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A Real Press Corps

Go read Chris Matthews on why it's not okay for a journalist to turn himself into a conduit for misinformation even if he isn't directly doing the misinforming himself, followed by Keith Olberman on why a second-hand smear is still a smear. Hopefully those two will follow-up on these commitments on encourage their fellows to do otherwise. There is one and only one way that America can start to have a serious political debate. That is for the result of Candidate A making a false claim about Candidate B to generate the headline: "A Makes False Charges About B" and a lede like, "Speaking before an audience of supporters in Ohio yesterday, Candidate A said some things about Candidate B that were not true. 'Blah blah,' said B, which was false." The current practice of putting the charge in the headline and the lede, then explicating the charge for a few graphs, then providing contrary information in the next few graphs without expressing a judgment about who's right, and then spending the rest of the article speculating on whether or not the charges will be effective is a completely unacceptable incentivation of bullshit and the trivialization of American politics.

August 20, 2004 | Permalink

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» Matthews Is Right from Kalblog
Matthew Yglesias: Go read Chris Matthews on why it's not okay for a journalist to turn himself into a conduit for misinformation even if he isn't directly doing the misinforming himself, followed by Keith Olberman on why a second-hand smear... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 20, 2004 10:36:44 PM

» Matthews Is Right from Kalblog
Matthew Yglesias: Go read Chris Matthews on why it's not okay for a journalist to turn himself into a conduit for misinformation even if he isn't directly doing the misinforming himself, followed by Keith Olberman on why a second-hand smear... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 20, 2004 10:38:49 PM

» Matthews Is Right from Kalblog
Matthew Yglesias: Go read Chris Matthews on why it's not okay for a journalist to turn himself into a conduit for misinformation even if he isn't directly doing the misinforming himself, followed by Keith Olberman on why a second-hand smear... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 21, 2004 1:34:21 PM

Comments

I have heard Laura Ingraham(sp?) and Rush Limbaugh(aka-The Great Pumpkinhead) trashing Chris Matthews for his relentless questioning of Michelle Malkin and Larry Thurlow. I think that Matthews is absolutely correct-these people put themselves out there, and then cry(or the talk show host cries for them) when they are subjected to rigorous questioning. In sum, they can dish it out, but they can't take it.

Posted by: Susan Crawford | Aug 20, 2004 5:29:10 PM

The Matthews/Malkin transcript was fascinating, and typical. She kept insisting on the phrase "self inflicted" while refusing to add either of the qualifiers "accidentally" or "intentionally". Matthews role was to force her to say one or the other.

You should have grabbed the link to Malkin's defensive post today.

Malkin

"I repeated that the allegations involved whether the injuries were "self inflicted wounds." I DID NOT SAY HE SHOT HIMSELF ON PURPOSE and Chris Matthews knows it."

Chris Matthews is playing this a little more hardball than you, Yglesias. The insinuation, the subtle attack would get by in your plan.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 20, 2004 5:37:11 PM

Yes. Also, defending internment camps means you're terrible. You should not be invited to express your opinion solely because you've proved you're morally insane.

Posted by: Kriston | Aug 20, 2004 5:39:10 PM

Olbermann rules. Can we get the whole SportsCenter team out on the campaign trail instead of these SCLM losers? "Meet the Press with Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen"? Guys like that would just be a lot less tolerant of bullshit.

Posted by: JP | Aug 20, 2004 5:46:39 PM

Olbermann rules. Can we get the whole SportsCenter team out on the campaign trail instead of these SCLM losers? "Meet the Press with Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen"? Guys like that would just be a lot less tolerant of bullshit.

I'd second that with one proviso:
Everyone except Stuart Scott.
Stuart "My entire repetoire was lifted from DMX songs" Scott, would single-handedly quintiple the bullshit factor in politics.

I must say that Matt's suggestion is spot on. Reporting disputes on factual matters as "he said, she said" isn't objeective. It's biased in favour of whichever side is full of shit.

Posted by: WillieStyle | Aug 20, 2004 5:58:18 PM

I heard that Matthews/Malkin exchange and Matthews outshouted Malkin's opportunity to respond. The underlying claim was that Kerry received a self-inflicted wound - he fired an M79 grenade that exploded and hit him with a piece of sharpnel. Is that the same as shooting himself?

Matthews is giving himself credit for something he does not deserve. There were eye witnesses to the event who described what they saw. Just because their testimony differs from Kerry's doesn't make it "misinformation." An honest journalist would evaluate the facts not shout down the speaker.

Posted by: Warthog | Aug 20, 2004 6:05:16 PM

The underlying claim was that Kerry received a self-inflicted wound - he fired an M79 grenade that exploded and hit him with a piece of sharpnel. Is that the same as shooting himself?A little Googling for "purple heart criteria" will bring you to a number of web sites, including purpleheart.org.There you will find that not only does shrapnel from your own grenade fired in combat count for a Purple Heart, but if you turn berserker in the heat of combat and start stabbing yourself with your own knife that probably counts too.What wouldn't count would be shooting your own ears out with a shotgun in a non-combat situation.Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Aug 20, 2004 6:10:40 PM

But the second hand smear, quoting a liar who's telling the lie you want to spread, and then defending yourself as having accurately quoted them, has been standard journalistic practice for as long as I've been reading newspapers. At least three decades, anyway. And most of the time when they do it, they NEVER get around to mentioning that what they've quoted isn't true.

So when did this standard practice of newspapers from the NYT to your grocery circular, suddenly become unacceptable?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Aug 20, 2004 6:16:35 PM

Warthog,
Your credibility just left the building. As Matthew as ably pointed out before, conversations carry with them the assumption that the person expressing views is not being disingenuous. If you violate that assumption, it is hard to get your credibility back.

Posted by: theCoach | Aug 20, 2004 6:19:38 PM

Keith says:

"This is about the politics of the Smear Thrice Removed. I’m not saying this, but questions have been raised by others.

"It is a perfected version of what many of President Bush’s opponents have tried in the murky depths of his reservist days. It is execrable no matter who presents it, no matter which party benefits from it."

Isn't this typical? In a piece dedicated to rebutting a real abuse by a real conservative, the pundit trashes "many" unnamed people on the left who supposedly have done something similar. No names. No examples. But a pox on both their houses, nonetheless.

Posted by: joe | Aug 20, 2004 6:22:58 PM

If Kerry said from the beginning that his service record speaks for itself, and invited the Navy to investigate the accuracy of their own records, that would have ended it right there. He didn't.

Instead the DNC threatened TV stations with lawsuits for running the ad, strong-armed bookstores to not carry the book, marched out an army of talking heads to smear the President and the Swiftboat Vets, and changed more than a few pages and contents of supposedly official documents on the Kerry website. These are not the acts of an honest and innocent man.

The new Swiftboat Vets ad is even more devasting to Kerry's character. The section that says that Kerry gave away for free what POWs would not give away under torture is extremely powerful. More power to the Swifties!


Posted by: Warthog | Aug 20, 2004 6:44:24 PM

MY: I think you mean "'Candidate B Blah Blah', said A, which was false." It's tough to get antecedents right when there aren't any names :).

However, this is of course a consequence of the trend towards making charges which, upon inspection, are in fact technically true, but grossly misleading. "Bush chides Kerry for voting for higher taxes 350 times" is a factually correct headline that has the virtue of sounding ominous while being utterly meaningless. The headline that should be written is "Bush twists Kerry's record on taxes".

I think the Campaign Desk ran an interview with a journalist or editor talking about this trend. The interviewee made the point that no newspaper wants to become an arbiter of truth; that is, no editor [Washington Post excepted, apparently] wants to see the follow-on headline "New York Times calls Bush ad 'misleading'". I am not entirely clear how we have gotten from "The Watergate break-in involved matters of national security, President Nixon told a national TV audience last night, and for that reason he would be unable to comment on the bizarre burglary. That is a lie." to this point.

And Stuart Scott riffs on Ludacris every once in a while. :)

Posted by: niq | Aug 20, 2004 6:45:53 PM

Can we get the whole SportsCenter team out on the campaign trail instead of these SCLM losers?

Oddly, I have been thinking about this more and more these days. Sports journalists differ from "real" journalists in that sports journalists are willing to call the people they cover on their bullshit, and "real" journalists aren't. A pitcher who gave up 6 runs and the lead to the dregs of the league and then announced in the clubhouse that he was "turning a corner" would quite literally be laughed and hooted at. Preside over an administration that spends a few hundred billion dollars more than it takes in, and you get "some critics question ..."

Posted by: alkali | Aug 20, 2004 6:51:04 PM

Maybe I'm not following what Matthew is saying. He wants the press to write: "Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe stated that Mr. Bush 'was AWOL', an accusation that is false."

Is that correct, Matthew?

Posted by: Al | Aug 20, 2004 7:01:23 PM

MATTHEWS: No. No one has every accused him of shooting himself on purpose.

MALKIN: Yes. Some of them say that.
--

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5765243/

What were you trolls saying?

Posted by: G C | Aug 20, 2004 7:01:55 PM

In all seriousness, Willie Brown's comments sort of get at some of the reservations I had about Kerry to begin with--not necessarily the specific content of the account he gives of Kerry--"laid back," etc.--but whatever the fact about Kerry such that this shit hasn't just completely slid off his back already. Given the respective war records, it seems like the guy in Kerry's situation really ought to be able to just flip a switch and quash this stuff--or anyway make political coin of it--and yet it seems to go on and on undisturbed.

Posted by: spacetoast | Aug 20, 2004 7:10:13 PM

Heh, also, the prospective sports-caster/journo coup...untainted eyes and so forth... um, Bill Walton?

Posted by: spacetoast | Aug 20, 2004 7:13:47 PM

it is nice that both Matthews and Olbermann are standing up against this major sliming but Olbermann comes to this conclusion:
"But with instant communications, the internet explosion, and the 527 Groups, they are foul at warp-speed."

Until this election cycle blogs and even widespread internet has not been typical and until recent campaign finance reforn 527s have hardly beeneven a whisper.

That essentially means that about the only "instant communications" left to account for the spreading of smears like that against John McCain in 2000 and Max Cleland in 2002 is to not put too fine a point on it cable television like MSNBC.

Posted by: paul orsillo | Aug 20, 2004 9:07:22 PM

Credibility? Moi?

I don't need no fuckin credibility. Persistence is my thing. That's why I'm a warthog.

Posted by: warthog | Aug 20, 2004 9:32:27 PM

Malkin's response is hilarious.

Malkin

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000418.htm

Posted by: warthog | Aug 20, 2004 9:36:12 PM

Anyone know if MM walked off or was told not to come back? She says she was kicked off, but Matthews said in the transcript that they would be back with Malkin.

Posted by: liberal japonicus | Aug 20, 2004 9:57:20 PM

Malkin makes it sound as though she walked, though who knows. I'm not sure what Matt's saying, though I think he's giving Matthews and Olbermann props for challenging Malkin's assertion. I said in another place I think Malkin's just too young and too green to realize that she needed to back off when Matthews pursued it. Instead, she got rather deer in headlights and resorted (as she has lately) to refusing to back down even when doing so would have been no sign of weakness. I kind of like Malkin - she's smart and interesting and not afraid to cut through the clutter when it's important. But I think she's headed down that Coulter-like path of stridency and irrelevance where she's right, damn the consequences, and even the most reasonable dissenter is a weak kneed lib who needs a good what-for. That'll get her a permanent spot on Hannity & Colmes, but it's not going to do much for her credibility long term.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 20, 2004 11:17:57 PM

Warthog, the position of the swifties is that the naval records lie, so your advice to kerry is pointless.

But i do have to grant you points for recognizing that you have no credibility: at this stage, anyone still defending the swifties as though they are honest folks doing a public service does, by definition, lack credibility.

Back to Matthew's point: i think this problem has always existed, but i also think that several developments have exacerbated it: careerist inclinations by reporters who want to become pundits and who don't achieve such a highly paid professional outcome by calling sources liars; working the refs by a very effective right-wing machine; and an over-reliance on sources (rather than documents) by reporters which leads most of them distinctly under-informed....

Posted by: howard | Aug 20, 2004 11:35:30 PM

weboy, it is just worth noting that having no credibility hasn't cost ann coulter anything.

Posted by: howard | Aug 20, 2004 11:37:10 PM

You know something, it's just never going to be the case that the media steps in to say "true" and "false." And so be it. You won't believe Candy Crowley when she says Kerry is lying, and Bush supporters won't believe Olbermann when he says Bush is lying. There's no neutral parties. No arbiter of truth.

No hand of God or right swooping down to pluck our heros away from distruction.

Politics is amoral and 100% relativist. There is neither truth nor falsity. Good and bad, right and wrong are nothing more than synonymns for "effective" and "ineffective" and they'll swap and switch at the drop of a hat.

If you really think that the mainstream media is going to lift one fucking finger as the Bush campaign does the same thing they've been doing to every single Democratic candiate for 16 years, you are just out of your mind. It's not going to happen, not now, not in this media environment.

It's never going to happen.

If Kerry's team, if the Democrats want to win, they need to be as amoral (but more importantly) as effective as getting their spin accepted by everyone. They need hacks and hatchet men. They'll lose every single time without them. Look at what these thugs have done to John Kerry over two weeks. Look at what's happened and tell yourself that "truth" has one goddamn thing to do with it. It doesn't. These people aren't even liars. It's so far beyond that, it's on the other side of a different universe. The amount of amorality will take your breath away, but if these things are worth fighting against, the only way that will happen is for the battle to be joined.

Truth is nothing in politics. It doesn't exist.

And there isn't going to be any journos to pluck John Kerry out of the river under hostile fire. That boat isn't going to sail. That boat doesn't get out of drydock.

Return fire without mercy. But don't look for a rescue. It isn't happening, and the sooner we all get with that fact on the ground, the less bad things will be.

Posted by: SamAm | Aug 21, 2004 3:44:07 AM

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