Tags: Critical | Thinking

Critical Thinking

Monday, 27 September 2004 12:00 AM

Once upon a time, the plan was for the ‘fourth estate’ to monitor and report on government so that the electorate, who is tasked with selecting our representative government, could make “informed” decisions and at least know about abuse of power under the color of authority. Now, Congress is discussing the need for Congressional hearings into allegations that media conspired with a political party to influence a Presidential election. Go figure….

It has never been a perfect system. A review of reportage during President Jackson’s era reveals mean spirited, biased, bipartisan evisceration of political figures. It was over the top by even tabloid standards.

It has been said, “we get the government we deserve.” If true (and I pray it is not) maybe we get the reportage we deserve?

The CBS disaster, like the New York Times disaster, and the assorted CNN disasters, were inevitable. Bias plus hubris can and will only add up to something bad. One half expects William Paley (the godfather of American broadcasting and savior of the foundering CBS long ago) to rise up from the grave and pimp slap Dan Rather and Andy Heyward.

CBS could have (and would have) avoided this sucking chest wound if management had simply done what they were expected and required to do: exercise critical oversight of subordinates intent on manipulating the facts to conform to their preconceived opinions and bias. Where were the grown ups?

By the by…as significant and commendable as some may see the Swift Boat Veterans efforts to correct the record of their former serial hyperbolizing comrade…what took them so long?

John O’Neil, to his credit did speak out against John Kerry’s juiced up exaggerations and flat out lies after the 1971 Senate dog and pony show. However, for over 30 years this same veteran community that has its collective panties in a bunch has also been malfeasant in allowing the junior grade LT to perpetuate a legacy of odiferous bovine scatology.

And why did the ‘fourth estate’ choose, by their sins of omission, to grant the Boston Boob a pass?

The success and begrudging acknowledgment of ‘new media’ is, as I have often observed, really a matter of physics. Nature abhors a vacuum. The arrogant, presumptive media elite created the environment for the successes of Bloggers, Talk Radio, and Cable News (specifically the elites arch nemesis Fox News).

The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz recently noted that once upon a time the mainstream elite set both the content AND context of what you were allowed to see and hear. However, it is the malfeasance (fueled by arrogance and bias) that has created alleged sea change supposedly in motion.

CBS/60 Minutes/Rather/Mapes could have dodged this bullet. However, when they abandoned the basic principle of “It’s not WHO is right or wrong but WHAT is right or wrong that counts” they invited (and got) catastrophe.

“But the CBS case” Rabinowitz notes, “is not about careless errors or lazy editing. It's about the blind determination to run with the story, about a violation of every journalistic caution to get the hit on the air, all followed by an aggressive institutional defense carried on at fantastic length. It is about a report that sent a great and famous American institution careening toward the edge of a cliff, while everybody asked why – why were they holding on to this story? A question yet to be answered.”

Rather and Mapes are the personification of the Metcalf bromide “some people don’t want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinion or prejudice.”

Rather, et al had abundant data to demonstrate there were real problems with the alleged Bush bashing documents. They ‘could’ have still run the story and ‘balanced’ it with the refutations from document experts and a simple line suggesting the source was ‘a Democrat political activist.’

Lord knows CBS and their brethren have no qualms about identifying ‘right wing Republicans’ despite their apparent aversion to identifying anyone as a ‘left wing Democrat.’

They could have…they should have…and they didn’t.

John Ruskin once observed, “Without seeking, truth cannot be known at all. It can neither be declared from pulpits, nor set down in articles, nor in any wise prepared and sold in packages ready for use…”

Now is the time for critical thinking…by both the disseminators of news…and the audience.


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Once upon a time, the plan was for the 'fourth estate' to monitor and report on government so that the electorate, who is tasked with selecting our representative government, could make "informed" decisions and at least know about abuse of power under the color of...
Monday, 27 September 2004 12:00 AM
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