Friday, February 19, 2010

The Decline and Fall of the American Media

I am hardly the first to notice-- actually I am late to the party-- that it is too facile to blame the internet for the decline of the American media.

Very often when people shift the blame to things that are completely out of their control-- technological progress, for example-- they are showing their own unwillingness to take responsibility for their own failures.

Grand old media outlets like the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, CNN, and MSNBC began to lose readers and viewers at just about the time they decided that their function was not to provide information, but to slant information, to provide pseudo-news that would induce people to think a certain way.

The Atlanta Progressive News, whose sad story I reported yesterday, (link here) is just the most egregious example of overt media bias, derived from the kind of theoretical education that today's media barons received in college.

A few years ago a man whose politics were radically leftist-- he was a follower of Noam Chomsky-- was comparing the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. He remarked: "As Chomsky said, at least with the Wall Street Journal you can trust the facts."

The Wall Street Journal is doing well; the New York Times is fighting for its survival. The Economist is thriving; Time and Newsweek have shrunk to shadows of their former selves.

Fewer and fewer people are going to spend money to be told what to think and to be treated with contempt if they do not follow the party line.

It is, I believe, a question of integrity. Journalistic integrity means reporting the facts, providing objective information, not slanting the facts to promote a specific candidate or point of view.

Liberal journalists will man (or woman) the barricades to defend the separation of church and state. They ought to show the same zeal when maintaining the separation between fact and opinion.

The sad part is that so many of them have been indoctrinated in radical thought that they simply do not believe that there is a difference.

Take the issue of the decline and fall of the Obama presidency. According to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham the fault does not lie with Obama, but with us, the people who hold slavishly to a system of constitutional government that has outlived its usefulness. Link here.

Meacham, who pretends to be a rational being, reacts to the election of Scott Brown by saying that we need to rewrite the constitution. For all of his high seriousness Meacham is really throwing an adult tantrum. If he can't get his way, let's rip up the constitution.

The fact that Obamacare is wildly unpopular does not register with Meacham.

Meacham disguises his contempt better than liberal panjandrum and Slate editor Jacob Weisberg. Rather than blame Obama's leadership, Weisberg blames: "the childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large." Surely, he is referring to Republicans and Independents. Link here.

Does Weisberg really believe that people who consistently vote Democratic are more intelligent and more adult than those who vote otherwise?

Unless you believe that people who vote Democratic are ipso facto more intelligent and mature, Weisberg's statement is positively idiotic. But it is the kind of nonsense that shows contempt for people who do not think as he does; thus it must count as a lame rhetorical ploy.

The difference here is not between left and right. It is between publications that have retained their journalistic integrity and those who have sold theirs for ideology.

The Economist is not an opinion magazine; it does not fill its pages with right wing screeds. Now, read its analysis of the current American political crisis. Link here. It is sober, sensible, and informative. It calls it as it sees it, and is not burdened with the ideological need to defend Obama.

Is it really a wonder that people continue to read The Economist while they flee Newsweek?


Robert Pearson said...

Yes, another episode in the continuing drama "Ideas Have Consequences." If there are no "objective" facts, only weapons in a power struggle, then reporting is just another front of the struggle. Unfortunately, most Americans (and most humans) are so uneducated that they actually believe in something they call reality.

How old fashioned--it seems that it takes at least four years of higher education to cleanse that notion from the mind. Most people also still believe that if you hit your thumb with a hammer, it will hurt. Rubes.

groove68 said...

Chomasky/1982/Paper Tiger Tv/critique of the times' Central America and Middle East reporting