L. Brent Bozell, the outspoken head of the Media Research Center, doesn’t write the syndicated opinion columns that run under his by-line and has not for quite a while. Reporter Jim Romenesko did a little digging, and discovered that the red-headed face of the conservative group, a favorite guest of Fox talk show host Sean Hannity, uses Tim Graham, the MRC’s Director of Media Analysis as his ghostwriter, both for his columns and apparently his recent books as well.
Before the embarrassing deception was exposed, however—-Bozell’s special crusade is exposing and condemning dishonesty in the liberal news media—the company that distributes Bozell’s columns managed to expose its own flawed ethics as well. Confronted with Romenesko’s suspicions, Bozell’s syndicator wrote this response:
“If you know of one of our columnists who supposedly is not writing the column but rather ‘assigning an underling to pen them (an underling who is not credited),’ I think it only fair that you tell us who has been accused of this so we can talk to the columnist. Yes, we expect all of our columnists to write their own columns, though we understand that some work closely with researchers.“
Once the evidence appeared too overwhelming to deny (as in “lie away effectively”)—-various Media Research Center employees confirmed that Bozell didn’t write his own copy, with one telling him in surprise, “I thought everyone knew it.”—the defense, predictably, began to evolve into “everybody does it.” Romenesko was told by Bozell’s staff that the practice of “people signing off on agreeable words written for them” was perfectly acceptable because…Obama does it! You know, that guy whose ethics the Media Research Center admires so much? “How many speeches has Obama written the last ten years? Should he have prefaced the State of the Union with ‘My fellow Americans – I didn’t write this?’” the reporter was asked.
But President Obama’s job isn’t writing columns and books (though, to give half a point to Bozell’s lackey, it does often appear that Obama thinks his job is just giving speeches.). Bozell’s reputation as a conservative critic and pundit is based entirely on the quality of his stated and published opinions, just as the recently exposed Japanese composer Mamoru Samuragochi was hailed in Japan for the popular compositions that he secretly paid another composer to write. Nor does the President pretend that he is the sole author of his speeches; the White House has never hidden the fact that it employs speechwriters. A ghostwritten column, like ghostwritten blogs and ghostwritten novels and autobiographies (and ghostwritten Pulitzer Prize-winning histories, like Sen. Jack Kennedy’s elaborate PR hoax, “Profiles in Courage”) are very different. They are lies, no more, no less. They are designed to create the illusion that the named author has wisdom, acumen, expertise and facility of expression that he or she may not have. Worse, such falsely attributed work diminishes the legitimate thought, skill, and labor of those whose books, columns, articles and blogs reflect their own output, and no one else’s.
Having been exposed as a self-made sock-puppet, Bozell’s proper place is ignominious retirement. I never had much interest in his opinions to begin with (though Newsbusters, one of his organization’s creations, is a well-researched if narrowly focused resource), but now he has been exposed as a poseur—a right wing, unmusical Milli Vanilli—and a hypocrite. Who cares what he has to say about the deceits of the left-biased media?
He fits right in.