Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: … And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting'”

 

Arthur in Maine, who has kindly featured me on his radio show and actually given me sufficient time to explain things without being cut off, submitted the following discourse focusing on my embarrassingly slow-to-form realization that all investigative reporting into political matters had to be considered as manipulated to serve some political agenda by the news organization.

I’ll have some observations at the end, but first, here is AIM’s Comment of the Day on Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting:

…Why are any of you – including Jack – surprised? Media is, first and foremost, a BUSINESS. It doesn’t sell news – it provides news as a mechanism for generating advertising (in the case of NPR, underwriting and/or listener) support.

The United States is one of the only so-called free nations that embraces the concept of objective media. In fact, the whole concept started in this nation – with Joseph Pulitzer (recognize the name?). In other words, the concept of objective media is an American conceit.

Pulitzer’s drive towards so-called “objective” media certainly raised standards, but it wasn’t due to the noble idea that newspapers – pretty much the only game in town at his time – should be objective. Pulitzer was the visionary who recognized that the way news was being reported was scaring off the advertisers, and the advertisers were way more important than the folks who plunked down a penny or two to buy a copy at the news stand.

American media at the dawn of the 20th century wasn’t dissimilar to the way it is today – and much like it has ALWAYS been in nations in which the media isn’t state-controlled. It’s rambunctious. It’s partisan. It wears its beliefs on its sleeve – both with regard to what it covers and the way it covers it.

As an aside, did you know that three of the top-20 news websites in the US are actually British? They are, in order, the Daily Mail (downscale female-skewing libertarian), the BBC (benevolent government with a left-ish twinge) and The Guardian (left wing)..You can credit Drudge for at least part of their popularity, but that’s beside the point: Brit news media outlets understand to whom they’re selling and provides content accordingly.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. If one is sufficiently curious, one can peruse a variety of British media sources and find vastly different takes on the same story. Given that journalists are human, and humans have biases, I’d actually argue that this is more honest than the way we do it here. One can see numerous different takes on the same story, from different perspectives, and make up one’s own mind – if, and it IS an if, one is sufficiently curious.

Many people are not. The risk lies in the fact that people select their news sources based upon confirmation bias. But I would argue that this is actually healthier for free discourse. One can not lead a horse to water and demand that it drinks. But one CAN provide a variety of hydrating liquids and offer the horse a choice. From there, it’s up to the horse to determine whether or not to keel over in hypovolemic shock.

A big part of our current problem as a nation lies in the fact that so many Americans don’t question the validity of its press. Heck, many journos don’t get it. We will all be better off once we learn that NO news source can be trusted, and that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. We must all be skeptical of what we read.

Might take a generation or two, but as an optimist by nature, I suspect we’ll get there.

***

I’m back.

Here’s why I’m not just surprised, I’m really angry about it, it being the near complete abandonment by journalists of the principles journalists have agreed upon as necessary to for journalism to do its job.

Journalists were given special privileges in the Constitution, literally a license to be irresponsible, incompetent and corrupt, because the Founders realized that a free and open society depended on an informed public protected from attempts from those in power to constrain what it knew or could know. Lawyers who do a bad job get sued for malpractice. Doctors who do a bad job lose their licenses. Priests who molest children get sent to prison. But bad journalists can just keep pumping out false, misleading or incomplete reporting, and nobody can stop them. Even if they get fired, they can find a job, or start a blog: Dan Rather should be selling hot chestnuts, but he’s still a working “journalist.” He even has the gall to lecture about the importance of integrity, if he has a mic loud enough to drown out the sounds of retching from the audience.

Journalism is a profession, which means it has to be self-policing, and because a profession only exists to serve society, it cannot be allowed to fall back on the “it’s just a business” excuse, or the “it’s always been this way” rationalization. It isn’t just a business, because if journalism isn’t trusted, it has no business. Look: lawyers are in business too, and many make a lot of money. But the profession will not tolerate any lawyer who reveals a client’s confidences, or who screws a client over, because society will not tolerate it. If lawyers so routinely harmed their clients as journalists betray the public trust, there would be no more lawyers. Similarly, if doctors just routinely did harm to patients, and kept charging a fortune for their services, we’d have a return to amateurs, versatile barbers and faith-healers pretty quickly. In short, there would be accountability. Right now, there is no accountability for journalists, and the mainstream news media denies that any is warranted. This is why, as uncomfortable as I am with a President attacking news organizations, I applaud the fact that being routinely unethical is being called out by someone with something close to the press’s power. The field of journalism is supposed to be self-policing, like all professions, and it is not. It is an arrogant, dangerous force distorting our democracy, and a President is perhaps the only authority who can stand up to it.

I teach legal ethics more than any other kind, and I can conservatively state  that most of the ethics rules governing the law are followed by the vast majority of  lawyers almost all of the time. Now let’s look at Wikipedia’s summary of what are supposed to be the core ethics principles of journalism:

  • Reporters are expected to be as accurate as possible given the time allotted to story preparation and the space available, and to seek reliable sources.
  • Events with a single eyewitness are reported with attribution. Events with two or more independent eyewitnesses may be reported as fact. Controversial facts are reported with attribution.
  • Independent fact-checking by another employee of the publisher is desirable.
  • Corrections are published when errors are discovered.
  • Defendants at trial are treated only as having “allegedly” committed crimes, until conviction, when their crimes are generally reported as fact (unless, that is, there is serious controversy about wrongful conviction).
  • Opinion surveys and statistical information deserve special treatment to communicate in precise terms any conclusions, to contextualize the results, and to specify accuracy, including estimated error and methodological criticism or flaws.
  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. The Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
  • Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
  • Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Plus…

  • Avoid biased reporting
  • Avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Avoid news manipulation, spiking, and double standards.

I do not observe that most journalists and journalism organizations in the political sphere observe the vast majority of these principles almost  of the time—the provisions in red are routinely ignored— nor is there any genuine remorse or regret about this.

There was a story in Mediaite today about Sean Hannity using an altered videotape to slam CNN over its false reporting of the date of an email from WikiLeaks to the Trump campaign. Colby Hall, the author, is a reliable mainstream news media-defending flack: he says that CNN issued a correction, but as we have discussed on Ethic Alarms, it was defensive and arrogant, astoundingly blaming CNN’s anonymous source rather than taking responsibility for not checking the source. Hall reserves much of his article to condemn the use of the term “fake news” to describe what CNN, or even Hannity did, saying that this has “redefined a phrase originally used as a synonym for propaganda to mean biased coverage or journalistic faux-pas.”

No, Colby, “fake news’ is properly used as a synonym for fake news, as in “a story that isn’t true, substantially misleading, or not fairly treated as news.” Such false stories, like CNN’s effort to manufacture a smoking gun to show Trump campaign “collusion” with Russia is propaganda. Anti-Trump propaganda is constant in broadcast journalism. Only by calling untrustworthy reporting what it deserves to be called will the public become aware that, as Arthur says, “that NO news source can be trusted, and that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. We must all be skeptical of what we read.” Maybe, at that point, journalism will have to get serious about self-policing.

Ethics Alarms calls it fake news, because such news is easily avoided: follow the ethics guidelines of the profession. Check sources. Avoid bias. Then when there is a mistake,  it can legitimately be called an honest mistake, not a mistake driven by incompetence and political agendas. Then a mistake will be followed by a correction, an explanation, an apology, and as with any trustworthy profession, consequences severe enough that similar errors will be avoided in the future.

80 Comments

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80 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: … And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting'”

  1. Wayne

    I doubt that you can put journalists in the same catagory as physicians, attorneys, scientists, or psychologists as being members of a profession. First, professionals are supposed to have their primary duty to their clients, not to the business they work for. If they realize that their employer (profit or non-profit) wishes them to engage in activities contrary to their client’s welfare or to falsify data, ethically they must refuse. This is not the case with journalists who routeenly slant stories or omit data that would clash with the businesses interests that employ them.

    • You’re talking about what they do, not what they are supposed to do. The rhetoric of journalists is that they are dedicated to their clients. You didn’t just ague that they aren’t professionals: you argued that they are unethical professionals.

      And that’s correct.

  2. charlesgreen

    “A big part of our current problem as a nation lies in the fact that so many Americans don’t question the validity of its press.”

    I think the problem is EXACTLY the reverse. Whatever the reason – Breitbart, Facebook, pick your villain – a MUCH BIGGER problem is that so many Americans routinely question the validity of the mainstream media.

    I know that makes me unpopular on this blog, but COME ON!!!

    For you to assert that the New York Times, for example, “routinely ignores” the first four items on your list is inflammatory, without proof itself, and from all I can see JUST WRONG. WRONG.

    The NYTimes, and CNN, and the rest, pretty routinely publish corrections (to their frequent embarrassment), do fact-checking, and provide attribution.

    The horrifyingly common confusion of “fake news” with occasional mistakes, honestly owned up to, is a far greater societal problem.

    Good on you for keeping everybody honest, but let’s not get way way way out over our skis: Fake News is when the President lies about crowd sizes and the effect of tax plans on his income, or when nut-jobs plant rumors about pizza parlors and murders.

    THE HORRIFYING THING THAT’S HAPPENING IS HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THIS CRAP. And honestly it doesn’t help that you’re giving voice to those who think this is remotely comparable to the MSM making mistakes and correcting them.

    Of course WaPo and NYT and MSNBC have editorial biases; as your guest poster notes, this has always been the way of the press. But it’s also true that there’s more than a century of serious attempts to separate the newsroom from the editorial room, and while that requires eternal vigilance, it’s a source of great frustration that the people trying to do so get equated with a bunch of off-shore facebook-mongers and right-wing bloggers manufacturing “alternative facts.”

    • 1. Charles, the President is not a news source or a news organization. That’s truly a straw man.
      2. The Times routinely uses unidentified, anonymous sources.
      3. In the last two days, the Times, which I read every day, kept writing that the Alabama election was an “upset.” That’s blatant fake news. It wasn’t an upset at all.Polls had been showing a dead heat for weeks. Major GOP figures in the state and nationally rejected him or condemned him. He was unelectable on the record BEFORE the former dates kept coming forward. An upset is when a long-shot wins over a prohibative favorite. Ali over Liston. The Mets over the Orioles. Not a winner in a race rated as toss-up.

      So this was hyping by the Times, and deliberate misrepresentation to launch doomsday analyses about the 2018 election. This was literally a lie: readers were told what wasn’t an upset was one.

      The public believes the news media far too much, and Arthur is correct. We have o be our own reporters, and assess the value and trustworthiness of individual reporters.

      I don’t deal in alternative facts. An alternative fact is that the news media has any integrity. It doesn’t. You’re a hopeless less romantic. I love that about you!

      • charlesgreen

        I appreciate the love (truly I do); as to the rest, let me ponder…
        Thanks,
        charlie

      • charlesgreen

        One quick note on the Alabama non-“upset.”

        Of COURSE it was an upset!

        –The Reddest state in the union just elected a democrat, and not the most centrist of democrats, at that! That’s an upset right there.

        –Black turnout percentage exceeded that for Obama. That’s an upset right there.

        –The polls weren’t tied, they were all over the map – only one in ten showed a “dead heat” as you claim; the others showed 3-10% point wins by one or the other candidate. It wasn’t a dead heat, though it was a dilemma for pollsters.

        –Predictit.org, the political betting site, had huge activity in a number of positions (number of counties, write-in percentage, etc.) – here’s what the site had to say two days before the election:

        ————–
        “While recent opinion polls for the race have tightened, prediction markets have stayed consistent in the weeks leading to today’e election. Roy Moore holds roughly 70/30 odds of winning. The last time Moore was below 70 percent was on November 27, around the same time President Trump tacitly endorsed him via tweet.

        While the market currently has Moore as an almost 3-to-1 favorite, this is a difficult race to properly forecast. In an off-election year, in a state with limited polling data to analyze, and in the middle of one of the most unpredictable times in U.S. politics — nothing will be certain until the last ballot is counted.

        Here are the lines on the #ALSen markets to watch, along with a 90-day graph on the “who will win” market:

        • Who will win the Alabama special election? Roy Moore (73%) vs. Doug Jones (31%)”

        ——————
        That’s from a bunch of folks with money on the line, not an axe to grind.

        It was absolutely an upset; maybe the final evidence is it was so upsetting that the losing candidate still can’t believe it.

        And yet THAT is your example of “fake news?” I’m sorry, you’re hoist with your own petard. Fake news would be Trump’s attempt to say, “Like I was telling you all along…”

        (And thanks again for the love)

        • No, again, what the President says is not news reporting. And, like the Times, you are using a fake definition to justify a false report. So what if this was the first Democrat elected in decades? It was also the only time a twice kicked out judge who had credible accusations against him as a child molester ran for the Republicans. I don’t recall anyone calling Obama’s 2008 election an “upset”, do you? yet by your definition, it was one.

          I thought the sexual harassment wave against Democrats would rescue Moore, but was I surprised that Jones won? Not at all…because it wasn’t an upset.

          “Jones wins in Upset” is a false characterization, and fake news.

          • charlesgreen

            Nope, uh uh, not gonna let this one go.

            You said ” the Times, which I read every day, kept writing that the Alabama election was an “upset.” That’s blatant fake news.” You doubled down and said “‘Jones wins in Upset’ is a false characterization, and fake news.”

            See, this is the problem with the “fake news” moniker. It gets tossed around far too loosely, in reckless and dangerous manners, and you yourself have fallen into the trap, at least on this one occasion.

            Here are just a few of the news outlets who used the term “upset” to describe Jones’ victory, either in the headline or in the lead paragraph, in addition to the NYTimes. You can check it yourself by googling Jones+upset+Alabama:

            NBC News
            ABC News
            Denver Post
            Fox News
            BBC News
            CNBC News
            The Huntsville Times
            The Mobile Press-Register
            The NY Daily News
            The Associated Press
            USA Today
            The Wall Street Journal
            KMOV TV (St. Louis)
            RT.com
            Newsweek
            Los Angeles Times
            Bangor Daily News
            The Atlantic
            The Houston Chronicle
            CNN
            The Dallas News
            The Washington Free Beacon
            Time (though they just say “shocked the world,” not the “U” word)
            TwinCities.com
            Variety
            The Times of Israel
            The Chicago Sun Times
            The Japan Times
            The Las Vegas Sun

            And believe me I could go on.

            The punch line, of course, is that if someone believes that all those outlets are guilty of “false narrative” and “fake news,” then they are wildly out of touch with the sentiment of the majority of sentient society around the world.

            Here’s the problem. The casual sneering with which the President, and so many of his fellow-travellers, use that disgusting term loosely, is getting echoed in this chamber, all too often, as it is around the world (e.g. calling the Royinga ‘fake news’). If the term has any meaning at all, it should be associated with deliberate, conscious, malicious intent. The Jones upset isn’t even false, much less fake: according to all the media listed above, it’s THE TRUTH. It absolutely was an upset, and the general public knows it.

            This is an example of how reckless language spreads.

            Jack, I know you are usually meticulous about your critiques, and all of us slip from time to time – certainly I do. But if you can make a slip this egregious, it ought to be a cautionary tale for everyone else tempted to play fast and loose with language like “fake news.”

            This is wrong, and deserves to be called out.

            • You are wrong, Charles. You can argue forever that an upset isn’t an upset, but when a contest is regarded as close, and many believe that each competitor has an appreciable chance to win, then it is not an upset, by definition. Thus no matter how many or how few use that false description which misleads, it is still false, and not because of some “mistake,” since the newspapers have access to the same dictionaries I do. Upset means “an unexpected result”. As we reviewed. a toss up contest by definition means that a win by either competitor is not unexpected. Then there was the Fox poll.

              So why did the news media misrepresent the result? Many reasons. Confirmation bias: they believed Alabama to be a moronic backwater. A desire to create the narrative of the result to be a devastating shock to the Republicans, which the news media opposes, and Trump, which the news media wants to see fail. An upset suggests not just defeat, but failure. Then what followed was the narrative that this very predictable loss somehow created the likelihood of a failure to hold the House and Senate. Never mind that the race was absurdly sui generis, with a child molesting moron who had been twice rebuked as a judge for violating the law running as numerous state and national party members announced that they could not support him. The news media could not possibly think that this race had any larger significance. Many Republicans, embarrassed by the candidate, had the integrity to stay home.

              The news media wanted to match the Alabama fool to Trump, because they have equal contempt for both, but that too is a false narrative, and the product of bias and incompetence as well. But the news media wanted to paint the loss as being more unexpected than it was, more significant than it was, and more devastating to Republicans than it was (they had already announced that a victory would ALSO be devastating to Republicans) Thus the use of the completely false term upset to describe what they knew was no upset, again, by definition, except to those who simply analyzed the race stupidly, based on total contempt for Alabamans and Republicans.

              But it is effective, because most of the public wasn’t immersed in the race, knew little or nothing about Moore, and were not informed by the Times or most other sources about the undisputed reasons he was a terrible candidate, which had nothing to do with his dates 40 years ago.

              This was a played out scenario, in short, exactly as Arthur described and explained. The news media, acting as businesses rather than serious professionals, hyped the sex angle at the expense of the whole story and public comprehension. Then it spun the result to fit its partisan agenda—demoralize the Right, create the illusion of defeat, and make the Democratic victory appear more remarkable and impressive than it was by calling it what it was not. An upset.

              Which is to say, fake news.

              • Here’s a bonus: what ethical coverage would have said about the race.

                The original run-off was a hopeless mess. Strange was the appointee of a corrupt governor who had to quit to avoid being impeached, and who had appointed him in a dastardly bargain to avoid prosecution. Moore was Moore. Both would be horrible candidates, and give the Democrats a freak chance to win a Senate seat. The Democrats would have been sure of winning if they had nominated a pro-life Democrat, but there are none. Jones was a virtuous nebbish with good civil rights credentials, bland enough not to make any gaffes. The Post’s conveniently timed hit job probably helped Moore, looked on as it was as partisan opposition attack, and Gloria Allred’s botch with the yearbook helped even Moore, that is, more. But one after another conservatives said that they couldn’t vote for the creep, and turn-out became a likely problem. Then, knowing that his election probably rested on how many blacks went to the poll to vote against him, Roy Moore made a speech advocating the repeal of the 13th and 15th Amendments. Blacks only vote for most Republicans in single digits, and Alabama has a large black population. Gee, what a surprise: a lot turned out to vote against the candidate that advocated making slavery legal again. Meanwhile, lots of whites, because not everyone in Alabama is a toothless illiterate racist hick, decided to organize their sock drawers rather than vote for someone who embarrassed their species. Trump trying to save the seat was futile; when was the last time a President had any measurable effect on a state race? 1996, maybe. Obama and Bush had no luck at all.

                The polls were all over the place, as one would expect, since so many volatile factors were in play, and nobody was confident who would win. Ultimately more embarrassed Republicans had the decency to reject Moore, and more reasonable blacks chose to spit on a racist. In a predicted photo-finish, a terrible candidate lost, as terrible candidates usually do. And when they do, it’s no “upset.”

              • Here’s a bonus: what ethical coverage would have said about the race.

                The original run-off was a hopeless mess. Strange was the appointee of a corrupt governor who had to quit to avoid being impeached, and who had appointed him in a dastardly bargain to avoid prosecution. Moore was Moore. Both would be horrible candidates, and give the Democrats a freak chance to win a Senate seat. The Democrats would have been sure of winning if they had nominated a pro-life Democrat, but there are none. Jones was a virtuous nebbish with good civil rights credentials, bland enough not to make any gaffes. The Post’s conveniently timed hit job probably helped Moore, looked on as it was as partisan opposition attack, and Gloria Allred’s botch with the yearbook helped even Moore, that is, more. But one after another conservatives said that they couldn’t vote for the creep, and turn-out became a likely problem. Then, knowing that his election probably rested on how many blacks went to the poll to vote against him, Roy Moore made a speech advocating the repeal of the 13th and 15th Amendments. Blacks only vote for most Republicans in single digits, and Alabama has a large black population. Gee, what a surprise: a lot turned out to vote against the candidate that advocated making slavery legal again. Meanwhile, lots of whites, because not everyone in Alabama is a toothless illiterate racist hick, decided to organize their sock drawers rather than vote for someone who embarrassed their species. Trump trying to save the seat was futile; when was the last time a President had any measurable effect on a state race? 1996, maybe. Obama and Bush had no luck at all.

                The polls were all over the place, as one would expect, since so many volatile factors were in play, and nobody was confident who would win. Ultimately more embarrassed Republicans had the decency to reject Moore, and more reasonable blacks chose to spit on a racist. In a predicted photo-finish, a terrible candidate lost, as terrible candidates usually do. And when they do, it’s no “upset.”

              • charlesgreen

                Now you’re just abusing the language. If you’re going to use “explainable post hoc” as the criterion for “upset,” then nothing short of the virgin birth will suffice. Dewey/Truman was explainable in the rear-view mirror; that doesn’t mean it wasn’t called an “upset.”
                http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/truman-defeats-dewey

                Way back in November, Predictit.org showed Moore’s chances as having plummeted from 90% to below 50%. He then proceeded to make up serious ground; on the eve of the election, he had climbed back up to 65%. If you look at the graph of the odds, they show a massive reversal in the final hours of the election.

                Just read these two stories from USA Today:

                https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/11/16/roy-moore-doug-jones-odds/873086001/
                https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/12/12/predictit-market-alabama-election/946572001/

                That’s my definition of “upset” – something that was not predicTED. And that people bet against (with real money). And clearly my commonsense, common language definition is shared by pretty much all persuasions of journalism, cf the 29 sources I listed earlier.

                Your definition is counterfactual to what real markets showed, and at odds with the mainstream of press reports. That is the real “fake news” here.

                • Moving the goal posts, Charles. I checked the polls every day. To say that everyone, or even most, were predicting a Moore win is just not true. Predict.org isn’t science. It’s gambling. But if that’s your game, here are the Vegas odds before the election:

                  Who will win the US Senate Special Election in Alabama?

                  Roy Moore (R) -270
                  Doug Jones (D) +180

                  Or another:

                  Odds to Win Alabama Special Election

                  Roy Moore (R) -425
                  Doug Jones (D) +340

                  Since when is an odds-on favorite winning an “upset”?

                  NEVER.

                  Fake news!

                  • charlesgreen

                    WHEN before the election? Weeks before, PredictIt odds were for Jones; days before, it was Moore. What matters is the most recent odds, not ones from months ago.

                  • charlesgreen

                    On the eve of the election, here is what BetFair quoted the odds as being:

                    “Betting markets are also edging away from the favourite. From previously trading down to 1.10 (91%), the Republican is now rated around 66% likely to win by Betfair traders at odds of 1.50, compared to 3.00 (33%) about Jones. Those odds have continued to fall fast over the last few hours in the wake of to that Fox poll.”

      • charlesgreen

        Also this headline from Fox News:

        “Alabama Senate election: Doug Jones wins in major upset, Roy Moore won’t yet concede.”

        • Yes, just as false. Fake news. And funny, since Fox’s last poll said Moore was losing by TEN POINTS!

          Since when is the winner of a race when the poll said he was 10 points ahead called winning in an upset by the same source that released the poll????

          Thanks. Proves my point.

      • charlesgreen

        And this from the Montgomery Advertiser:
        “Democrat Doug Jones’ astonishing win in Alabama…”

        This from the Huntsville Times:
        “Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a massive UPSET Tuesday night, defeating Republican Roy Moore….”

        This from the Mobile Press-Register:
        ” it wasn’t always clear, at least to national Democrats, that black voters would turn out for Doug Jones and fuel his UPSET of Republican Roy Moore Tuesday night.

        So how can you make the claim that only the NYT called this an upset, and worse yet, make that somehow a case of “fake news?”

        Foul, most foul…

        • Because it wasn’t an upset?

          This is what is called ” a false narrative,” Charles. “Everybody did it” is not a defense.

          And I didn’t say that “only the Times” did this. I said the Times, supposedly the coin of the realm, deliberately hyped the results. Go back to my question about Obama. So why wasn’t that ‘an upset” too?

          Because neither was an upset, that’s why

          • Chris

            Jack, the fact that charles listed multiple conservative sources that also called this an “upset” seems sufficient to disprove your notion that it could only be called an upset by those biased against Moore.

            This whole argument is about whether Moore’s loss was “unexpected.” Clearly it wasn’t unexpected to you, but I saw a whole lot of surprise when he lost, among both conservatives and liberals.

            This is a really weird hill to die on. That you disagree over whether something was unexpected doesn’t make those who thought it was unexpected “fake news.” There are plenty of legitimately fake news stories you’ve highlighted here, but then you do things like label any story that uses a term which reasonable people could disagree over “fake news,” and that hurts your credibility while proving charles’ point that some are abusing the term.

            • Chris, neither the odd, nor the polls, nor common sense justified the misrepresentation of (Either candidate’s) victory as an upset. It doesn’t matter if different publications had different biases or agendas that led to that bad and misleading characterization. It was absurdly wrong whatever the reason. I explained why. Arthur was right: they are all untrustworthy. This was a minor episode compared to others, but a classic. The idea was to hype the significance and the urgency of the event.

    • “I think the problem is EXACTLY the reverse. Whatever the reason – Breitbart, Facebook, pick your villain – a MUCH BIGGER problem is that so many Americans routinely question the validity of the mainstream media.

      I know that makes me unpopular on this blog, but COME ON!!!

      For you to assert that the New York Times, for example, “routinely ignores” the first four items on your list is inflammatory, without proof itself, and from all I can see JUST WRONG. WRONG.

      The NYTimes, and CNN, and the rest, pretty routinely publish corrections (to their frequent embarrassment), do fact-checking, and provide attribution.”

      I suppose I’m not going to surprise anyone by disagreeing.

      Chris said something like this a couple days ago, and I thought it was impossibly naive. We’ve seen time and time again news organizations not only get things wrong, but get things embarrassingly wrong, specifically because they did not do the things that are supposed to distinguish themselves from the sources you (rightly) disdain. If you’re going to get down in the muck and wallow around, then one might be forgiven for lumping you in with the hogs.

      Seriously… If news organizations routinely allow the biases of their employees to leak into their production value, to the point where they post objectively false information at the rate that they are… If we can’t feel some amount of trust that the information we’re consuing is generally… Y’know… true…. Then how are they better than Facebook?

      They print retractions and corrections? Who cares? They’re are posted at the bottom of the original article, days old, the people who see the corrections are usually not the same people as what saw the false information to begin with, and are a fraction of the original views.

      I don’t understand the mindset that engenders so much respect from a profession that has done so much to discredit itself.

      • charlesgreen

        HT. All due respect, I think the difference between Facebook and the NYTimes is clear to all, yourself included.

        • I find that response frustratingly dishonest. Different? Sure. But I asked how it is better?

          One could argue that, for instance Facebook is different from CNN because Facebook is made up of, generally, uneducated, inexpert opinion spouters who are paid nothing, have next to no resources, and don’t even pay lip service to being unbiased. Meanwhile… CNN has whole departments for content production, journalists who went to school specifically on how to be journalists, expert panels, and work under the slogan of “The Most Trusted Name in News”. So yeah. Different.

          But if we can’t trust the veracity of CNN any more than uncle Joe on Facebook, because using their record as a guide, one should have no real confidence as to whether CNN is going to be accurate, but maybe they have a particularly honest uncle, we’re past the point where we can reasonably have confidence that the information we get from CNN is complete, contextualized, or even true. Maybe Facebook has MORE inaccurate stories in it… Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it depends who you follow. But at that point we’re trying to figure out which pile of shit is browner, leaving out how with all the resources that go into the production of mainstream news, it should be reasonable to expect better from them, and they fail with frightening frequency.

          I’m going to ask my question again… How is CNN better?

          • Chris

            CNN is better because when they make mistakes, they usually correct them. I doubt they do this out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it because public pressure requires them to.

            When the president makes a mistake, or outright lies, he never corrects this. He may be the most immune-to-public-pressure political figure in history. Perhaps this will change in the next presidential election year, but I don’t see why it would; refusing to retract his lies worked well for him last time.

            The mainstream media still has a level of accountability that alternative media and the president simply do not hold themselves to. I’m not saying that it’s a perfect level of accountability. But at least it’s something. That’s why it’s better. Maybe not good. But obviously better.

            • Retractions long after the propaganda has played, buried pages deep, have little value, and the Press knows this. They can say what they want to get the impact they are shilling for with little or no consequences.

              Using the President as a standard is already established as a Straw Man, and thus invalid as a talking point. Alternative media are also Straw Men, as they are not professional media supposedly holding up journalistic standards.

              Better is subjective, so I have to give you that. However, they are better with a very large slant toward progressives, so pardon me if I am not impressed.

          • charlesgreen

            “…if we can’t trust the veracity of CNN any more than uncle Joe on Facebook, because using their record as a guide, one should have no real confidence as to whether CNN is going to be accurate, but maybe they have a particularly honest uncle, we’re past the point where we can reasonably have confidence that the information we get from CNN is complete, contextualized, or even true.”

            This is ridiculous on the face of it. Plainly, we CAN trust CNN more than nearly anyone’s damn Uncle Joe, because there are journalistic standards governing the former, and not the latter. The fact that slips in standards are so obvious when they happen is testimony not only to their existence, but the relative infrequency with which they are violated. By contrast, I can easily find Facebook friends of friends arguing that Moore lost in Alabama because the Dems conspired with the GOP to import black voters from Mississippi. Garbage.

            This is sloppy, outrageous. dangerous language you’re engaging in, and it’s being increasingly engaged in by the right. It’s exactly what Lyndon Johnson engaged in when he told his campaign manager to spread the rumor that his opponent had sex with pigs: “I know it’s false, you know it’s false, everyone knows it’s false – but I want to hear him publicly deny it.”

            Claiming any kind of equivalency between Facebook Uncles and CNN is the equivalent of the sex-with-pigs accusation. It’s the same crap that we’re getting from Fox News, accusing Mueller of engineering a coup.
            http://thehill.com/homenews/media/365331-fox-news-faces-backlash-saying-the-us-may-be-facing-a-coup-with-mueller

            Irresponsible, beyond ridiculous, malicious, and dangerous. Stop it.

            • “Plainly, we CAN trust CNN more than nearly anyone’s damn Uncle Joe, because there are journalistic standards governing the former, and not the latter.”

              This reads as particularly tone deaf in face of current realities… “Standards” in this context is so ephemeral as to be meaningless. Journalists only seem to have standards when the standards don’t get in the way of the narrative. If you would quantify what you think a standard is, I’d be more than happy to point out where any news organization of your choice has violated it. I’d suggest starting with the SPJ’s professional ethics guidelines, but it might be hard for you to find one that it isn’t facially absurd to assert that mainstream news follows.

              https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

              “Seek Truth and Report It”
              “Minimize Harm”
              “Act Independently”
              “Be Accountable and Transparent”

              *snort* Good luck, sir.

              “The fact that slips in standards are so obvious when they happen is testimony not only to their existence, but the relative infrequency with which they are violated.”

              What you seem to be saying here is that the media has a microscope to it, and so it’s hard for them to get away with dishing out fake news. And even if that’s true, which I accept it probably is, “Well, they didn’t get away with it.” Isn’t a particularly ringing endorsement. If the slips are frequent, and I believe they are, then they’re both failing to adhere to their standards and bad at hiding it.

              “By contrast, I can easily find Facebook friends of friends arguing that Moore lost in Alabama because the Dems conspired with the GOP to import black voters from Mississippi.”

              So you know some idiots. I know people who think Hillary was generally honest, and the most qualified presidential candidate ever. But we *expect* people to be dumb, and they generally live up to those expectations. We *expect* news media to be better, and they are failing to live up to those expectations. And if they continue to fail to live up to those expectations, who’s the dummy here? The people who routinely fail to live up to our expectations, or us for not adjusting those expectations?

              “It’s exactly what Lyndon Johnson engaged in when he told his campaign manager to spread the rumor that his opponent had sex with pigs: “I know it’s false, you know it’s false, everyone knows it’s false – but I want to hear him publicly deny it.””

              Well… Charles, I’m not like LBJ. I’m not saying something that I don’t believe to be true, but I think is useful. I’m saying that I don’t trust the news media anymore, and I mean that. They have violated my trust by routinely by misrepresenting facts, if not making things up from whole cloth, often along an ideological bent. Where I understand, and concede ,that they will more often than not be more accurate than people on Facebook, I have no method of knowing which stories are true, and which aren’t, so I have to put everything through a process of verification that starts with skepticism, and because I have to put everything through that skeptical verification process, the sources become indistinguishable in their validity. I have sources I believe to be generally honest, because they have earned my trust, and not one of those sources include what I would consider traditional news media.

              You might not like that. You might think I’m wrong. But don’t you dare tell me I’m making that up as a partisan talking point.

              • charlesgreen

                HT, OK I agree you’re not “making that up as a partisan talking point.” Fair point, and point taken.

                We seem to agree on the narrow point that “the media has a microscope to it, and so it’s hard for them to get away with dishing out fake news. [And even if that’s true] which I accept it probably is….” and, “I understand, and concede ,that they will more often than not be more accurate than people on Facebook…”

                And maybe we’ll have to settle for that.

                I find it profoundly depressing that you also believe you “have no method of knowing which stories are true, and which aren’t, so I have to put everything through a process of verification that starts with skepticism, and because I have to put everything through that skeptical verification process, the sources become indistinguishable in their validity.”

                But I do accept that that is how you see things. I even sort of understand it. Though I still find it depressing. You’re not a crazy or un-intelligent guy, which is why I find it so.

                • Like… Just as an example, I think Ben Shapiro from the Daily Caller is generally honest, and competent. I trust him not to comment deeply and authoritatively on things he doesn’t know much about, and while we believe some drastically different things, especially on the topic of religion, I think he has the introspection to at least say things like, “This argument really won’t float if you don’t believe in scripture, so here’s the best secular argument as well.” He has, over time, earned the benefit of my doubt, I believe that if he got something wrong, he’d actually feel bad about it.

                  Can you think of a pundit you think represents…. I’m searching for the right word…. Something that encompasses honesty, competence, and integrity? Define it however you want. Who do you trust?

                  • charlesgreen

                    HT that’s an excellent question, and I greatly appreciate the genuine and collaborative place it’s coming from. Thank you.

                    Trying to think of someone who generally comes from a place other than mine, I have for some time been impressed by George Will. It seems to me that he not only often finds a unique perspective, but is razor-sharp in his articulation of it. It doesn’t hurt that he handles the English language pretty well to boot.

                    Now I’ll go read me some Ben Shapiro, with whom I’m not familiar. Thanks for the reference.

                  • charlesgreen

                    Huh….I kind of like Ben Shapiro. And he does know his way around a good phrase. Thanks for the tip.

            • “Claiming any kind of equivalency between Facebook Uncles and CNN is the equivalent of the sex-with-pigs accusation. It’s the same crap that we’re getting from Fox News, accusing Mueller of engineering a coup.”

              THIS however, was interesting. I mean…. Fox is a mainstream news organisation, but you seem to understand that their journalistic standards have… I’d say “waned”, but I’m not sure that they were ever really there.

              It hits me that someone who can understand that Fox is biased and crap, but doesn’t see the mirror image in CNN or MSNBC, is probably suffering from some kind of crippling cognitive dissonance.

              You think Fox saying the Mueller probe is engineering a coup is crap, and irresponsible crap? So true! We agree! CNN said that the FCC rolling back Section 2 (Net Neutrality) would be, and I quote “The End of the Internet as We Know it”.

              • charlesgreen

                To be clear, I don’t endorse everything I hear on CNN or MSNBC either. Their pundits occasionally get way out over their skis. I refuse to even watch Lawrence O’Donnell, or The Reverend Al, for example. And at least twice a day I find myself switching over to Fox, if only as a respite.

                For what it’s worth, I do find that Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Belshi are pretty sharp cookies. Erin Burnett seems pretty fair to me. And personally I think Fareed Zakaria is as big-picture balanced as they come. (Though of course none on CNN can hold a candle to Anthony Bourdain).

  3. luckyesteeyoreman

    “The field of journalism is supposed to be self-policing, like all professions, and it is not. It is an arrogant, dangerous force distorting our democracy, and a President is perhaps the only authority who can stand up to it.”

    It’s even more dangerous than you seem to mean, Jack. It’s a force with powerful backing and policing from entrenched interests external to itself – interests that are even more immune from accountability than the “journalist” hive – and thus, both are increasingly in ever greater disregard of the best interests of individuals and groups in the larger population external to the “journalists” and their backers/police.

    The First Amendment has been exploited to enable collusion between journalists and a political-ideological complex, to an extent that makes First Amendment liberties exclusively their property and privilege.

    • charlesgreen

      “…a President is perhaps the only authority who can stand up to it.”

      In contrast, consider this:

      “Originally coined by the German author Reinhold Anton in 1914, the term Lügenpresse was used during World War I to refer to “enemy propaganda.” Some 30 years later Hitler and the Nazis appropriated the term to weaken opposition to the regime, primarily “accusing” Jewish, communist, and later the foreign press of disseminating fake news.

      The phrase made a comeback in Germany in 2014, when the anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement accused the media of “not telling the truth” about crimes committed by refugees and immigrants, primarily those displaced by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In January 2015, some 25,000 protesters attended a PEGIDA march in Dresden, chanting “Luegenpresse, halt die Fresse” (“shut up, lying press”).

      “Luegenpresse” subsequently earned the notorious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) dishonor given out annually by a German linguists’ panel of experts.

      According to Reuters, previous non-words of the year include 2011’s “Doener-Morde” (Doener killings), referring to a string of neo-Nazi killings of people of Turkish origin.

      read more: https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.772836

      • It seems to me, Charles, reading what you have written here that you would be one who would see that in a great conflict, a war for example, and specifically the last WW, that the epic battle became one of dominating the perceptual space through the creation of powerful propaganda. And all who read here are likely familiar with Orwell’s writings as they touch specifically on propaganda. But what we are really talking about is ‘engineering consent’ (forgive me for the vulgar reference to the work of he-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned) in wider senses. If one accepts that propadanda is a specific tool for use in relation to a specific issue, the ‘engineering of consent’ (here I cross myself) is the paramount issue.

        We must therefor, and in accord with Orwellian predicates, and certainly in our confused and conflictive time, and then even more at this strange and dangerous juncture in history (as it seems to be), assert that lying by the press, which is really to say by those interests that stand behind the press (business, industry, government, intelligence taken as a cluster or constellation of interests), that these interests must surely be engaged in various shades of ‘lying’.

        But what does this special word ‘lying’ really mean? Some British statesman said ‘England does not have friends she has interests’. The issue revolves around interests. Those who ‘lie’ (misrepresent, slant, spin, et cetera) do so in direct proportion to their level of complicity, do they not? Complicity is often ‘ownership interest’ it seems to me.

        The task then becomes, for one who is disinterested (if such exists) to succeed only in getting close to an accurate description of the level of interest, the collusions, the complicty, and the level (in this sense) of corruption, of any specific person involved with government, or a speecific interest group, et cetera.

        It seems to me that you are, with the references to PEGIDA, and with the mention of the term lugenpresse, edging toward a more comprehensive and general statement.

        The reference (‘that things are spiraling toward a recurrence of National Socialism, virulent opposition, and then to war and civil conflict which indicate a circle made in time’) (et cetera) is vastly complex and very hard to sort through.

        What is the question that needs to be asked here? That is, who is right and who is wrong? What is really going on? Who has the exegetic skill to *see* and decide?

        Hail the Exegete! Hail the One Who Has Been Given Hermeneutic Powers!

        • charlesgreen

          Alizia, not for the first time you have generated a veritable word cloud, with very little success in conveying any meaning.

          Here is a stripped down version of just what you wrote above – your words. I have added absolutely no words; I have only cut out all the extraneous, adjectival, subordinate clauses, in pursuit of any meaning. Here, then, is what you wrote, in your essential words:
          ————————–
          “It seems to me, Charles, you would see the battle became propaganda. But the ‘engineering of consent’ is the paramount issue.

          We assert that lying by the press—by those interests that stand behind the press – must be engaged in various shades of ‘lying’.

          But what does ‘lying’ really mean? The issue revolves around interests. Those who ‘lie’ do so in direct proportion to their level of complicity. Complicity is often ‘ownership interest.’

          The task becomes getting an accurate description of the level of interest and the level of corruption of any specific person or interest group.

          You are edging toward a more general statement. The reference is vastly complex and very hard to sort through.

          What is the question that needs to be asked here? Who is right and who is wrong? What is really going on?
          ————————–
          Indeed, what is really going on here? What are you attempting to say?

          What I THINK you are trying to say is that I tried to make an analogy to propaganda in pre-WWII Germany, and that such an analogy is misplaced; that the real issue is not strongman propaganda, but rather corruption on the part of the press.

          Is that more or less it?

          Pretty much any history of pre-WWII Germany will note that a core part of National socialist propaganda was the demonization of the press. That was my point; and I think the analogy holds. Read William Shirer for example on this point.

          Does the analogy hold? What triggered it in my mind is the absurd and outrageous equation by HT of Facebook and CNN, coupled with the spate of strongmen leaders in Syria, Venezuela and Myanmar taking up the cudgel of “fake news.” In our own history, think Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Joseph Curley, and Huey Long. World history is replete with examples of right-wing populist movements taking up arms against the press. Pre-war Germany is only the most famous and first-to-mind.

          This is a seriously dangerous time, when otherwise reasonable people begin believing anti-press stories spread by demagogues.

          I’ll take a note from what I understand to be one of your points, about corruption. When it comes to “fake news,” we should ask: Cui Bono?

          Trump, Putin, Bashar al-Assad, and Maduro, that’s who. Not us.

          • When I read what you wrote, above, it caused me to think that you are one who could easily understand that in a time of war, or great conflict between nations —- and here I specifically mention the last world war —- that an epic battle occurs in which it is necessary to dominate perceptual space through the creation of and use of propaganda.

            Because most who participate here have read Orwell, and are familiar with his ideas about wartime propaganda, most will not hesitate in admitting that propaganda is understood to be a concerted effort of lying about the enemy. (And this is why Orwell was so deeply concerned about the use of it by his own war department).

            But in a larger sense it is not some specific use of propaganda that concerns us, but rather that of the larger issue as it pertains to our societies: that of ‘manufacturing consent’. (This is Noam Chomsky’s term and he borrowed it from Walter Lippmann if I am not mistaken. I assume that you have some familiarity with Chomsky’s views on this).

            [I referred to Chomsky as one-who-will-not-be-named because, on this Blog, everyone who has said anything about him has described him as satanic. And then I joked, when mentioning one of his more important ideas — the manufacture of consent — that I needed to cross myself: i.e. protect myself against the Devil. Pretty funny, eh? Huar huar huar].

            If we understand Orwell’s ideas about propaganda and the manipulation of language —- understood to be forms of lying, misstatement, deliberate misconstruing, et cetera —- as being necessary in a society that has been dominated by the collusion of business, industry, government and intelligence agencies that seek to protect their very specific interests, then we might be able to agree that this collusion best describes the situation that we notice in our present, and specifically in our own country.

            We live at a moment in history that seems particularly dangerous for many different reasons. And that those who have and wield power have very good reasons to wish to control the discourse, which necessarily will amount to an effort to ‘manufacture consent’ in the specifically Chomskian sense. (I am not sure if this idea requires more explanation, to me it seems quite clear). In a sense then the entire effort, though called ‘persuasion’ by some, seems better described as lying.

            In accord with Orwell’s views, and his illustrations of the use of propaganda and thought-control in his essays and novels, it seems to me that we must presuppose lying by media agencies in league with government, with business interests and the intelligence agencies, and that we are advised to understand this as an element and a feature of our present.

            But what does this special word ‘lying’ really mean? And what is lied about? Some British statesman said ‘England does not have friends she has interests’. The issue, it seems to me, revolves around interest.

            Those who lie (misrepresent, slant, spin, et cetera) do so in direct proportion to their level of complicity within the system-of-interest they are bound to defend. Complicity is often ‘ownership interest’ it seems to me. The more ownership interest, the greater the complicity in the kinds of untruths that are required to defend them.

            The task then becomes, for one who is disinterested, objective, and interested in truthful understanding, to attempt only in getting close to an accurate description of the level of interest; the collusions, the complicity, and the degree of corruption, of any specific person involved with government.

            It seems to me that you are, with the references to PEGIDA and the politics within Germany and with the mention of the term lugenpresse, that you are edging toward a more comprehensive and general statement of what you believe is happening in our present. You made a reference to a term used in National Socialism, and through that term I interpret you to be saying something like this, and I base this on what I hear many Progressives describe:

            ‘Things are spiraling toward a recurrence of National Socialism, to virulent oppositions between sectors in society, which may lead to war and civil conflict. Our present seems to be one of circling back to a former time, a dark and Nazi-like one”.

            Is this true? What are the questions that I need to ask about the players in our present, and the conflicts we notice, to be able to understand who is right and who is wrong? What is really going on? Who has the exegetic skill to see and to explain?

            Hail the Exegete! Hail the One Who Has Been Given Hermeneutic Powers!

          • Hello there Charles. I hope the rewrite clarified the thoughts I wanted to communicate.

          • “strongmen leaders in Syria, Venezuela and Myanmar taking up the cudgel of “fake news.” In our own history, think Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Joseph Curley, and Huey Long. World history is replete with examples of right-wing populist movements taking up arms against the press.”

            Wait… You think those people were “right wing” populist movements? Hell, you didn’t even take the Democrats off your list! Google Roy Cohn and Huey Long again for us, Charles.

            • charlesgreen

              Fair point, though mostly technically. Roy Cohn was a DINO at best, unless you consider his biggest buddies J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy to be Dems. Huey Long was from another Democratic party, long ago…
              That said, you’re right on the specifics.

  4. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    Unrelated, but by my reckoning John McCain is long overdue for an ethics dunce award. I know he’s undergoing chemo and is now wheelchair bound, but you didn’t become an ethicist to make friends.

  5. Eternal Optometrist

    One quick note on journalism, has anyone commented yet on Anderson Cooper’s tweet, and CNN’s explanation for it? As has been proven time and time again, it’s usually the cover-up, not the crime, that gets you.

    The excuse offered by CNN is laughable. It literally is an excuse that my 10 year old son wouldn’t try to make – its that dumb. A better excuse would have been that Big Foot grabbed the phone, and tossed it to the Loch Ness monster, who made the offending tweet.

  6. Arthur in Maine

    Jack, thanks for the COTD nod. And this might surprise you (though maybe it won’t): I agree with everything you said in response. You are focusing on the now. My post is aimed at the backstory and, hopefully, what the future may bring.

    Nothing in your response changes what I wrote. The issue is that media, by its nature, can NEVER be trusted, regardless of its orientation, and even if the US media reaches the level of other nations with regard to honest partisan reporting. Viewed? Yes. Considered? Absolutely. But as was once said, journalism is “the first draft of history.” Like all first drafts, it is replete with errors, both intentional and non-intentional.

    When I work with clients to help them understand the media, I make the point that media is biased. Journalists and editors may be biased by their views, but publishers and general managers are biased by the bottom line. Rest assured that I’m not arguing in favor of EA Rationalization #1. To the contrary: I’m arguing that #1 is so dominant that the only protection the public has is awareness. The media isn’t going to change its tune until it’s forced to do so, and even then it will remain unreliable due to human nature.

    And I write that with sadness. I’ve been a news junkie since shortly after I bought my paper route at the age of 12. Once, I believed in the fantasy of an objective media. It took a lot of hard knocks later to realize how corrupt it really is. You and I can’t change it – at least not directly. But we CAN, in our own ways, understand what it is, and why, and alert others to the reality. Money talks. Short term, CNN and the NYT are, unfortunately, reaping financial benefit from their TDS – and that of their audiences.

    Like I said, it may take a generation or two. But I think we’ll get there. Assuming, of course, that we still have a functioning republic at that point..

  7. J.R.

    The attempt to get within 100 miles of anything resembling the truth on a given topic can be exhausting; one must seek out telltale clues like “sources say,” “experts say,” “might, may, could,” and any number of other indications that what you’re reading might, may, could be – and probably is – bullshit. This is a problem for people who are more interested in facts when it comes to “news” and less interested in someone else’s analysis, which is at best conjecture and at worst Fake News designed to manipulate. In other words, more steak and less sizzle.

    Our benevolent government has seen fit to analyze and categorize movies and TV shows, advising us of the content and whether there may be anything offensive or harmful to children; whether there is brief nudity or foul language; whether there is violence. They even suggest consumer age groups. The government also provides a service to help us decide what to put into our bodies, including complete breakdowns of every ingredient in every crumb of food we might purchase.

    I would like to see a new service from the government, a service that breaks down every news show, every newspaper and magazine, every blogger, every columnist and every column published in print and/or the internet of a popularity level deemed to be influential. I would like to know that, for example, the running averages of the XYZ Show determine that it includes 5% fact, 80% conjecture, 75% opinion, 90% unsupported claims and conclusions, 70% unverified information, 65% inaccurate reporting, and the list could go on and on. I could then choose whether to put this garba- I mean information into my mind or to seek out a source more suited to my objectives. My informed choice would prevail. Of course great care would have to be exercised when deciding who would be the arbiter of this public service, but I have little doubt that it could be done.

  8. Andrew Wakeling

    Yes, the best ‘we’ can do is to be aware of ‘bias and to access a variety of sources. That has always been the case. What is so disturbingly different now is to realise the newly mischievous power of Google (and to a lesser extent Facebook and Wikipedia). Because they are so new ‘we’ have not had the time to develop our defences and we have had little choice. And so we have naively trusted Google to bring us an unbiased selection of responses. We haven’t in general realised how easily we could be manipulated. Hopefully we’ll learn fast and won’t be so easy to con next time.

    To my mind there is no point in calling on journalists to be ‘professionals’. ‘Professionals’ need a ‘profession’ with standards and codes of conduct, and with disciplinary powers – to put micreants out of business. Doctors and lawyers have these structures. As far as I can see, journalists don’t.

    Yes, the apparent prevalence of ‘confirmation bias’ is depressing. The internet makes it so much easier to filter news to support our existing views (prejudices and bias). This can only be addressed by education. It needs to made crystal clear that you can’t be a serious commentator without studying and understanding why your opponents disagree with you; and at least have a credible view as to why their conclusions are different. If you can only suggest your opponents are all ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ your own analysis may reasonably be regarded as incomplete.

  9. [I dedicate this post to Humble Talent.]

    Arthur in Maine writes: “Nothing in your response changes what I wrote. The issue is that media, by its nature, can NEVER be trusted, regardless of its orientation, and even if the US media reaches the level of other nations with regard to honest partisan reporting. Viewed? Yes. Considered? Absolutely. But as was once said, journalism is “the first draft of history.” Like all first drafts, it is replete with errors, both intentional and non-intentional.

    “When I work with clients to help them understand the media, I make the point that media is biased. Journalists and editors may be biased by their views, but publishers and general managers are biased by the bottom line. Rest assured that I’m not arguing in favor of EA Rationalization #1. To the contrary: I’m arguing that #1 is so dominant that the only protection the public has is awareness. The media isn’t going to change its tune until it’s forced to do so, and even then it will remain unreliable due to human nature.”

    In a rather obvious sense you are saying that when journalism and reportage is bound up with business-systems (constellations and clusters of interlocked corporations) that there will always manifest a tendency, greater or lesser, to distort the reporting of real events, and thus of ‘reality’. Seen in best light, such collusion, inevitable to the degree that a sole person who is inevitably tied to his culture, or community, or world-picture, cannot help but to have bias and prejudice and yet, as we know, can offer genuinely and relatively fair reportage. In the worst circumstances, and when business and military interests succeed in gaining control over media systems, directly or indirectly or through ‘levels of complicity’, it stands to reason that the entire view of reality could become excessively distorted.

    This leads to direct questions about recent history. I would suggest that the 20th century can be examined, or perhaps I shall say ‘reexamined’, in a critical light in view of this premise. Media Studies as a discipline *should* in the best of all possible worlds be at least capable of seeing this as a necessary object. But yet the problem remains terribly problematic. Because it hinges on established world-picutre and then any number of different political orientations, not to avoid including all other idea-sets that determine perception. This leads to the problem —- not a mere paranoia —- that it is in fact and in truth very very hard to *see* our world. We see images that are presented to us and which play in our imagination. We receive, and we deal with, a reflected world, and this world is played, as it were, in our imaginary space, the space where we conceptualize. Therefor: the systems that bring us our *glimpse* of the world are now and will always be an arena for overt struggle. Their power becomes obvious. And the need to control them, to direct them, obvious.

    I would suggest that once on has come to understand how completely vital these Media Systems are, and that their function in these darker senses has been perfected within our American present (that is, if one accept such a notion), one will be thrust into a position that is a bit like what is described as ‘the cloud of unknowing’. It is inevitably paranoid at least as it begins because one had imagined that one was being provided a ‘real picture’ of the World. Obviously, in our present, there are people who dedicate themselves to *indulging* their paranoid fantasies. We all see this and know of it. But there is still the very real question to face, and it is of course a dystopic one. The essence of it lies in the problemm of what happens when a given political situation is infiltrated and subverted by, essentially, business interests. The Republic and the categories of The Republic are useful designations. When ‘industrial’ interests (according to Plato) dominate the true ‘public sphere’ (where the most clear-thinking and high-minded directors should dominate) the political system is set on a course toward tyranny.

    I would also mention theat there are two poles from which one can analyze this issue and problem and its obvious bearing on the present we now live in and, of course, react to. One is the Constitutional pole and I mean this in the most orignal sense: the sovereignity of the state, the individual states, with a ‘lite’ national government. The other pole, which exists and certainly fucntions, is that of the Marxist-Socialist. It seems to me that there is a profoundly critical position that is possible from the pole of the hard-core Constitutionalist of the entire circumstance of Our Present (if we accept the paranoid idea of ‘subversion’ as I have noted).

    The Nationalist-Constitutionalist must find a way to rise to the occassion and repair the damage done by the collusion of military and business interests in the subversion, quite literally, of the Republic. Where are they? Where are these people? (The so-called Conservative is no such thing to the degree that he has been seduced by power-interests and, as anyone knows who bothers to read what I write I accept the term ‘Cuckservative’ as having important meaning and value). Effectively, these people do not exist. They are pushed out of the picture.

    Who rises up in our present is not the Constitutional faction, the ‘true defenders of the Republic’, but agitators of another sort who have absorbed other viewstructures. Can they be categorized through one general term? Marxist? Socialist? Communist? Progressive? What is their object? Is it compatable with ‘true Constitutionalism’?

    I hope I have succeeded in indicating my own *location* as one examining the ‘problems of our present’. What shall I align with? What ideological faction? What politics? What activism? What is really going on?

    How can I know?

    • Arthur in Maine

      Alizia, you essentially have two choices:

      1) a free-market system which runs the risk of running sympatico with a destructive ideology, or

      2) state-controlled media, which reinforces it.

      We’re currently dealing with choice #1. It’s still preferable to choice #2, because #1 can be resuscitated.

      And by the way, Charles wasn’t, IMO, wrong in pointing out the word clouds. Were one to diagram the sentences in your posts, one would find few errors. But one could also fall asleep in the process. You’re a provocative thinker – can you do at least Charles and me a favor and tighten that stuff up a bit before posting it? Wanna read your ideas. Don’t wanna work so hard in doing so.

      • [I dedicate this post to the Romanian patriot Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and the Romanian Legionaries]
        __________________________________

        Though to be polite I must acknowledge your criticism (and I am not immune to it) still I find it incredible that you cannot gain more and understand better what I am getting at. I think at times that I am dealing with people so differently oriented in their view of things that, no matter what, I will have limited success in getting my ideas across.

        I do not in any sense at all understand there to be just those two choices. Those choices are basically very superficial descriptions of superficial aspects of a far deeper problem. The issue is to locate, and describe, the problem. In this thread various people describe a *problem*. They see it, they talk about it. But they do not seem to examine the causes. I have begun to conclude that they do not desire to understand causality. Maybe to *see* reality is too scary? I am not sure …

        If I suggest —- as I certainly have —- that the media-systems that interface between ourselves as perceivers, and the external world of events and goings-on, have been or are controlled by and determined by interested groupings that subvert Constitutional idealism, it will follow that it shall become necessary to continue that description of those forces and powers that have usurped control. Pretty basic stuff, IMO.

        Does this really have to be spelled out in such simple terms? Is it not obvious 1) that this has happened, and 2) that the outcome in our present has a history that can be researched, and 3) that this can be described in rational terms? Is it that you don’t accept that this is true? Or is it that you refuse to see that it is so?

        I start from this premise because it seems OBVIOUS to me. And with the premise held in my mind I go on to suggest that there are two basic poles which critique this circumstance, and there are two possibilities offered to confront it: One is a strict Constitutionalism, and Two a sort of socialistic-Marxist-communistic platform-of-critique. Both of these, as possibilities, are sorts of *shadows* that cast onto the present.

        What you call ‘free market’ is really in no sense of the word free market at all. That is an obfuscating term. I would suggest that it is a term of PR and or propaganda. A constellation of business interests in collustion with government, military intelligence offices, with education, and with media systems, can only be termed ‘free market’ if it is understood in an Orwellian sense. This is a term of American Newspeak. It is, in important senses, almost precisely the opposite of free market.

        I am just now reading ‘Untimely Papers’ by Randolphe Bourne (1919). An essay within the collection is called ‘The War and the Intellectuals’ (Dated June 1917) It has everything to do with the complicity of the intellectual class in the rush into that particular war and, I suggest, the subversion and the usurping of Constitutional principles for radically different and contrary purposes. I suggest this is a turning point. An axial point that must be revisited, studied, understood. Obviously, this suggests all that I have alluded to. Obviously. But making this reference simply falls onto deaf ears. Ears that cannot hear, that will not hear, that do not wish to hear.

        What is the focus of your interest? How do you orient your understanding of things in the larger senses?

        There is a causality that functions through time. The events of today, the *outcome* that is today, can only be understood through examination of the events that preceded it. But some people that I encounter here have their eyes so fixed on the immediate, passing event, that they seem non-interested in considering causation. The marvellous metaphor is that of Plato’s Cave. Heads chained so as not to be able to turn round. You just watch the images as they are presented to you.

        If I am not mistaken, and when I speak to the denizens of this Blog in a general sense, the Blog is composed of people who make up the intellectual and the executive class. I mean, there are many lawyers, educators: intellectual sorts with intellectual background. Who have strong opinions and who have the technical skill to express them.

        I might change Bourne’s title: ‘Our Present and the Intellectuals’. Or ‘The Post9/11 World and the Intellectuals’. Something like that.

        It was TexAg who said, in effect, that just noticing problems without suggesting solutions is a questionable enterprise (I paraphrase). But how can there be any sort of proposition about *solution* if the problem, and the causality of the problem(s), cannot even be seen or named?

        Who are you people and what is it you are doing here?

        • Arthur in Maine

          If I suggest —- as I certainly have —- that the media-systems that interface between ourselves as perceivers, and the external world of events and goings-on, have been or are controlled by and determined by interested groupings that subvert Constitutional idealism, it will follow that it shall become necessary to continue that description of those forces and powers that have usurped control. Pretty basic stuff, IMO.

          And from my perspective, it’s pretty basic stuff that got drunk, hopped in the car and ran smack into Hanlon’s Razor.

          Look, we can absolutely agree that many of today’s most powerful media outlets are awfully cozy with a particular ideology and in many cases owned by powerful corporations that buys access to politicos. You seem to be arguing that this is part of a conspiracy (see below). I’d argue that it was actually organic – and due to the fact that it developed this way largely by accident rather than fiendish plotting, one can hold out hope that it will self-correct. The vibrancy of the Internet is the tool, and awareness is the cure.

          Let me offer you an example. Fox News wasn’t created because Rupert Murdoch is a conservative guy. He is, of course, but it’s important to remember that a generation ago he was royally pissing off much of conservative America with shows like Married with Children and The Simpsons (yes, The Simpsons was highly controversial when it first aired).

          Murdoch created Fox News because market research showed that 30% of Americans thought the other news sources on television skewed too far to the left. 30% of Americans is a big number, and Murdoch (correctly) assumed that creating a news channel aimed at them would be a smart business decision. He was right.

          Now, one might think that with all the MBAs, brain power and financial muscle of NBC that its decision to re-cast MSNBC as a progressive challenger to Fox was based on similar analysis. One would be wrong. MSNBC was floundering until they took a chance on a firebrand named Keith Olbermann. They knew he was provocative and a very skilled on-air personality, but they did NOT anticipate his rants and bitterness.

          However, it worked. Once Olbermann’s numbers started to pop, the alleged geniuses at NBC said “well whaddya know. Maybe we’re on to something here. Let’s hire more progressive voices and see what happens.”

          Thus was MSNBC as we know it today born. It was a confluence of factors, and certainly not part of a plot.

          Groupthink is a risk in virtually every organization (consider the recent Google example of the employee who didn’t exactly toe the company line). In this, they can almost be considered tribes, and people are brought into the tribe if those doing the hiring think that they’ll be “a good fit.” Take two candidates of equal technical qualification and the job will usually go to the person the hiring manager just plain likes better. The result is that corporations, even industry sectors, are frequently made up largely of like-minded people.

          The news media is no different.

          Daniel Okrent, the first (and arguably the only honest) “Public Editor” at the New York Times, penned a brilliant column as he was about to step down. It began thus: “Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper? Of course it is.” Okrent received no end of grief from readers and colleagues who thought the Times was pitching it straight down the middle, but he was correct, and he argued that the Times was liberal because the vast majority of its readers were, and that the Times reflected the values of its customers.

          It’s also important to consider who enters journalism as a field, and thus who rises to become editors and columnists. Study after study has shown that journalists are overwhelmingly liberal. They aren’t identified in their youth by some unseen hand and recruited to the field. They self-select; journalists are people who want to make a difference by shining a light on what is perceived as wrong in society. Few of them (in my experience) are willing to admit, even to themselves, that their primary purpose in life is to create something interesting that fits between the ads.

          As if all that weren’t enough, the current media landscape is complicated by the fact that today, the most powerful news outlets are based in overwhelmingly liberal areas – New York, Washington, California – and that many in the next tier (Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, etc.) are similarly liberal. In fact, eight of the top ten DMAs in the nation are overwhelmingly liberal at their core. This tends to reinforce the groupthink.

          So what we have is a confluence of the people who get into the field for specific reasons, their location, and business interests. Again, not arguing that things ain’t cozy. with top politicos and powerful corporate interests. But I leave you with a relevant quote from British author Alan Moore:

          “The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”

          • charlesgreen

            Arthur, that is a brilliant, informed, cogent analysis. Well done! Thank you. And imho, very COTD-worthy, for what it’s worth.
            Thanks again.

          • ”The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”

            I have read assertions of that sort time and time again. It gets its point across. But it is devious because it refers to peculiarly hot-topics which no one want to be associated with: the JQ and (for Heaven’s sake!) reptiloids. The tactic of this paragraph encapsulates your own tactic. You should have begun from that paragraph, not ended with it!

            It is a totally false assertion though, and facially so. First of all a ‘conspiracy’ is really no big deal, they go on all the tame, in large and small matters. Conspiracies are in operation insofar as the machinations of things, many things, are never visible to us. There is no need to devote any more time to pointing this out. And while it is certainly true that the world is ‘chaotic’ in no sense at all must that exclude conspiracy in its tecnical, definitional sense. But by asserting that to conceive of conspiracies —- hidden machinations to put it in a simple phrase —- is to believe in Reptiloids or other paranoid or embellished tales is a bad use of argument. All that the writer can succeed in communicating fairly is that extreme conspiracy theories must be considered with suspicion.

            Also, to assert that no one is in control is a flatly and facially false statement. Within certain areas, or systems, there are very difinitely people who have and use control. Duh! It is not at all a smart argument. In fact it is not an argument. It is a sort of unreasoning appeal. I am not even sure where he wishes to go with this pseudo-argument.

            You two have succeeded in wasting time in posturing and game-playing.

        • charlesgreen

          Alizia, I was struck by the same paragraph that Arthur chose:

          “If I suggest —- as I certainly have —- that the media-systems that interface between ourselves as perceivers, and the external world of events and goings-on, have been or are controlled by and determined by interested groupings that subvert Constitutional idealism, it will follow that it shall become necessary to continue that description of those forces and powers that have usurped control. Pretty basic stuff, IMO.”

          Let me parse that sentence:

          “If…media-systems…are controlled by [pernicious] groupings…it follow[s] that it shall become necessary to continue that description of those forces…. Pretty basic stuff, IMO.”

          You wrote that.

          That is not “basic stuff –” that is an illogical and non-sense-making paragraph. And yet you seem to have some kind of outrage that people don’t see this “obvious” point.

          In this case, X does NOT follow from Y. Media may indeed be controlled by interested parties (a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, solidly Marxian in the best sense). But from that it does NOT follow that “it shall become necessary” to describe anything AT ALL. This is nothing more than bad logic, masked by another word cloud.

          Alizia, you are obviously educated and intelligent. But words matter. You can’t just throw up illogical and insensible word-jumbles and ask people to sort through them to intuit your meaning.

          Bad writing is very often a symptom of bad thinking; for us to look past it and assume that YOUR thinking is the exception is asking too much of the reader. As Arthur said, help us understand your point by adding some clarity to the writing.

          And to the (presumed) substance of your point, I underscore Arthur’s invocation of Hanlon’s Razor (never attribute to malice that which is explainable by incompetence). In my experience, I’d add conspiracy theories assume vastly more competence than the purported conspirators are generally capable of.

          • Your tactic, at every turn, is to focus away from the content and to turn your responses into English courses, and in the process deliberately avoid dealing with the content. It is an insulting approach. You say that what I wrote is illogical, but you do this because you want it to be illogical. If you can label it as illogic, in that way you will not have to consider the substance of the point brought forward. It is a bad-faith approach in my view.

            The sentence I wrote:

            “If I suggest —- as I certainly have —- that the media-systems that interface between ourselves as perceivers, and the external world of events and goings-on, have been or are controlled by and determined by interested groupings that subvert Constitutional idealism, it will follow that it shall become necessary to continue that description of those forces and powers that have usurped control. Pretty basic stuff, IMO.”

            Is a perfectly sensible paragraph. If it is not utterly perfect English it yet makes enough sense that it can be dealt with. It is an assertion that would require more exposition but it is not in any sense illogical in its structure or in the sense of what it conveys.

            I did not use the term ‘conspiracy’, but by deliberately restating or reframing what I am suggesting and using that term you in another way avoid the content of the argument, or suggestion as I prefer to say. This reminds me of other underhanded use of hot terms such as ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi’. You toss in the term ‘Conspiracy Theory’ and everyone will then shy away from consideration of the issue because people who entertain conspiracy theories can be made to seem intellectually questionable. It is, on one level, an emotional appeal. Though I recognize that there is such a thing as conspiracy theories and, too, a sort of addiction to them and abuse of them.

            My view of what you do here, and Arthur as well, is to have with some sophistication —- that is sophistry —- thrown up a sort of screen or block to the consideration of the ideas. And then you kiss each other on the cheek and say ‘Well done, well done’. It is transparent and I think intellectually unfair.

            In my view, and I can only suggest it as possibly so because I have no way to prove it, is that this tactic allows you to remain ensconsed in a safe position in relation to the larger question and block the consideration of it. You can thwart my effort to bring out this idea, this I admit, but you will not succeed in stopping me from carrying forward my investigations and considerations. But in your thwarting process you will succeed in pulling other people away from the cosideration of the ideas brought out (certainly this is your right) and in this way, in my view, inhibit an important issue from being examined.

            You have blocked the possibility to consider the main points I bring up by focus on a sentence-structure issue. You have done this deliberately. What I take from this is that you, as a member of the intellectual class (how else should I designate you?) are quite capable of self-deception, sophistical argument and what seems to be intransigence. I have the sense that this supports the point that I am attempting to make: the subversion of the intellectual classes or, perhaps, the weakening of their resolve to face the facts or even to *see things as they really are*.

            There is no part in what Arthur wrote in his ‘brilliant, informed, cogent analysis’ that I would say is inaccurate. Those propositions seem quite sound to me. Yet what he attempts to do, and in this sense it is an argument against a Strawman of a sort, is to assert that the factors that I have mentioned and alluded to, are ‘conspiracy theories’ and to be dismissed with no consideration. It is an badly reasoned dismissal and a convenient one.

            But I accept that you consider no part of what I suggest as being valid or considerable. My personal opinion is that your-plural position is a mistaken on and suffers intellectual flaws.

            • Arthur in Maine

              My view of what you do here, and Arthur as well, is to have with some sophistication —- that is sophistry —- thrown up a sort of screen or block to the consideration of the ideas. And then you kiss each other on the cheek and say ‘Well done, well done’. It is transparent and I think intellectually unfair.

              Really? This is probably the first time Charles has ever agreed with me on anything. I pretty much disagree with almost everything he posts here, but at least he’s courteous enough to say “good job” and I’m gracious enough to thank him for it. I may have the chance to do the same for him sometime. That’s not dismissal, nor is sophistry. It’s simply good manners.

              As to the rest of it: I’m not throwing up a smokescreen. I’m DISAGREEING WITH YOUR PREMISE – at least, as I understand it. You are most welcome to disagree with mine. And if I’ve made an error in my understanding, feel free to explain it.

              If you do, however, how about some short paragraphs? One- and two-syllable words? Refraining from a demonstration of mastery of what is clearly an impressive vocabulary? None of that is dumbing down copy. It’s a courtesy to the reader, who has other things to do.

              Hey, there’s that manners thing again!

              • Yet ‘good manner’, where I come from, excludes correcting someone’s English writing skills while in the midst of conversation with them! It is completely annoying. Why do you feel you have any right at all to focus on the way I write?

                The only assertion you have made, which has no bearing on what I presented in abbreviated form, is to state that it is a ‘conspiracy theory’ similar to believing that the leaders of the world are a lizard-civilization that has invaded Earth. 😉 It is a silly and a shallow non-argument.

                I think my premise is sound insofar as I understand, and I think it can be easily demonstrated, that the nation of the US betrayed its own Constitution by inading and occupying foreign countries. It started with the war against Spain in Cuba and continued with the invasion of the Phillipines. It was written about, talked about and debated then and the essential arguments against it were and are sound —- from a Constitutional perspective.

                In brief, it can be described as a take-over of the public, governmental space by business interests with interests in war-production. The core of it is there. And that process gained and struggled for through the use of PR techniques, the news media, and other forms of communication. The origins of the American PR industry have their roots in that time. (There weas a detailed book on Eduard Bernay’s and the fomentation of wars and invasions in Central America as I remember it).

                But the premise is that these events, because they were betrayals of core principles on which the country was founded, began a process of corruption in the body politic. The only way to have carried this out was through ‘lies’ and duplicity, and therefor it involved another level of betrayal of the Republic in the sense of betrayal and corruption of the people who were sucked into these lies.

                The further evolution of these original mistaken choices led to the clamor for the foreign involvment that was WWl, though there was a great deal of reasoned opposition to it as indeed there should have been (in defense of Constitutional principles).

                My understanding is that this led to increasing levels of collusion and corruption among the governing and the business classes, and obviously those involved in arms production (though there were many beneficiaries).

                And eventually, in the course of evolution of these choices, it led to involvement on WWll and, with that, the Nation as it was conceived went off the rails. A Neo-Imperialism took shape (and I use this term in the non-charged and hopefully accurate sense). I would say that that ‘going off the rails’ could be (and should be) argued from a strict Constitutional perspective.

                If there are any men who could be considered ‘truly conservative’, then and now, their conservatism would in my opinion require being grounded in defense of the Constitutional principle which advocated strongly against ‘embroilment’ in foreign wars.

                Certainly there were great gains: economic certainly among them. But I would suggest that the losses might be understood to be greater. I suppose I could devote time to describing what has been lost through these 100 years of adventure. I mean, it surely can be done. But the main point which is also rather a common perception has to do with the eventuality of an ‘military-industrial complex’ and the danger of that to a Republic. I guess all of this seems very clear to me, having read about these ‘premises’ for many years now and also thought about them.

                What I am attempting to work out for myself is the causal connection between ‘the loss of the Republic’ and the evolution into a crisis-ridden present. I would suggest that the nation is in a crisis. And I would also suggest that to understand it one must study ‘causality’. One title that influenced my present view is “The Politics of War: The Story of the Two Wars which Altered the Political Life of the American Republic (1890-1920)” by Walter Karp. He makes pretty devastating arguments, or presents a definitely unflattering picture of the perversions of this era, and yet (IMO) he premises make a great deal of sense.

                The premise that you do not seem to accept, through it is certainly accepted in political philosophy, is that of a military and commercial class that succeeds in infiltrating the Nation and, through various machinations, influencing strongly the domestic policies and the foreign policies of the Nation. These issues have been debated for at least 100 years and certainly in the postwar ll era.

                My perspective is that these are ‘real concerns’ about real issues —- not crackpot conspiracy theories —- and that they can be spoken of from a rational and a conservative (Constitutional) perspective. I would also say they are responsible areas for demonstration of concern from a Constitutional perspective. I contrast Constitutional concern with the socialistic-communist perspective which critiques the state of affairs very directly, and strongly, and yet has other objectives which I do not trust.

                Based in what we know, and what we can know, I would suggest that we live now in a faux-Constitutional republic. A sort of shell of what, perhaps, it once was or, perhaps, what it was supposed to be (?) It is quite obviously not a democracy and to use that term is, as I previously said, to use an American Newspeak term. But this criticism is not, as is more typical (I guess) one from the Left or from ‘Progressivism’. I would seek a way to define a critique that is grounded in Constitutional principles.

                As I indicated at the beginning, I think a realistic assessment, just a sensible description, of What Is Really Going On is not at all easy. What side shall one take? Who has ‘right’ and who is in the wrong?

                And for that reason I ended my first piece to you with a question: How can I assess what is going on, how can I know? What faction shall I align with? (Et cetera).

                I don’t think you have made any contribution at all to any part of these concerns and questions. You seem more interested in snuffing these concerns rather than in exploring them.

                • charlesgreen

                  Alizia, I wanted to note that I quite agree with your historical assessment of the United States as in many respects a nation with an imperialist history, a la England and Spain in another era. You could have cited many more examples. And you are hardly the first (Eisenhower only being the most noteworthy) to describe a military-industrial complex that infects government. Some (me) might argue that about-to-be-passed tax legislation is yet another example of another earlier President’s dictum that “the business of America is business.”

                  That said, this thread began by talking about the media, and your original points seemed to me to be making the connection between the above sweeping view of an industrial-imperialist critique and the special case of the media. I think that connection is harder to make, and is true only in another sense.

                  Note that newspapers have been a largely unprofitable business for decades, perhaps even centuries, with the recent loss of classified ad revenue closely followed by the onslaught of free digital content. Also for decades, the broadcast networks subsidized news, only cutting back on costs after being acquired by big-pocket corporate entities.

                  A more proper analysis I think would not focus on the commercial aspects per se of mainstream media, but on their political power. The Hearsts, the Sulzbergs, the Grahams, the Luces, and even the Murdochs of the world valued the press not as a direct means of making money so much as a way to influence world events. In that sense, a classical Marxist analysis of economics as the key driver is less persuasive in the case of the media.

                  At the same time, counter to that kind of analysis, there is a cyclical tendency in world history to denigrate the more-or-less free press as being craven, lying and partisan. This tendency, I suggest, shows up from the Right, in the form of populism and strong-man governments. We see it right now in the mutual praise that Trump and the strongmen in Turkey, Syria, and the Philippines slather on each other, and in the US’s own history of demagoguery. Pre WWII Germany is of course the shining example.

                  It is the confusion between these two critiques that I think I find in what you have written. It is possible to say that the US has a corporate-imperialist history in which the media has occasionally (see Hearst, Luce) participated – and at the same time say that the principles of a free press are under serious attack, from the Right (including its own friendly press, Exhibit 1 of course being Fox News, but also including a host of new-media outliers).

                  Jack consistently points to the failings of the mainstream media to live up to its own stated values. Good on him, he should do so, and they should listen to him.

                  I wish Jack more frequently highlighted the far more egregious sins of the far-right media, who have an historically unprecedented level of support within the government itself these days. IMHO of course.

                  I would be interested to hear your take on that.

                  • From a Carl Bernstein article on the Intelligence/Media relationship:

                    The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception for the following principal reasons:

                    ■ The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply on the use of reporters since 1973 primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad.

                    ■ Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.

                    Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.

                    By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.

                    The CIA’s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress. The general outlines of what happened are indisputable; the specifics are harder to come by. CIA sources hint that a particular journalist was trafficking all over Eastern Europe for the Agency; the journalist says no, he just had lunch with the station chief. CIA sources say flatly that a well‑known ABC correspondent worked for the Agency through 1973; they refuse to identify him. A high‑level CIA official with a prodigious memory says that the New York Times provided cover for about ten CIA operatives between 1950 and 1966; he does not know who they were, or who in the newspaper’s management made the arrangements.
                    __________________

                  • I have said at different times that the blog medium is not conducive to extended conversations. The conversation I wish to have on these topics could go on for weeks …

                    I included the Bernstein reference because he is, I take it, rather mainstream.

                    I submit another reference to what I see as a large, difficult, and very hard to sort through issue of postwar ll social and political development. If you look at this brief review of a book written by David A. Wemhoff (“John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Prposition: How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church”, 2015 Fidelity Press) (http://www.fedbar.org/Sections/International-Law-Section/Global-Perspectives/Winter-2016/Book-Review-John-Courtney-Murray-TimeLife-and-the-American-Proposition-How-the-CIAs-Doctri.aspx) you will quickly understand that it is written by a partisan, I guess one would say, of a particular religious and philosophical viewpoint, that is Catholicism. The author of the book, and the publisher of it, certainly have a dog in the fight as the saying goes.

                    Nevertheless, I offer this reference to the book, and the brief review of it, only as a reference to a larger issue. How would that be described? I will try: The deliberate, and studied, manipulation of trends in culture to highten or accentuate some specific change or transformation? Deliberate efforts to influence events and thinking in respect to certain topics with the intention of steering or directing outcomes toward determined objectives? Meddling in cultural issues in order to achieve results (transformations or perhaps only focus of will) that serve geo-political objectives?

                    In order to make my point —- my tentative and uncertain point —- I must attempt to illustrate it with at least one more or less concrete example. I submit this particular one which, it seems to me, has wide implications.

                    In the simplest of terms I suggest that there has been a collusion in the manipulation of culture in order to serve commercial and globalist (geo-political) interests. I would call this ‘social engineering’ by agencies or operatives, acting out of the shadows (that is, invisibly), to directly manipulate culture and also social mores to serve specific, more or less mercantile, objectives and goals.

                    If this is true, and even if the mechanisms are more complex and labyrinthian than this simple reduction, I would suggest that it indicates strongly that 1) such things are possible, and 2) that such things have occurred, and 3) what is more important in our present: that such things are going on.

                    I have no clear sense how to even begin to analyse the function of, say, Fox News or the NYTs within the present context of quite evident cultural and ideological wars. All that I wish to establish is that collusion between government and intellignce, which is to say government, industry and intelligence, seems a major feature of our national present.

                  • If it interests you there is an interesting interview with David Wemhoff and in the forst 1/2 hour he clearly explains his understanding of an important aspect of postwar history. Since I have mentioned that an understanding of ‘causation’ is necessary to understand *our present*, all of this has bearing on my own topic of interest. In the largest sense that is how shifts in one’s grasp of metaphysics, or alterations in one’s description of metaphysics, leads to profound changes in the social, economic and political structures. (You could get the gist of his message in 7-10 minutes since his discourse is front-loaded).

                    • charlesgreen

                      Alizia, thanks for the links both to the book review about and to the audio file by Wemhoff. Interesting and provocative. (For those who haven’t read it, I’ll hazard a one-sentence summary; Wemhoff makes the case for the media, particularly Henry Luce, as propagandist for capitalism – Alizia please feel free to correct me, I recognize is extremely simplistic).

                      It’s a solid and cogent analysis, broad in its sweep, and I think quite accurate. Well worth a read and a listen.

                      It does raise an interesting contrast with today, however. Whereas Henry Luce et al collaborated with the intelligence community and the executive branch in support of pro-American interests and ideologies, the modern press has found itself frequently at odds with the executive branch, while remaining more or less in cahoots with intelligence, beginning with Watergate (remember, Deep Throat was FBI).

                      In the Trump Era, these divisions are even more stark: Trump’s overt attacks on the intelligence community lumps them together publicly with the press in a way that Nixon (with his buddy J Edgar) would never have countenanced.

                      The common thread is what Wemhoff points out – an historic alliance of interests between the press and the intelligence community. What has changed is the relationship of the executive branch to both.

                      Does that make sense?

                    • Surely Wemhoff makes that point, but I think it would be important to point out that his critical position is, in some sense, as important or more so than that which he criticizes. Because his book was published by Fidelity Press, and is strongly Catholic, and tending toward traditional Catholacism, and I could also say a somewhat radical Catholicism, Wemhoff is one face of a movement, Conservative in essence, that brings forward a very strong critique of the present. Basically, this critique is moral and ethical.

                      Wemhoff is fairly middle-of-the-road in his critique. E. Michael Jones is far more biting. Given my own orientation —- interested in Europe and its traditional fonts in Catholicism and decidedly non-modernist insofar as I cannot reject the spiritual and supernatural dimension of existence —- what interests me about the business-intelligence-PR complex has to do with ‘where the country is going’ but also what happens to a country when it begins to slide into decadence. I would say that if there is a ‘crisis’ it is one that certainly has a spiritual dimension. And as you know, and because I identify as a partisan of Europe, and am concerned for ‘European Revival’, I have begun to conclude that the only way to arrest decadence, and resist degeneration, is through spiritual renewal.

                      Therefor, I would accentuate that these notable machinations of certain factions of old money, or perhaps the Protestant establishment, carried out a sort of ‘value-coup’ which necessitated, naturally, the undermining of established and ‘traditional’ if you will, moral and ethical understandings and practices. And that is supported by Wemhoff’s sense of things. While it is true that Luce et al operated as a ‘propagandist for capitalism’, there is another dimension, or another outcome to these capitalistic/pro-business machinations. If as he says to foster a sort of sheer capitalism, and to privelage wealth-getting above other value-sets, you may indeed achieve your goal, but there are concomitant costs to be paid which, as I understand it, involve a general breakdown in ‘morality’ (as they say, I don’t really like the word’s tone) and in ethics. ‘Libido dominandi’ is a Augustinian Latin term with very interesting connotations. It means on one hand ‘lust for domination’ but I have also seen it construed to mean ‘the use of lust to dominate’. According to Thomistic philosophy, the aquisitive dimension in man is associated with appetite and desire, and the object of life is to lead a balanced life that is regulated. By accentuating aquisitiveness and wealth-getting there seems to have been a concomitant unleashing of restrain in the other appetite-areas. And this sort of fits with the explosion of the capitalistic model. Everything can become a business therefor, and certainly the reference is to the voluptuous dimension.

                      So, and seen from this critical angle (I will mention that Richard Weaver wrote a good deal on related issues in the immediate postwar era) along with the enthusiasm for capitalistic expansion comes along a need to breat down traditional conservative barriers within communities. How to do this becomes, if you will, the ‘science of the marketeer’. It is psychological, even in a sort of perverse Thomistic sense, and has as its object the breaking down within the individual of his or her moral structures.

                      I think that one could, slowly and methodically, trace the steps and the processes through which this ‘seduction’ has been carried out. And since ‘seduction’ is in essence an undermining of the restraining mind, one result is the weaking of the rational, upstanding mind: the capacity, perhaps even the desire, to think in moral and ethical terms. Seduction is the accepting of a proposition to live in a moment, to take one’s pleasure in a moment, and to forego other levels of consideration which are, fundamentally, intellectual. A culture that gives itself to seduction, and an elite-class that seduces, winds up in a dangerous social circumstance: people who cannot think critically and who are victims of their emotions, or their ‘desire-emotions’.

                      Therefor, I would say there are infinitely more ramifications to this issue.

                      To ties this, in some degree at least, into our present I would mention, as I often do, that in American and in Europe, right now, there is beginning a sort of ‘uprising’ against the machinations of this globalist, hyper-liberal political-economic system that, for some, is encapsulated with the term ‘Americanopolis’. If it is true that ‘communism rots the body’ and ‘liberalism rots the soul’, you will perhaps grasp the reference being made.

                      Therefor, the Grand Question has to do with ‘traditionalism’ not only in the sense (if one ccepts it) of a ‘supernaturalism’ and a supernatural agent or authority (I use the term ‘metaphysics’ as a catch-all!) which must be redisovered, reexplicated, redefined, and re-empowered in our present, but a decided critical position as-against the forces that are powering these various levels of ‘seduction’.

                      I see ‘America’ as an astounding chaos. People are in chaos. Their minds are in chaos. The culture seems to go mad. I ask you sincerely: Who is even capable of *seeing* our present and describing it in meaningful terms? People deal of minor contingencies, as if their eyes are locked onto the patch of ground immediately in front of them. They cannot turn around to see the larger picture.

                      Again, I cannot even approach any level of understanding as to what is going on politically in the US right now. My understanding is that you have lots of years of association with Washington (?) and what is going on ‘in the halls of power’. What happened? What is going on within this power-system? I can make no sense of it.

                    • Leaving this here because the thread won’t take another post…

                      Alizia wrote:
                      I see ‘America’ as an astounding chaos. People are in chaos. Their minds are in chaos. The culture seems to go mad. I ask you sincerely: Who is even capable of *seeing* our present and describing it in meaningful terms? People deal of minor contingencies, as if their eyes are locked onto the patch of ground immediately in front of them. They cannot turn around to see the larger picture.

                      Again, I cannot even approach any level of understanding as to what is going on politically in the US right now. . . (snip) . . . what is going on ‘in the halls of power’. What happened? What is going on within this power-system? I can make no sense of it.

                      Okay, Alizia – thanks for the fact that THIS one was indeed clear.

                      I can only offer a hypothesis in answer to your question. The problem is that there aren’t any grown-ups in charge any more. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but consider this.

                      Those Americans born in the early part of the 20th century were shaped in large part by World War One and the Great Depression. Those born 20 years later were shaped by World War Two.

                      Us baby boomers were certainly shaped in many ways by the cold war and certainly by Vietnam, but in many ways those didn’t hit baby boomers as hard as the previous events did. They were distant events, and unless you knew someone who had lost a family member in Vietnam (I did) that war really didn’t impact you beyond what was reported on the news – until you approached draft age (I had a draft number the last time they were issued, but by then the war was winding down and pretty much nobody of my age was sent). That was powerful, certainly, but there were concurrent events domestically – a greater sense of freedom, brought about in part by changes in public attitude towards sexuality, music, art, etc.Meantime, that particular war was deeply unpopular with a large part of the nation. And as for the cold war, it was rather abstract.

                      Frankly, it was one big party. Life was good. You could eat what you wanted (no rations), drink what you wanted (18 was legal back then), smoke what you wanted (nobody really cared as long as you were cool about it) and pretty much fuck what you wanted. What wasn’t to like?

                      Now, you can use that to make your case regarding decadence, and much as I hate to admit it I think that argument may well hold water. The larger point is this: the Boomers, who now hold most of the power, never really faced the privations our parents and grandparents did (who were made of sterner stuff, because they had to be).

                      And with the economy roaring along, it was pretty easy for Boomers to bestow largess upon their own bairn that the Boomers’ grandparents wouldn’t have imagined – or conceptually supported. As a society, we became increasingly materialistic and self-centered, simply because there really wasn’t much pulling the nation together with a common cause – and when the Soviet Union collapsed, the last Great Enemy lay vanquished. Or so it seemed.

                      9/11 changed that, giving a sense of common purpose, but only for a short period of time. Many progressives felt that George W. Bush was an illegitimate president, placed in office by SCOTUS sleight-of-hand, and it took less two years (and some serious miscalculations in Iraq) for the prog/conservative fault lines to gape widely again.

                      And the reason, I fear, is that we have chosen children to lead us – people who never really knew struggle, and who believe that their own comfort (including power) is more important than anything to do with the commonweal.

                      Which brings me back to the original comment that started this thread. Media, like politicos and industries, are always looking for the best deal – for themselves. For their bread and butter, their kids’ educations, their professional advancement. Although todays mainstream media certainly approaches the monolithic, the Internet and other channels certainly has loosened their grip. When I was growing up, there were three TV channels on which you could get the news, plus your choice of several daily newspapers out of New York and a couple of local afternoon papers. That, and the radio, was all there was. Yes, they competed with each other, but each had a far larger market share then that they could even dream of having today.

                      I repeat that the real problem is that we haven’t, as a society, learned how to deal with the myriad choices yet. We have yet, as a culture, to realize that they’re all suspect because they’re created by flawed beings with their own reasons for doing so. We’ll get there.

                      And if a spiritual reawakening helps us along the way, I’ve got no problem with that!

                    • Thanks Arthur for your comment which I read with interest.

                • Andrew Wakeling

                  Well said Alizia. I don’t see that anyone has realy addressed the question you raised “How can I asses what is going on ……etc.?” There are no easy answers. And please continue to write as you think fit. (We all have easily available dictionaries and ‘exegetic’ wasn’t hard to find.) Of course there are collective interests (particularly around money and wars) ,that seek advantage; and ‘conspiracies’, ‘collusion’ and ‘subversion’ are quite reasonable terms to use. And of course there is a lot that is chaotic too.

                  I have been generally optimistic that we learn from our experience, providing we survive it. The fear is we may too easily forget. We must take an interest in our history, and be able to discuss it. I want to know where Jack goes, post his epiphany. I have been regularly conned, but hopefully am getting more resistant. Progress often involves the acceptance of honest doubt

                  W. Sargant’s ‘Battle for the Mind’ has been important for me, and he goes close as perhaps a partial response to your opening question :

                  “The obstacles that the religious or political proselytizer cannot overcome are indifference of detached, controlled and continued amusement on the part of the subject at the efforts being made to break him down, or win him over, or tempt him into argument. The safety of the free world seems therefore to lie in a cultivation not only of courage, moral virture and logic, but of humour: humour which produces the well-balanced state in which emotional excess is laughed at as ugly and wasteful.”

            • charlesgreen

              Alizia, I truly do not mean to insult you.

              In fact, one of the pluses you bring to these pages is that you rarely, if ever, seem to have a mean bone in your body. You are unfailingly good-mannered, gracious, and never stoop to insults or snarkiness (the closest you come is a wink-wink raised eyebrow here and there). That is a set of virtues not modeled here often enough, IMHO.

              You are intelligent, and educated, and have interesting ideas, some of which I agree with, and some of which I don’t. Which is as it should be.

              I am perhaps a prisoner of my own background (as are we all?). I studied philosophy in college, and spent many years submitting my business English to an in-house editor, and many more editing others’ business writing. That editor taught me the powerful linkage between thought and language, and it is always near the top of my consciousness.

              I find your writing demands a lot of the reader. That is no sin, to be sure, but I suspect your ideas could be more crisply communicated. That is, truly, the only point I wanted to make, and I apologize if my tone conveyed otherwise.

              • Please don’t tell anyone else, and especially not my *enemies*, but I fully accept your criticism. In the moment I have a hard time accepting, but I am here to take in every drop of information and advise as I can. So, as my Australian friend says, ‘No Worries, mate’.

                I did as well rewrite my original post to you. I agree that my phrasings were … convoluted. It is sad that one cannot edit in this format!

  10. From REASON (a publication and site I trust very much), and which just took over The Volokh Conspiracy from the Post:

    “Our record as journalists in covering this Trump story and the Russian story is pretty good,” legendary reporter Carl Bernstein recently claimed. Pretty good? If there’s a major news story over the past 70 years that the American media has botched more often because of bias and wishful thinking, I’d love to hear about it.

    Four big scoops recently run by major news organizations—written by top reporters and, presumably, churned through layers of scrupulous editing—turned out to be completely wrong. Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others reported that special counsel Robert Mueller’s office had subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank. Trump’s attorney says it hadn’t. ABC reported that candidate Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election. He didn’t (as far as we know). The New York Times ran a story claiming that K.T. McFarland, a former member of the Trump transition team, had acknowledged collusion. She hadn’t. Then, CNN topped off the week by falsely reporting that the Trump campaign had been offered access to hacked Democratic National Committee emails before they were published. It wasn’t.

    Forget your routine bias. These were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, all of whom are feeding frenzied expectations about Trump-Russia collusion that have now been internalized by many as indisputable truths. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without their central faulty claims. Yet there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

    • charlesgreen

      The article you show in an abridged version here I see is from the New York Post, bylined David Harsanyi. I don’t see anything about Volokh here (a column I also have admired over the years).

      Harsanyi is an interesting conservative libertarian writer, currently an editor at The Federalist. Other recent articles by him carry titles like “Democrats are Corrupting English to Create Mass Hysteria,” and “Why Doesn’t Hillary’s Dossier Trick Count as Treason?” He also wrote “Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children.”
      He is also an atheist, and anti-anti-gay marriage.

      I don’t have a point here – I’m not arguing against his article – but more pointing out his fairly clear conservative/libertarian bias, wondering what his connection is with the Volokh Conspiracy, and what was your point in quoting him at length without mentioning his name?

      • That section of the article is factual, not opinion. Those false stories are a matter of record; biased publications are trying to bury or minimize the seriousness of the bad journalism involved, but it was bad journalism. Reason has high editorial standards, and is neither Right nor Left. So I didn’t, and don’t think, in this case, the writer’s past biases matter. This is how the mainstream media justified the worst of its fake news practices: intentionally leaving stories that should be reported to Fox and Brietbart, so they can say, “Look who’s reporting it! It must be a lie!” It’s an ad hominem fallacy, essentially.

        For the record, I didn’t know Hirsanyi wrote the article, because I was only interested in this section, which I found elsewhere, and which I could have written myself.

        The news about the VC was a footnote only.

        • charlesgreen

          To be clear, I’m not trying to argue ad hominem, but simply to question the connection between this article and the Volokh Conspiracy, a point I would not have raised but for the added face of the absence of the author’s name.

          You have clarified it, thanks.

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