Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The MSM gets a twofer

In my previous post on the Koran/urine-splashing incident, I spent some time wondering why this story got so much coverage.

Some things were fairly obvious: yes, the MSM seems determined to report anything that might reflect badly on Bush and his policies; and yes, Guantanamo is certainly one of those policies. And yes indeed, the MSM would like to see a Democrat in the White House in 2008. But the story seemed so unimportant (accidental urine-splashing by one guard?), and its potential to harm the US so clear, that it was hard to see why the MSM felt they simply had to cover this one--and heavily, at that.

So in that post I asked a rather rhetorical, angry question: why is the press so determined to make the task of protecting ourselves as hard as possible? I'm not so cynical about the press that I think that actually was their goal in publishing this story; instead, it was more in the nature of an unintended side effect. I think their real goal is something quite different.

Anti-Bush and pro-Democratic sentiment is certainly a motivator, but there's another thing driving many journalists who pressed this story: their own self-interest. In other words, their careers. In this they are no different than most human beings, of course--looking out for number one is a time-honored activity.

So, how does the Koran/urine story advance the careers of journalists, or enhance the MSM? Well, remember the earlier Newsweek Koran-flushing story (it wasn't so very long ago, but it seems like aeons, doesn't it)? That story was attacked, particularly by bloggers. This was both unnerving and embarrassing to the MSM, which has gotten rather tired of blogs now that the novelty has worn off. In fact, after an initial flirtation with blogs, the MSM response to the blogosphere turned condescending ("guys in pajamas") or even downright hostile. Blogs are no joke anymore--first Dan Rather and then Eason Jordan went down, now Newsweek and Isikoff were threatened. Who's next?

For me, the sign that things were getting serious was when the ordinarily even-handed David Brooks wrote a poorly-reasoned apologia for the Koran/flushing story. It seemed to me that the MSM was circling the wagons, leaping to the defense of fellow journalists under attack.

Afterwards, when the odd symmetry of the Koran/urine-splashing incident turned up in a report (Koran down the toilet on purpose, Koran urinated on by accident--what's the difference among friends?), the MSM found its chance to publicize it and get a twofer. They were able to present a story that was both anti-Bush and, even more importantly this time, pro-MSM. The message was "see, Newsweek wasn't so wrong after all--even the military itself says this one is true, and it's almost the same thing."


At 1:29 PM, June 07, 2005, Anonymous color me cynical said...

While the MSM may not be “determined to make the task of protecting ourselves as hard as possible,” I do think many of its practitioners would like the U.S. to fail in Iraq. Couple of reasons: 1) Bush must fail no matter what and 2) a failure in Iraq would actually be salutory -- a necessary antidote to American Empire and a disincentive to wage future wars. But maybe even more important is that many of them don’t think the terror threat is worthy of a “war” of any kind. Remember Kerry’s “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance”?

At 2:21 PM, June 07, 2005, Blogger Callimachus said...

Agreed, generally, with CMC. The media sees itself primarily as the guardian of constitutional freedoms in America, not as the protector of life/liberty, which defaults to the military, which we media types tend to neither like nor understand.

Iraq and terrorism are purely military problems. Protecting religious minorities, condemning prisons and detentions, fighting Patriot Act restrictions -- those are what the media typically sees as its job.

2. The flap over the Newsweek story promoted up the news cycle food chain anything dealing with the Quran and Guantanano and eliminatory functions.

3. There is a general sense among many that the U.S. ought to fail in Iraq. But most bosses I've worked for aren't that activist about it. Rather, they think, based on echo-chamber experience, that the U.S. will fail in Iraq. Therefore they're writing it that way. That's what you do. You don't want to be the one dumbass newspaper in America that didn't think Watergate was a bigt deal and didn't see the Nixon resignation coming. [There was such a paper; it's the competitor of the one I work for now.]

At 5:33 PM, June 07, 2005, Anonymous meander said...

"(Koran down the toilet on purpose, Koran urinated on by accident--what's the difference among friends?)"
You do have a way with words.
Sometimes I wonder just what kind of world some of these MSM types think we are going to have if the whole democracy movement fails in Iraq. Let's face it, if the islamist extremists win their ultimate goal, then they control the world. Just how much freedom of the press will there be then? If one were to look at possible scenarios in this epic struggle, you'd think self interest and self preservation would have the MSM totally rooting for the success of the Bush doctrine.

At 8:38 PM, June 07, 2005, Anonymous Promethea said...

meander . . .

I've wondered the same thing--what kind of world does the MSM think we'll have if the Islamists win. I believe that the MSM puts very little effort into thinking and understanding. It's concerned with very short news cycles--daily, weekly, monthly.

I don't think the people who work and write for these publications are especially thoughtful or educated. They don't believe that they're in danger because they have no historical perspective.

At 1:33 AM, June 08, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

The Media assumes that "losing the war" means a story to cover.

They have no connection with reality.

The people that dropped the WTC and a wing of the Pentagon operated under our existing security protocols of the time.

Today in 2005 the protocols are different, and aimed at ultimately ending the terrorist threat. If we "lose" the war, we retrench into a bunker mentality where the odd airliner attack or car bomb or mass murder is "just the way things are".

Just like we lived before 9/11.

The Media demands to live outside the chain of consequences for their actions. Yes, they DO want BUSH to fail - but are adamant about not seeing the larger struggle in which Bush just happens to be a key player. They attempt to make soundbites and stereotypes they embrace pivotal memes of the conflict.

Bush used the word "crusade" in a speech in 2001. Any number of Islamists, beginning with Mohammed and including OBL and al Qutb and the Taliban and the PLO and the Mullahs of Iran have been spitting "jihad" from their cesspits for literally centuries.

Any time I feel the need to reexamine our treatment of illegal combatants, I do two things: I read the relevant articles of the Geneva Conventions, and I look up my saved copy of the account of Fabrizzio Quartucchi's decapitation at the hands of the barbarians.

Media agenda is transparent. Their hubris is revolting. And they are flirting with becoming ulitmately more deadly to Western Democracy than any WMD in the hands of any jihadi, anywhere.

At 2:50 AM, June 08, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

Obfuscation; it's not just for breakfast anymore...

At 6:55 AM, June 08, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Yup, it sure makes one wonder. I recall the video made in Afghanistan by some woman about a year or two before the US kicked the Taliban out. It showed the public executions done at a soccer stadium and it showed thugs beating women because their veils weren't high enough. Add to this 9/11, the beheadings and car bombs in Iraq and all the other bombings all over the world, and it leaves one with a gut wrenching conviction
that it must be stopped in whatever way it takes, or, it leaves one almost hysterical in denial that it can grow and spread. There is no reasoning with it as we understand and live the concepts of reason, but the desperate hope that it can be reasoned with is demonstrated by the actions of MSM and Liberals in general. That's my take anyway. Where do Liberals and their ideology think they stand in relation to the taliban and the wahhabis? To absolute paternalism?
To honor killing and clitorectomy?
To stoning and beheading for adultery? To the legitimate move underfoot in Canada to allow sharia law to be used in settling divorces in muslim communities? Do Liberals actually think they would be allowed to live if the taliban types were in full control of their lives?

At 9:42 AM, June 08, 2005, Anonymous terrytj said...

These comments also make me wonder what cold war American communists had invisioned for the world, esp their world, if their ideology had triumphed. I have always wondered about the truth of what sort of life Hollywood elite reds had imagined for themselves...certainly not dependent subservient state slaves.
Nor do I imagine the journalist/Bush critics see themselves ending up with a bad deal if the Islamo-beheader-freaks somehow managed to rule the world. ("we were against the Bush actions! really! Now put down that sword and give me my pen!")

As for a solution to the current war, the only hint I have heard, describing an alternative plan for dealing with the threat from islamofascists is Monsieur Kerry's back-burner nusiance approach, which is not a vision at all, but merely wishful thinking. What do the Bush critics actually envision as an alternative to what is currently being done? something tells me that somewhere in the equation, there is a U and there is an N.

At 11:06 AM, June 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread takes me back to a thought I had in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it seemed that what had happened that day would have more of an effect than it ultimately had on the moral outlook of the leftists among my friends.

One of the things that struck me in watching my leftist friends after 9/11 was that they were in a situation in which they could not make a reasonable claim on the moral high ground in the way that they had often done before automatically.

The leftist worldview has less of a sense of inherent human imperfection than most other outlooks do and therefore it puts a greater premium on moral perfection and indulges in a self-righteousness that, to be fair, is not always conscious.

By the time of 9/11, I had become fairly moderate in my political views, but I still had enough memory of an earlier flirtation with the left in college to know what a blow it must have been after 9/11, and what a loss of bearings, for leftists to feel that they lost the higher moral ground.

Identification with the left is a lot like an embrace of fundamentalist religion. Its premise of moral perfection leaves little room for error after that. Leftists have often abandoned one or more secular and/or spiritual faiths before embracing the left, so the prospect of having to abandon the left as well, in the face of its failings, is often more than they can bear.

So it shouldn't be surprising that what leftists have tended to do since 9/11 is either (a) to deny the significance of those events and the change they require in moral vantage-point or (b) to substitute an imaginary crisis in place of the actual one, a crisis in which the left can continue to claim the moral high ground and leftists can avoid the painful work of changing their minds.

Something like the urine-splashing story is a case-in-point, exhibiting a typical mixture of both tendencies:

(a) Islamists pose no threat.
(b) The Bush administration does.

Neo-Neocon has done us a service in bringing a psychoanalytic perspective to bear on the realm of ideology and ideological change.

I don't think that we should refrain from moral judgement of those who hold morally-objectionable views, but I do think that we should remain dispassionate and temper such judgement with a practical understanding of the psychic forces at play within political identification.

Those of us who have ever changed our minds -- and I hope that's all of us -- have a duty to help others to do so as well, which requires understanding of other people's psychological positions.

As a society, we can't afford to let a vulgar polarization of political views prevent us from responding effectively to the threats we face. Our success so far has been mixed, in part because we have yet to rise above that polarization. While I believe that the left is more responsible than the center or the right for our current divisions, I also believe that it does no one any good to let the left set the terms of conversation -- not even the left itself.

At 10:58 AM, June 11, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

I think the reporters may be overeducated and hoity-toity about their roles, but editors know their job is to sell newspapers (or sell consumers to advertisers) so they make the news as sensationalistic as possible.

I recently emailed a reporter about an anti-white statement in her piece, and she apologized and replied that her editors wrote the statement and insisted on keeping it, over her strenuous and even tearful objections.

There may have been a time when angry readers would stay on, but the MSM is not the only game in town any more. They are losing the game because they haven't realized the rules have changed.


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