Monday, September 18, 2006

The pied paper of Hamelin

Nidra Poller completes her coverage of the Mohammed al-Dura libel trial against France2 at Pajamas Media. France2 comes off very, very badly in the evidence. And the prosecutor has already recommended that France2's suit against the first defendant, Karsenty, be dropped. Personally I don't think the trial is so much about the relative justice of Israeli and Palestinian causes so much as the absolute depths to which the modern broadcast media may have plunged.


While the Press is probably honest in most things -- who won the NASCAR race, what the stock price is, who won a particular election, etc -- in certain areas more than others a kind of horrible distortion has crept into their coverage. And the question is why. Members of the press are not inherently evil. They are not very different from most white collar workers or academics. With their individual foibles to be sure, but no inherited large scale defects in character. The reason huge events, like the Ukraine famine, for example, and perhaps the recent war in Lebanon, can be so horribly misreported is a subject worthy of a whole book. I tend to think that the memetic cavalry of ideologies is drawn towards certain issues and makes certain they spin them. The effect is that in areas we care about most we have inaccurate coverage, but in areas we care about least (say the yearly production of Ipods) we have the most accurate coverage. Well, I'm not the one to write that book.

33 Comments:

Blogger Tim P said...

Good post Wretcherd. You get no argument from me when you say about the MSM, " in certain areas more than others a kind of horrible distortion has crept into their coverage."

IMHO, much of the distortion stems from those who have an agenda and believe that the end justifies the means. Y'know, fake but accurate.

Quite possibly, some of ot may also be tied to the fact that many journalists have become lazy and sloppy. They don't do the digging necessary to uncover the facts and substitute editorial for hard news.

I have no problem with editorial or agendas, it's just when it's being passed off as objective journalism that I get off the bus.

And besides, let's face it most journalists just aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

9/18/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Sure, the western press are not intentionally evil. But their atheist, multicultural ideology, a religion of scientism by another name, is weak. Without any moral foundation of their own they sway in any breeze and are easily influenced by propagandists who play on their multi-cultural, politically correct, atheist leanings.

Depending on them is like building your house on sand.

The moral weakness of atheism must be the meme that's brewing in the blogosphere today. I wrote about it here. I only wish I could be as eloquent as Wretchard.

9/18/2006 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

The die was cast when the press was taken over by baby boomers who wanted to "change the world." That meant creating the socialist revolution. They were never interested in the truth, which difficult to discern, just in propagandizing the masses.

9/18/2006 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The business model for the news media is soap opera women. Nothing that is not of interest to the soap opera mind makes it past the editors. Soap opera women edit the news, as a result.

For the product of news organizations is not news. It is you. They sell you to advertisers.

Unfortunately, though people say they want hard news, the won't watch unless there is news (think city council meetings). But soap opera addicts tune in every day, news or no news, and are the audience that the media will survive on, if they can survive at all.

Look, in short, for inner struggle, soul-searching and eternal frustration.

Those who are working in the news business are those who can put up with it, or even like it.

It appears to be a political bias, but it's the same bias that women in general have turning up as if political.

9/19/2006 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

In my view the mindset of modern journalists best reflects the product of modern advanced education - shallow, limited and ethicly dishonest. What other kind of news coverage could we expect?

9/19/2006 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

What we are seeing is actually multiple forms of distortion.

First, there is bias based on background and experience. As one classic editorial described many years ago, a fistfight described by an experienced football couch is likely to be very different from one described by a librarian.

Next, there is the run with the pack tendency. When information comes to light it is interpreted in terms of what the pack of reporters already thinks. Best case I can think of was a report on NPR describing how the "poor economy" had led to a reporter's favorite restaurant closing. The poor economy was the dominant theme in that year's Presidential election - but eventually the report mentioned that the restaurant had closed because the rent went up - which did not match the "poor economy" theme.

Then we have simple incompetence. In my work I search for data on missile failures and frequently find explanations that make no sense but are dutifully reprinted word for word in the press. Now we can't all be rocket scientists, but you think they would have the brains to ask a real one.

Then we have outright lies. This is not new. Recently I found pictures in a book showing the real image of fires on a British airfield in the Battle of Britain and the image as published by the Germans - which had lots of smoke added (sound familiar?).
This is not new, - but who is doing it is. It used to be fascists. Now its people who claim to be anti-fascists but in reality are....?

9/19/2006 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger metaphysician said...

pangloss-

I would disagree that its the "atheism" bit that is the necessary source here. Its distinctly possible to be a non-relativist atheist, who judges all cultures by a very harsh, absolute standard: do they increase human suffering, or decrease it.

Conversely, there are religious multicultis, for whom the problem is not so much lack of belief in God, as lack of belief in Satan.

That said, yes, the common ideology of the press probably is both atheistic, relativist, and multiculturalist.

9/19/2006 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

When I was fourteen I read novels by Upton Sinclair, big time Socialist. After two novels I thought I was a Socialist. And I told all my friends I was a Socialist. But after I read four novels, I decided I wasn't a socialist -- though I did not brag about that.

What I found surprising was the process of becoming "not a socialist." When I would think of weaknesses in the arguments for socialism I would find myself cutting off that train of thought. It was like a Christian thinking, "Maybe Jesus wasn't the Son of God." You just don't go there.

But in the case of my emerging earthly ideal, I decided to go there. Ironically, Upton Sinclair was a big help. He described Mussolini as a Socialist (and Journalist) at the start of his "career" and young Nazis as idealist. Hm-mm.

There are many intelligent, mature and accomplished people who act like adolescents when they argue for their "Ideals" but are quite responsible when it comes to paying their mortgage. But ultimately, they are more loyal to the ideals of a fourteen year old than they are to reality. They will question and criticize reality but long ago rejected criticism of their "ideal." First, they suppressed their own critical thinking, and then they want to suppress the critical thinking of others. They PC'd their own mind when they were fourteen and then go to work on the world.

But finding allies is tough. Every one has a different "Ideal." So best not get in arguments about the nature of the future world and concentrate on weakening support for the current one (after all, if people are satisfied with the world as it is, why would they want to change?) So: are the current institutional arrangements, so corrupt at the core, really worth defending? Or Should we leave the dross unguarded and decide, at some point, to fight for the refined gold (in the manner of Che, perhaps).

Thus we have "excesses in the critique of reality," and "deficiencies in the analyses of sweeping solutions" -- called "The Doctrine of Unintended Consequences" after the fact--consequences that are unintended but quite predictable.

This is why petulant fourteen year olds run the New York Times and you find petulant fourteen year olds who have joined the CIA to spy on the White House for the New York Times rather than America's enemies (for them a confusing concept -- if you want to keep America as it is, aren't you the enemy?).

9/19/2006 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I trace most of it back to Watergate, and the journalist as super-hero (and soon-to-be rich super-hero, at that).

The news show "60 Minutes" specialized in "gotcha" journalism for years. I respected them at that point as a kind of ombudsman for our country: that if you couldn't get the attention of the DA to right your wrongs, take it to "60 Minutes" and they'd shine the spotlight of publicity on whatever it was, and *that* would make things happen.

But since Watergate, and probably before then too, the journalists became part of the story. And *all* journalists want to grow up to be Woodward and Bernstein now, and *all* editors want to grow up to be the Washington Post and Ben Bradlee.

The rest of the world, as always, takes their cue from America, so that all journalists everywhere are chasing their own personal Watergate story. Since that level if miscreantism rarely happens, they are forced to create the situation.

My guess is that when Enderlin created the al-Dura story he didn't see it as being anti-Semitic or a blood libel, but merely yet another example of something that if it didn't actually happen, given the circumstances it very easily *could* have happened, and therefore, it was a righteous thing to report it.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, I think are so immoral and so unable to discern the difference between truth and lie and so lacking in any other weapons, that they cheerfully will turn *any*thing that comes their way into a huge anti-Israel lie, and then step back and hope someone is stupid enough to fall for it. Other Arabs have noticed these tactics frequently work, so now they're being used not only against Israel but also against the United States, and currently, against the Pope.

It's our own damned fault, too, for being stupid enough time after time after time to believe Arab lies without checking just because they make such a flaming good story.

9/19/2006 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Nahncee: I tend to agree with you about Watergate starting all of it. And ironically, the real story of what happened in Watergate was supressed by the press. The book "Silent Coup", written many years later, showed that much of what Woodward and Bernstein had written was wrong - in fact, outright fabrications in some cases - and so they sued the writers of the new book in order to prevent their legacy from being destroyed.

But have you read the Book "Give Me a Break" by John Stossel? He says something amazing - after years as an investigative reporter he realized that such "exposes" were ultimately counterproductive because they caused the government bureaucracies to react in a way that made things worse - sometimes worse in a different way, but worse nonetheless.

9/19/2006 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Dewage said...

One of the great lost lessons of the '60's is also inherent in communications theory: There is bigotry and prejudice (known as 'bias' in McLuhan comm theory) in all of us.

Those among us who accept this premise know to ALWAYS look for bias, bigotry and prejudice in their actions and constantly question ourselves.

To say that, "I AM a Republican!" today is to begin to define your position and defend yourself against "the others." Yet to say, "I am a DEMOCRAT!" is to begin the meme of rationalization for behavior, make excuses for right and wrong and, more and more, self-righteous justification for biased support of gun control, abortion, communism and the Islamist war on humanity when reporting the news.

No one in the newsroom stands up and says, "Those are the party talking points -- not the FACTS!" anymore because there is no longer any doubt about party affiliations in the media. No jarring counterpoints, no respectful dissents, no one saying that the reason the reporter can't find an opposing viewpoint is because they are submerged in their own propaganda.

The real courage in journalism now is to question liberal authority, not with right-wing dogma, but with rational questions of dissent.

9/19/2006 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

rhhardin said:
It appears to be a political bias, but it's the same bias that women in general have turning up as if political.

rhh, I agree with much if not most of what you said, but either my brain is tangled, or your English is tangled, that closing sentence blew right by me. Would you care to clarify?

9/19/2006 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger El_Heffe said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/19/2006 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Dave H., a soap opera bias looks like a leftist political bias.

If you want to change it, you have to change the attachment to soap opera.

9/19/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

pangloss:
"But their atheist, multicultural ideology, a religion of scientism by another name, is weak. Without any moral foundation of their own they sway in any breeze "

I have to take some issue with that. I'm an agnostic myself, but guarantee you I have a moral foundation as firm as anyone here. I am a firm believer in rationality and science. That in no way means I "sway in the breeze". There are many of us in that boat, and on issues like media distortion of facts, we are your allies.

Try not to forget it, and try not to despise us in too un-Christian-like a manner. It's hateful, discriminatory, and very similar to the way of thinking of the Islamic fundamentalists we rail against regularly.

Good points metaphysician.

9/19/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger El_Heffe said...

If you click the link and read pangloss' piece on atheism then its easier to place his comments here in a proper context.

an excerpt:

18 September 2006
On Atheism

This essay was inspired by a discussion on Dan Riehl's excellent blog that veered into a discussion of atheism.


rwilymz wrote:
Almost all of the "atheists" I know and have heard of are not "anti-religion"; they are anti-christian. It's amazing how America's atheists, for example, will spend their hours rationalizing mythic cults, and bending to favor judaism -- yet another group tyrannized by christians -- and cheering islam. But christianity? The mother of all evil.

This comment and the one to which it responded describe the difference between principled atheists, whom I would term Nietzschean atheists, and populist (reactionary, socialist, scientistic, or hippy) atheists. The difference between the two types of atheism is as stark as the difference between Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhism. One is for the dedicated seeker who follows a rigorous, mystical, philosophical path. The other is scientism for the masses. The principled atheist will follow the same moral codes as churchgoers because he realizes it is the right thing to do. The populist atheist will have a Darwin bumper sticker on his car.

I found the rest of the piece worth reading as well.

9/19/2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

To a large extent, journalists are the hostages of their sources, and their reporting reflects this.

Think of the new journalist. He's expected to cover stories on topics he knows little about, and quickly produce text to insert into the paper or teleprompter that is accurate enough to not be an embarassment. What does the new journalist do? He encounters very helpful public communications people who are quite happy to explain all sorts of complicated things to him. They tell him how to find info (or better, look it up for him, or best of all, provide him with a pre-written press release). They provide access to important people who provide important exclusive quotes. In foreign lands, they ensure the the reporter can move about in dangerous areas without getting killed. They are extremely helpful to the young reporter's career.

The difference between a successful reporter and a failure is that the successful reporter has lots of good sources in his phone list and email address book.

A reporter who wants to remain successful must keep his sources willing to continue to talk to him. This frequently means that he must tailor his reporting to not offend easily-offended, but important, sources.

Hence a reporter assigned to Stalinist Russia needs to not report about unpleasant famines, purges, or disappearances if he wants to continue to have interviews (or even be allowed in the country). Likewise with Saddam's Iraq, or any insurgent-held area today. Reporters who annoy certain people may lose their access, or even their lives.

The average reporter is not there to save the world. he's there to get a paycheck. This means he plays the game, or finds another line of work

9/19/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger soflauthor said...

It’s really not that hard to understand why, as Wretchard points out, The effect is that in areas we care about most we have inaccurate coverage, but in areas we care about least (say the yearly production of Ipods) we have the most accurate coverage.

At the risk of oversimplifying, people who go into fields such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, physics, and accounting tend have a left-brain package. They tend to be logical, sequential, rational, analytical, and objective. On the other hand people who go into journalism and the media tend to be graduates of the arts, literature, psychology and related fields and bring a right brain package to their work. Their thought processes tend to be more random, intuitive, holistic, synthesizing, and subjective.

It’s comically ironic that a right brain package often leads to left-wing thinking. Hence, the undeniable left-leaning bias of the media is built into the kinds of people who gravitate to the profession.

Just a theory, of course, but it might be just that simple.

9/19/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Habu1 said...

A review of H.L Menchen's coverage of political campaigns would change every commenter on this threads opinion on nasty press coverage.

9/19/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Wretchard says "The reason huge events, like the Ukraine famine, for example, and perhaps the recent war in Lebanon, can be so horribly misreported is a subject worthy of a whole book".

The good news is that that book has been written. Read "Arrogance" by Bernard Goldberg.
http://www.amazon.com/Arrogance-Rescuing-America-Media-Elite/dp/044653191X

9/19/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

hdgreene said:

"When I was fourteen I read novels by Upton Sinclair, big time Socialist. After two novels I thought I was a Socialist. And I told all my friends I was a Socialist. But after I read four novels, I decided I wasn't a socialist -- though I did not brag about that... This is why petulant fourteen year olds run the New York Times and you find petulant fourteen year olds who have joined the CIA to spy on the White House for the New York Times rather than America's enemies..."

There's an old quote attributed (falsely?) to Winston Churchill (it's still something that Churchill would have enjoyed saying):

If you were not a socialist in your twenties then you had no heart. However if you are still a socialist in your forties then you have no brain.

9/19/2006 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger neo-neocon said...

IMHO, it's a combination of "fake but accurate" and post-modern "truth is relative" thinking, combined with personal factors such as arrogance and previous mindset. The latter two work to make it hard to admit a lie or error once it has been made. Here's more on the subject.

9/19/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The MSM believed they had the knowledge to predict the outcome of recent political elections and to predict the average sentiment of the American consumer. They grossly misestimated both and have attributed their “being out of touch” with the stupidity of the electorate and the stupidity, evil and brilliant subterfuge on the part of the current administration. Walter Cronkite is the grand father of the MSM and Jimmy Carter is the shamed ex-president who “knows” the hearts and minds of the average American… both have become entirely unhinged as of late.

9/19/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

I think it starts with ‘gotcha’ journalism but goes beyond when ‘competing’ news agencies out compete each other for a scoop on the same inane drivel. Take that self professed child molester that ‘confessed’ raping and murdering that little girl whose parents used to dress her up like a whore. That may be interesting to some, but it is not news. Same thing with Greta Van Whos’er-faces intricate coverage of that teenager who got rapped and wacked in Aruba. I would have to agree with the poster who compared the modern news media with soap-operas. You are looking for the consumer who will spend a half hour watching the news to follow a police car chasing some drunk, inllegal alien loser in LA. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

9/19/2006 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger HackleHead said...

There are many intelligent, mature and accomplished people who act like adolescents when they argue for their "Ideals" but are quite responsible when it comes to paying their mortgage. But ultimately, they are more loyal to the ideals of a fourteen year old than they are to reality. They will question and criticize reality but long ago rejected criticism of their "ideal." First, they suppressed their own critical thinking, and then they want to suppress the critical thinking of others. They PC'd their own mind when they were fourteen and then go to work on the world.

Normal people will disconnect (a bit) from their idealized world after leaving college and join the real world. Later on many of these people after absorbing the lessons of the real world begin their move to the right. Unfortunately most journalists and their ilk are still locked into "idealized" mindset and are unwilling to challenge basic assumption of how the world operates prefering the conspiracy theories over reality.

9/19/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Good Captain said...

I agree w/ the consensus, but I am not certain that journalism (or reporting, take your pick) has only recently violated ideological standards of objectivity. I recall seeing headlines and printed stories detailing traumatic events with dramatic hyperbole. Perhaps the biggest problem for journalists today are the ubiquitous sources of information with which "truth seekers" can verify the accuracy of reports.

9/19/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger geoffgo said...

Good Captain,

Your's and the rest of the concensus' explanation are more than likely correct. That still leaves some who are atually the ENEMY.

9/19/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

Good Captain,

Excellent point. Bias and yellow journalism have always played a part in news reporting, both here and elsewhere in the world (which of course doesn't make it OK). You folks should read some of the editorials written about Andrew Jackson during his presidential campaign. Positively scandalous, vicious, baseless, and cruel, and he blamed those same reports for the early death of his wife.

At any rate, the difference in the here and now, is in direction. We're not facing journalism that's biased in favor of, or against, some internal party or parties. We're seeing journalism that's biased seemingly in favor of an extra-national entity, or perhaps against our own identity as a nation.

It's truly bizaare. I have to admit it makes my head hurt to think on it too much.

9/19/2006 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The thing that is *really* mind-boggling, though, is that these journalists are steadily losing readership, losing income, and losing status as a result of (1) the stories they choose to pursue, and (2) the bias they use in reporting those stories.

No one wants to hear what Western journalism insists we should be interested in any more. The fact that they refuse to switch and give us what we *do* want to hear about says to me that they're reporting on the easiest possible stories there are to report on; i.e., Jon Benet and the Aruba girl.

MSM have ceded stories like Iraq and Afghanistan to AP and Reuters, and increasingly it appears to me that AP and Reuters have both been purchased by rich Arabs since they seem to be solely staffed by anti-Semitic Arabs. So at home, we get over-written lies designed to sway political elections, and abroad we're getting faux-tography, Pallywood, and Al-Jazeera strained through two organizations that are *supposed* to just be giving us the facts, ma'am, with NO editorial slant at all.

You'd think the Big Boys in the networks and the big three newspapers would be affronted that someone is taking all that lucrative business away from them.

Surely they've noticed as their profit share dips alarmingly towards out and out bankruptcy, and the job title "news anchor" now ranks under "used car salesman" as something normal people respect. Why isn't capitalism working and self-correcting the situation?

9/19/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

stated: Personally I don't think the trial is so much about the relative justice of Israeli and Palestinian causes so much as the absolute depths to which the modern broadcast media may have plunged.


to me this is the latest and greatest "blood libel" story peddled to the masses about how evil the eternal jew is...

this specific case is and was amazing as how msm and the arab world can manufactor fiction into fact..

pallywood is not new, from dead bodies falling off stretchers in death parades, only to spring back to life to jump back on and be a corpse, to "jenin jenin" calls of mass murder, to stories of depleted uranium, to stories of organ theft by the jews..

it's all the same crap...

it's all anti-semitism or simply put, JEW HATRED.

the MSM is not the problem, the world is.. look to the UN & UN Human Rights organizations and see how much attention against israel has been applied.

Funny thing, does everyone KNOW that ISRAEL is the only COUNTRY in the world not allowed to sit on the Security Council?

9/19/2006 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger sbw said...

I pointed my son to your blog entry and added:

Equally at issue is the manufactured propaganda swallowed whole by gullible mainstream media -- (the New York-Washington-Los Angeles TV networks and major newspapers like ABC,CBS,NBC,CNN and the NY Times). The ambulance/missile incident demonstrates how gullible "professionals" can be.

Fauxtography (In French, faux means false) is an excellent example that caught Reuters News Service faking pictures.

What is often overlooked in school is why lying -- and that is what these "news" organizations are doing -- is a secular sin. (Religious "sins" are whatever the church fathers say are sins. Secular sins, by my definition, are the few actions that undermine all society.) You plan your best future based on your mental map of reality. That's why you want that map as accurate as possible. When those you deal with lie, they warp your understanding of the world, which can lead to defective planning.

Journalism extends your relationship to the world. As your surrogates, journalists are charged with the responsibility to help improve your mental map. Clearly, what passes for journalism by the mainstream media, mostly isn't journalism. But people don't know enough to call them to task. Part of our job on the editorial page is to make up for education's failure to inoculate students to defend themselves against such claptrap.

Years ago this would not have mattered, insulated by slow travel and limited technology. But now that science has put such power in the hands of anyone who cares to learn enough to use it, you can no longer escape anti-social behavior. Hope rests only in engaging people in a common process of growth -- not learning, not indoctrination -- but educating people that the process of civilization is a human creation. Mother Nature doesn't care if it succeeds or not but we certainly do.

So if you wonder sometime why I get ticked off so quickly at such misbehavior, it's because the idiots do not know what is at risk.

9/20/2006 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

The effect is that in areas we care about most we have inaccurate coverage, but in areas we care about least (say the yearly production of Ipods) we have the most accurate coverage.

I think that simplicity and accuracy is the baseline that workers are held to in any new position, however once a position becomes more important i.e. the column gains more readers, brings in more money etc performance metrics are made more subjective through increasingly more intense job competition.

In other words what once was considered a "just report the facts and you won't muck it up" position becomes something far more nuanced and open to snake oil salesmen who wow the company with their talk of synergistic oblique fusion of dynamic implementation, etc etc.

Of course, the numbers don't lie - sales and renewals of dog trainers are headed downward, and have been for a long time, but this is where the snake oil sellers establish their death grip on their positions, by saying that essentially the reason for the decline is due to some limit on their natural inclinations, usually that the paper's maladies are due to it not being liberal enough to be in line with its readership - I forget the exact article(s) but I recall there was recently a discussion of exactly this sort coming out of the MSM.

And so as the ultimate coup, the nouveau media generation turns its company's failure into its own success, with the spinoff effect being that the (remaining) readership becomes ever more sick in the head.

9/22/2006 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger El Viejo said...

One other possibility, common in the US, is a Suit to find who has the deepest pockets. (i.e. France2 brings the suit, hopping that the opponent doesn't have the money to defend it. It goes to court, the only guy with a lawyer is france2. France2 declared the winner).

Fortunately with the blog sphere there is enough of a well to keep that from happening

9/24/2006 01:35:00 AM  

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