be a topic here.

  2. rmp says:

    I just discovered that Glenn wrote about Klein and my topic today. Great minds and all that. Not really. He wasn’t as kind to Joe as I was. No surprise.

    Bush critics: still evil, crazy extremists

  3. dirigo says:

    I find a minor, discordant note in the suggestion that “left bloggers” possess a “power they have assumed.”

    Mightn’t it be a good idea for independent, unaffiliated writers and thinkers to keep their distance from the power centers and the journalistic arbiters of “the consensus” – for as long as possible – precisely to avoid being co-opted as, eventually, just another part of the game?

    The mainstream media operatives, especially those at the top, are trying to maintain their relevance (their market position, or “dominance”) as, whether they like it or not, the consensus narrative shifts under them, and as they work in a professional environment where thousands of their brethren have been fired or laid off, and corporate stock prices have shriveled.

    The MSM’s problems are not the fault of bloggers, whether they’re lefties, righties, or Alaskans; and some MSM operatives (or political operatives) trying to frame bloggers as lefties, or as members of the “left of the left” are intellectually lazy, dishonest – or both.

    Who owns the consensus?

    I spoke to an old friend last week who works in a major market, network owned “full service” news radio station.

    She’s been an on-air anchor there for nearly twenty years. She worked up, in the old way, from small to medium radio markets, and on to the major market job she now holds. It took her about eight years to do that.

    She told me that the junior staffers in her shop today have virtually no small or medium market news radio credits on their resumes, simply because most of the “market ladder” jobs in radio news, across the country, have been eliminated.

    That’s an empirical statement of some weight about how devastating broadcast de-regulation has been for electronic news.

    I worked with this person some years ago, at a time when I was packing it in with broadcast news; and I think there are a lot of people out there writing on the web who may be former mainstream reporters, and that they still have the urge to “speak truth to power.”

    Old habits die hard.

    A lot of them may not be lefties, or ideological in any way. Quite a few may also have little interest in power per se, as writers and thinkers. Beyond that, there are many, many other young writers trying our their wings on the web; and for them, engaging on public policy questions, post 9-11, is compelling, and I’d say, laudable. We need all of these voices, Joe Klein be damned.

    But stay out of the kitchen (don’t seek power) and let the chips fall where they may.

    • rmp says:

      Good point. Glenn could have easily become a TV darling even though he lives most of the time in Brazil if he wanted to push it. I think he decided that he liked his full independence on Salon and UT and has proven to be a power source beholden to nobody. On the other hand, Rachel has been able to join the star ranks and so far does not seem to have been infected.

      • cocktailhag says:

        I would add Ed Schutz to that list; so far, MSNBC has done some rudimentary arithmetic and decided the “liberal” opinion and analysis actually sells. When pharma starts canceling its ads, we’ll see how that gamble holds up.

        • rmp says:

          Agree on Ed. If big Pharma is buying ads on Ed’s show, they knew what they were getting. With Beck, the 20 sponsors who dropped him, did not know how bad he would become. He was bad on CNN. but hard to find an adjective to describe his Faux News performance.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it is astonishing to me that a show like Beck’s can even be on TV, let alone have any advertisers. I don’t know when the righties, and FOX, are scarier, when they’re Pravda for Bush, or the leaders of the revolution under Obama.
            Murdoch must be marveling at what money can buy.

  4. rmp says:

    Hag, Murdoch has no limits. His present goal is to get the M$M to make bloggers pay for any access. If bloggers don’t pay, the advertisers will not get visibility and the effort will fail.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Dirigo’s link shows how Murdoch is the only threat to Berlusconi, who essentially controls all the Italian media. Clearly that’s his plan everywhere he operates, like taking over both the Post and the WSJ to try to kill the NYT, or at least bleed it dry. (Dang, they could save so much money by getting rid of Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, and David Brooks…. let Rupert buy those pigs in pokes, and hire some more real reporters at the NYT, and come out ahead….)
      Sadly, another example of how righties, bereft of logical arguments, just know how to game the system better than the normal.