Wednesday, November 4, 2009

MSM, False Equivalencies, and Liz Cheney

From Media Matters Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher, in an online Q and A:

non-election question: Given Liz Cheney's sudden prominence (man, nepotism in DC never ceases to amaze me), I'm curious as to why none of you reporters are asking her questions re: her recent comments about Obama's trip to Dover. She said that Bush routinely made the same trip and didn't "stage photo ops." A) she flat out lied - Bush never went to Dover, B) he couldn't have had photos taken because of the Pentagon policy at the time and C) Mission Accomplished, anybody? Ultimate photo op. What gives? Or is being related to Dick sufficient to protect her from questioned?

Michael A. Fletcher:If we begin questioning Liz Cheney that way, then we would have to do the same with conservative (and liberal) commentators who make all kinds of charges every day. It is their way of making a (great) living. Some comments, I like to think, sink under their own weight.

This illustrates one of my ongoing pet peeves which I have discussed before. The supposed "liberal" mainstream media uses false equivalencies, softball questions, and careful timing to ensure that the "news" we are fed is slanted to make the current administration look foolish and inept and the Republican Party (despite its massive almost 20% of the population identifying itself as such) as the arbiters of reason.

David Gregory in particular is guilty of perpetuating the MSM move to stenography rather than actual reporting with his statement regarding the role of the press corps in the run up to the Iraq war:

I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. "I respectfully disagree. It's not our role."

This is an example of something that happened years ago, but any sampling of the Sunday morning talks or the evening national news will show the same kind of "journalism." Panels sit around and discuss the issues of the day, carefully selected by the hosts. If the guest currently in the hot seat responds with something more controversial than the host is able or willing to handle, then it's time to move on. This past Sunday's Meet the Press with David Gregory kept the most controversial guest, Jon Krakauer, till the very end. He was then asked only a couple of questions about General McChrystal's role in the Pat Tillman case and the initial cover-up - discussed now because of McChrystal's current position in the news - and when Krakauer provided fairly damning answers, Gregory immediately wrapped it up. Great journalism. Tough interviewing. Oh wait. It's not his role.

Back to Liz and the Washington Post. The biggest question? Why are we seeing Liz Cheney on our tv machines at all? Her claim to fame? She is the daughter of the ex vice-president. Period. She did have a job at the State Department, but so does my cousin. And so do thousands and thousands of other people. Liz's job wasn't even particularly high up or particularly important. She oversaw a unit within a bureau that was one of eight managed by one of the Under Secretaries. I used to work at one of the PAC-10 universities (meaning it's huge). I managed the administrative functions of a unit within a division under one of the Vice Presidents, so I had one less layer between me and the top. Was I important? Absolutely not. Could I speak for the University? Absolutely not.

The next question? Why this false equivalency? A reporter hears an answer that is demonstrably false and shrugs because it will "sink under its own weight?" If they have to question every commentator, then why not? If their way of making a living is to lie, shouldn't they be called on it? Asked to back up their claims? Do slander and libel laws mean nothing anymore? Is journalism now simply reporting he said she said? It used to be gathering facts and examining what people said for truth and shining a light on what was going on behind the scenes so that the viewers and readers that did not have the kind of access that reporters have could know what was going on. That is the whole point behind the 1st Amendment and why the Founders put it first in the Constitution. 

What Liz talks about when she speaks about terrorism and the Bush Administration and foreign policy (and the return of fallen soldiers at Dover Airforce Base) is hearsay or conjecture at best. More likely, her comments are disinjenuous statements made to enhance her father's image, promote her own agenda, and belittle the Obama Administration.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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