Of course, far more is wrong with the mainstream media than can be described, or even enumerated, in one column. But let’s give it a shot, using only items that have come up since my last column, all of which speak to the issue of why its members have forfeited our collective trust.
1. Its members consistently defer to conservative Republican Presidents with a history of deliberate deception, allowing them to define their terms. “One of the reasons for not [calling chaos in Iraq a civil war] was, you know, honestly, a concern that because the White House has contended that this is not a civil war, that using the phrase amounted to a kind of unnecessary political statement.”–Bill Keller, executive editor, New York Times.
2. Its members invite Republican Congressmen, known to be not merely unreliable but delusional, to lie about Democratic Congressmen. When challenged, they reply that they cannot be bothered to discern the truth: Time‘s Joe Klein, a pundit who terms the Democratic Party “a party with absolutely no redeeming social value,” one whose members “make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth,” recently informed the magazine’s readers that “tone-deaf” Democrats in the House had passed legislation that “would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only,” and thereby “give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” The liberal blogosphere, led by Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald, demonstrated that this statement was categorically false, as the bill reads: “A court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons and are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” Time eventually printed a correction but refused to adjudicate between truth and falsehood, claiming merely that Democrats and Republicans interpret the bill differently. Klein shrugged off criticism by saying, “I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right.” Later Republican Peter Hoekstra, who is also on record insisting that the United States had discovered a WMD program in Iraq but that the CIA had conspired to cover it up, revealed that he had been a key source for Klein’s reporting.
3. Its members invite conservative Republican individuals known to be insane, unbalanced and unconcerned with the truth to lie about Democratic presidential candidates on the front page of their newspapers and when confronted respond that it is not their job to determine the truth. The Washington Post’s Perry Bacon published a recent front-page article giving voice to right-wing paranoids, racists and assorted hatemongers who insist that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. Sources included the Moonie-financed Insight online magazine, Human Events (home to Ann Coulter), demagogues Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, and some guy who posted on the Internet somewhere. Beyond the Obama campaign’s denials, nowhere in the piece did Bacon inform readers that these allegations are demonstrably false. In an online chat, the paper’s Lois Romano explicitly defended the practice, claiming that “airing some of this and giving [Obama] a chance to deny its accuracy could be viewed as setting the record straight.”