FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
On Path to Irrelevance, MSM Continues Trading Objectivity for Activism
Why the media\'s treatment of Israel\'s foreign minister was appalling, but not the least bit surprising.
We’ve seen the evidence mounting over the last several years of professional journalism’s slide from respectable fourth estate to irrelevant outlet for liberal activism. We’ve seen Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” forged-document-based assassination attempt on George W. Bush, and Chris Matthews’s tingly-legged assertion that his job as an objective journalist, while formerly being centered on bringing down the Bush administration, is now to ensure that Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House is a “success,” regardless of the facts or the cost.
We’ve seen the shoddy workmanship on the part of Reuters and CNN, which have unquestioningly published faked photographs and videos provided by stringers and terrorist outlets simply because they fit in with those journalists’ worldview by purporting to show innocent Palestinian civilians being massacred by evil Zionist storm troopers.
We’ve heard former CNN head Eason Jordan admit Saddam’s atrocities were swept under the rug by Baghdad-based journalists out of a desire to keep that pointless “news” bureau open, and we’ve witnessed a nationwide mainstream media apparatus in fully operational Death Star mode with regard to a vice presidential nominee who made the mistake of simultaneously being the wrong sex, a member of the wrong party, incredibly popular, and an opponent of the Democratic candidate that media apparatus had decided must, at all costs, become the next President of the United States.
We’ve seen a major news magazine run with a story of the slaughter of Iraqi civilians at the hands of cold-blooded Americans before actually checking those facts, and then drop the topic like a hot rock rather than report that the results of an investigation showed the report, and alleged atrocities, were largely works of fiction from the outset.
We’ve seen a titan of print media go over a month with daily front page stories about a single flagrant but nonviolent act, perpetrated by duly prosecuted American soldiers serving in Iraq, and then seen that same paper and its print colleagues slash coverage of Iraq as a whole by 70% as soon as the friendly bodycount dropped and there were no new “scandals” to manufacture.
We’ve watched the American mainstream media spend eight years badgering and talking down their country’s commander in chief, declaring their job to be questioning every statement and figure released by an administration they decided could not be trusted with the truth — and now we see that same media sitting silently, waiting their turn to ask the incoming executive preselected, scripted questions, and declaring all to be right with the world when they are given a response, no matter how devoid of actual answers, details, or specifics that response may be.
We’ve watched the media respond to the 9/11 attacks and President Bush’s effort to prevent such an event from happening again by downplaying the risk, leaking information on classified programs, and referring to the Global War on Terror as “Bush’s “War on Terror”,” never forgetting to enclose the term in scare quotes.
We’ve seen a slew of journalists take to the airwaves and to the printed page to denounce Bush for every innocent Iraqi killed since March 2003, and to denounce Israel for every civilian killed in Lebanon or Gaza while serving as a human shield for Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, yet we’ve heard barely a word about the almost daily calls by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for an internationally-recognized sovereign nation (which was created in large part for the purpose of preventing another Holocaust) to be “wiped off the map” and every one of its citizens slaughtered.
We’ve seen an Iraqi “reporter” insult his own countrymen by hurling his shoes at President Bush during a Baghdad press conference, and watched America’s media breathlessly (not to mention incorrectly) report on this as an “insult” to Bush and a final sign of his failure as president.
Given the preponderance of evidence that journalists, whose profession was once respectable and worthwhile, are being even more cavalier about letting the mask slip and showing their true proclivities toward liberal activism, the events of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s press conference in Washington, D.C. last Friday should come as no surprise whatsoever.
At the media availability, held after Livni and outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed Memorandum of Understanding on combating the massive proliferation of weapons into the Gaza Strip, the Israeli foreign minister — herself far more dovish than given credit for — faced a barrage of “questions” from international journalists which, if posed to a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay, would likely have resulted in the questioners being branded torturers by American leftists.
As anti-Western “peace” activists from Code Pink stood outside chanting “There is a war criminal in this building,” multiple “reporters” used their turn to ask questions as an opportunity to launch into their own versions of human rights sermons, lecturing Livni on the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and comparing Israel’s Olmert/Livni administration to Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime in Zimbabwe.
The crowning achievement of the liberal press at this conference (10:30 here), though, was when one “reporter” — Russell Mokhiber of the “Corporate Crime Reporter” — used his time to read aloud almost in its entirety a Human Rights Watch report on the situation in Gaza. You know the type: the ones that blame democracies for the fate of third-worlders who choose to live under, and to assist, terrorists (in this case, HRW accused Israel of sending messages to civilians to go to the center of Gaza City “for their own safety,” then of shelling the civilian-laden downtown with 155mm artillery). Livni responded by pointing out that the Israeli military has constantly traded away its tactical advantage for an opportunity to save civilian lives, warning civilians ahead of offensive operations by leaflet drop or cell phone call (“over 90,000 cell phone calls” have been made, according to Livni) “to get out of areas controlled by Hamas or areas where Qassam rockets are manufactured.”
Nonplussed by this response, Mokhiber interrupted Livni’s explanation by demanding that she confess to, and apologize for, the rampant “murder of innocent civilians in the Strip” (the ones who had been warned by leaflet drop and cell phone call to abandon terrorist hideouts and weapons caches before strikes by an Israeli military that has ). When asked to allow Livni to finish, he yelled — sans microphone, which had been turned off — “You are letting her speak for an hour, and you aren’t allowing us to ask questions. Since when have you hosted terrorists here?”
After that scuffle was broken up and Mokhiber, who was lauded sans name or publication ID on myriad leftist websites as likely being a representative of the “progressive media” (an inference made because the line of questioning was apparently too insightful to have come from a member of the “corporate [mainstream] media,” escorted from the building, his colleagues followed up with further quotations from the HRW report and questions not about the situation in Gaza itself, but about when the Israeli administration would admit that it has brought all action by Hamas on itself by refusing to entirely ignore the terrorist-held Gaza Strip.
The proliferation of activist journalists is not a new phenomenon. However, it has become more apparent in recent years as a result both of the presence of an alternative media which can track the subjects of reporting and blow the whistle on outright forgeries like the Rathergate memos and the Aidnan Hajj photographs from Lebanon, and of the growing lack of care being taken by “news” personnel to shroud their political views, preferred candidates, and overall opinions in a cloak of faux-objectivity.
What is the cause of the media’s slide into activist irrelevance? There are probably several factors, but the last half-century has indisputably seen a pair of truths. First, new journalists are being cranked out of J-Schools not trained and ready to uncover stories and report the news; rather, they have far loftier aspirations. The question “Why choose journalism?” all too often receives the answer, “To make a difference — or even change the world!,” both from professionals and from students in training to be reporters. A fourth estate that is intent not on serving as a reportorial watchdog, but as an equality-and-rights-enforcing (in their view) fair play police has a very short road to go to become a truly activist, partial cheerleader for a cause that will not hesitate, if that cause is deemed important enough, to slant, skew, spin, or outright falsify the “news” in order to shape public perception and rally opinion to their cause.
Second, journalists today are still trying to get that One Big Story which would, like Watergate or Mai Lai, revolutionize public opinion about a person or effort and gain them not only the satisfaction of having successfully “made a difference,” but also of having proven the media’s preeminent place in the hierarchy of true power — as the ultimate watchdog who has no dog watching over it. Nixon and Vietnam remain rallying cries for the liberal media who not only want to replicate the fate of that president and that war through their own actions, but who are going to increasingly great and desperate lengths to do so.
A “reporter” standing in a press conference with the foreign minister of a sovereign, democratic country and shouting her down with demands that she admit to being a “terrorist” may appall those of us who remember what journalism once was (or respect that it was such at all). However, it’s fast becoming par for the course for the entire fourth estate, and as public reaction to such outbursts and actions continues to trend more and more negative, the desperation in such moves — from the interrogation of interviewees, to the rush to press or air without checking whether a narrative-supporting story or video is true, to the outright cheerleading and activism — will only continue to grow.
The mainstream media has dug the grave of its own irrelevance. Now, with its struggles to avoid being buried in that grave, it sinks farther and farther into the quicksand-like bed of its final resting place. The only question left is what self-induced outrage or scandal will cause the final shovelful of dirt to be thrown over the corpse of what once was a valuable and respectable media apparatus.