The Miserable Quality of Our News
Saturday, Kevin Drum wrote that he agreed with Slate's Jack Shafer, that the media today is much better than it was in the good old days. And today on Fresh Air in a repeat of Terry Gross' 1998 interview with Peter Jennings, they touched on this topic as well. When asked about how today's media stacks up against the media of the 50s, 60s and 70s, Jennings said that the media today is much better than it was before.
Yet, I can't help but think that if this is quality journalism, then we are in for a world of hurt. Until the media of today does a better job of innoculating itself from the poisonous lies of the propagandists, how can anyone think we have a press that does the job we need? Why were so many reporters, pundits and editors taken in by the lies and innuendo of the Bush liars in the march to war? And why are even some of the better thinkers (like Michael Kinsley) so blind to the travesty that was perpetrated? What allows them to be apologists for the Bush administration even when if this was a simple murder case, the same level of evidence provided by the DSM would be enough to condemn the defendent in a court of law?
Just imagine if we could never lock up a criminal until we had incontrovertible proof that they had premediatively planned their crime. Yet, according to Michael Kinsley, the Downing Street Memos didn't provide proof that the Bush administration had planned to take the country to war, because Bush's motive was unknown. After all, he said he hadn't made up his mind for months after the DSM had said he had. And consider: if the Bush troop had been required to get to that level of proof about Saddamn's desire to build a nuclear bomb after 1998, then they would have never been able to take the country to war, because the only way they could get enough proof for that would be for Saddam to come out and admit to his desire. Indeed, our courts would stop working because we couldn't use an argument about reasonable doubt, because only incontrovertible proof ("the smoking gun") would be allowed. How much proof do we require to know that Bush took the country to war on a pack of lies? And that he had already decided to do this months, and perhaps years, before he launched his war?
Then again, why were some news organizations able to do a better job of reporting on this incredibly important story? And why was the foreign press so much better?
So what makes a quality press? If what we have today is the best that we can expect, then I guess we ought to pack up our belief that the press can be an important factor in helping solve our problems. We can go huddle in our little independent homesteads while we watch the future unfold with its horrific consequences of war, pestilence, famine and death since our news will continue to be enamored of those in power and suborned to keep Americans as clueless as possible until it is too late to make any real changes.