Monday, March 16, 2009

KILL THE MESSENGER.

On Sunday John King had an "exclusive" interview with Dick Cheney, an interview CNN promoted relentlessly for days. But before it ever aired anyone who gave it any thought knew it would be another useless soft ball interview by the ever increasing useless breed of intellectually homeless people called journalists.
John King did not disappoint. The interview lived down to everyone's expectations.

Not that there was any reason to expect otherwise. It was obvious before the interview aired that no question would be asked that might embarrass Cheney. Or get to the truth about anything. The name of the game for today's journalists is trying to get political guests that will drive up ratings.

It's all about money. Which ironically, is exactly why so many news outlets are going bankrupt. These are people who know nothing about what it takes to attract an audience, nothing about promotion, nothing about the medium of television, and most unfortunately, nothing about journalism which is the real reason they are losing money.

It still hasn't occurred to them that the best way to make money is to actually perform the service people want, need and expect and maybe do it better than anyone else. Then people would watch or buy their newspaper.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that ground rules were obviously laid out for the Cheney interview and agreed to beforehand, guaranteeing that Cheney would be handled with kid gloves. And he was.

That's how you get other politicians to come on your show. The one thing you don't do is grill them and put them through a grueling truth session. If you did who would come on and schmooze about terrorism? On the other hand, any politician watching the King interview of Cheney would be clamoring to be next.

King as well as other journalists knows that if you ask tough, brutal questions like a good prosecutor who already knows the answers, exposing falsehoods, blatant dishonesty, ineptitude and incompetence which characterized the Bush Administration for eight years, you're not going to be making payments on the beach house.

King's interview also showed why Wolf Blitzer and everyone on CNN is constantly telling us every five minutes they are "the best political team on television". If they didn't say it who would? Obviously if these people were the best political team on television people would just know it. Or someone else would say it. They wouldn't have to shill. But over the last 8 years, CNN has shown that their team has more in common with the 1919 Black Sox than the New York Yankees.

For years CNN has run commercials using the slogan, "the most trusted name in news". At the bottom there is a little disclaimer saying that statement is based on a poll conducted by Pew Research. That is true except for one thing: the Pew Research poll they cite specifically asked respondents if they trusted ( that was the word used -- "trusted") a particular news organization to accurately report the facts and named several news outlets. In the poll, 69% of respondents said they did NOT trust CNN to accurately report the facts.

So how does CNN get away with claiming they are the most trusted name in news? Because in the same poll 70% said they didn't trust Fox News, 71% didn't trust MSNBC and other news organizations also polled worse than CNN. So based on the fact that they were judged slightly less horrific than other news organizations, CNN decided they could truthfully call themselves "the most trusted name in news".

In a business where the only thing you have to sell is credibility, instead of looking at those poll numbers and being horrified, instead of management deciding they have to do a much better job at reporting the news, someone in their promotion department became a hero by looking at the numbers and coming up with the deviously misleading slogan.

Which leads to the question, if a news organization can't tell the truth about itself how can they tell the truth about anything else? Obviously 69% of the people polled feel they can't. And as anyone who has watched CNN as well other news outlets over the 8 to 10 years, its easy to understand why.

Although they were not alone, "the best political team on television" stood around with their hands in their pockets during the Democratic primaries while the purely politically motivated disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan took place, taking away the rights of over one million voters to try and ensure Obama's primary lead. Like others, they also gave Obama a pass when he was caught lying to the people of Ohio about his position on NAFTA sending an emissary to the Canadian government telling them to ignore what he says publicly, that it's only for political consumption. And let's not forget seven consecutive days of lying about Jeremiah Wright until facts made each fabrication impossible to maintain.

Last but not least there was the complete rigging of the Democratic Party roll call vote violating every written rule and procedure in the Democratic Party's nomination process in order to rig it so Obama would get the nomination. And it was done right under the noses of "the best political team on television".

Getting back to Cheney and King, Cheney made the statement that the big thing the Bush Administration did after 911, the big decision they made setting them apart from "previous administrations" ( presumably the Clinton Administration), was that they decided to approach fighting terrorism as war instead of a law enforcement issue.

Cheney said that previous administrations (again, presumably the Clinton Administration) treated terrorism strictly as a law enforcement problem but that they, the Bush Administration, made the "key" decision to change the approach to a military response.

This of course was a total lie and King, conducting the interview in his official CNN dog collar and leash, let him get away with it. Maybe King forgot that Bill Clinton ordered a full scale Tomahawk missile attack from American destroyers into the Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan trying to kill Bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda, and for doing so was accused by Cheney's party of a Wag The Dog ploy, launching the missiles to take attention away from his Lewinsky problem. A Tomahawk missile barrage from American destroyers is hardly treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue. But King let Cheney say it unchallenged.

And while Cheney was tooting the Bush Administration's horn about fighting terrorism, King never asked why the Bush Administration ignored 8 months of warnings from the CIA, FBI and Richard Clark that CIA intercepts indicated they were about to hit with a major attack and yet did nothing. He never asked why Richard Clarke couldn't get a meeting with Bush or Rice to discuss the terorrist threat, even though Clarke told them over the summer that the spike in Al-Qaeda chatter was the highest he had seen in 20 years. And he never asked why the Bush Administration did nothing even though, according to Clarke, he and Tenent were running around the White House like " men with their hair on fire" in August of 2001 because the evidence that a serious attack from Al Qaeda was imminent. But then had he asked questions like that he might actually have been a journalist and not gotten the interview.

We are reminded once again, that while Bush and the Republicans hold the primary responsibility for wrecking the country the last 8 years, Bush being directly responsible for the four worst disasters to ever hit the United States -- 911, Iraq (called the worst foreign policy decision in American history by Tom Ricks), the response to Katrina, and the worst economic meltdown since the 1930s' -- the biggest enablers of all this was the press.

If journalists had not been as spineless and cowardly as they were, if they had not been more interested in "access" than in reporting the truth, if they had held Bush responsible for his failures and incompetence in allowing the 911 attacks to occur when the evidence is they could have been prevented, none of what followed ever would happened. There would have either been demands for Bush's resignation over 911 and he would have resigned or he would have been too politically wounded to go into Iraq and would have lost in 2004.

The old complaint by the news media against criticism was that people were trying to kill the messenger. Their defense was that what the news media was just doing their job reporting the news and weren't responsible for the news being bad. But over the last 10 years what the messengers have done is bury the real news, ignore it, hide it, pretend it wasn't there, or fabricate it, lest the messengers fall out of favor with those in high places creating the messages.

Given CNN's sagging ratings, their dishonest ad campaign, the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the New York Times needing to go to a Mexican financier for a $250 million loan, and the continued decline of news media ratings and circulation, it looks like people have decided there are a lot of good reasons now to kill the messenger. And given the current spate of media bankruptcies, it looks like people have decided they are going to do just that.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The news media was in bed with the government to facilitate the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War and the Iraq War. If Americans cannot get the truth when it matters most, when they are sent to die, why shouldn't the news media lie about everything else? Just asking.

myiq2xu said...

People always assume the problem with the news media lies with the reporters and news anchors.

I don't agree. The vast majority of our news outlets (television, radio and print) are owned by conglomerates that are in turn owned by major corporations.

Any business that cared about ethics and quality would not employ people like Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd. But they are not only employed they are highly paid.

They weren't hired to be accurate and informative, their job is to misinform, confuse and distract people from the truth.

They are not incompetent. They are doing exactly what their employers want them to do.

Anonymous said...

myiq2xu - isn't that just what Marc said in his excellent analysis?

myiq10xu

Marc Rubin said...

"They are not incompetent. They are doing exactly what their employers want them to do."

I disagree. They are completely incompetent. What their employers want, if not honest journalism, are higher ratings or increased circulation. They are getting neither.That's incompetence.

susan h said...

Even in Nixon's times, you had Woodward and Bernstein digging digging to find out what really happened, who was really involved, and they were ready to expose the story to the American people. And some people actually went to jail over Watergate (John Dean, Chuck Colson, and other).

Today NO ONE was willing to expose Obama as the corrupt (ties to Tony Rezko), ties to Rev. Wright (anti-everything), until it was too late. Here in Chicago where the stories should have been broken by the Tribune and Sun-Times at the beginning of his campaign, not after he had already stolen and "won" some of the caucuses and primary, these newspapers facilitated Obama's lies and cover-ups so he could become president. The information was out there for a long time on Obama and his radical ties but it was willingly and knowingly suppressed to make him look good. The media became a literal P.R. firm for Obama.
CNN, MSNBC and NBC were willing to lie and cover up for him and demonize Hillary Clinton, so much so that I can no longer listen to any of these stations.
With that kind of irresponsible and disengenous 'journalism', why bother to read or listen to the "news"?

democraticjack said...

"the best political team on television" stood around with their hands in their pockets during the Democratic primaries while the purely politically motivated disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan took place,"
I disagree, Marc. They actually had their hands together applauding the whole shameless affair. I remember all too well the glee on their collective faces after Iowa and then SC.

sue said...

Well done Marc- but I think we need to point out that the majority of the "reporters" on the news are not reporters but mere commentators, who read a telepromter, regurgitate information and then scream and shout at each other.
It has turned into a complete circus and I don't believe any of them have the ability to expose any accurate information.
I have seen nothing on CNN nor in the NYT so far about the gift the Obama campaign received from AIG- if it were not for the internet and blogspots- I would still have no idea.
Follow the money is truly the adage of the day-
If the media were able to hire some competent reporters, perhaps we would not have invaded Iraq, perhaps we would not watch our tax money pissed down the toilet and perhaps HRC would be the POTUS.

Anonymous said...

The real question is "who can we trust to get the "real skinny" ? I no longer listen to ANY news on TV, nor do I trust any newpapers. There is a huge void for people who are hungry for the 'real ' News.

Sunshinelvr

purplefinn said...

I cannot fault the press alone for our current situation. While I agree with your assessment, it's bigger than the press. We are not holding people accountable in government or large corporations either. It is systemic. My motto for this week is to nurture integrity wherever I can find it. Rome is burning.

sue said...

So- now we watch- how will AIG play out? Who knew what when?
Any guesses which crack journalist will get the scoop?

DancingOpossum said...

Good point, democraticjack! So true.

And sue, there are still good sources of news and good reporters out there. McClatchy News has been outstanding all throughout Bushco and were among the only ones regularly callling out the administration on its lies, and they continue that streak in their O-coverage.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for exposing Bush's use of signing statements. The Toledo Blade won several years ago for a story from the Vietname war no other paper ot TV outlet had a clue about. And WaPo gets flack for some of its daily coverage (and rightly so) but its multi-part investigative pieces have always been the paper's strong suit. Witness the excellent four-part series on Cheney and many others.

Old warhorse "60 Minutes" is still doing outstanding pieces, and PBS has several shows that present news and analysis you won't see on CNN.

So there is still good work being done, but you have to look beyond the big-network news stations. They are not there to analyze and inform, they are there to entertain and to promote the political-corporate line. Look at how often, for instance, they'll say that a particular view is "outside mainstream thinking" when it's a view shared by 60% or more of the American people. They mean it's a view that is inimical to their interests and it happens ALL the time.

And the Internet has made it possible to get news sources from all over the world to get a clearer picture of what is really going on.