Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Blast From The Past

Ted Koppel has a point. It's not enough to make me stop watching Olbermann and Maddow (but Matthews???) but it's enough to give me pause to think:
Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.
(Emphasis added)
I understand the need for MSNBC's prime time lineup: SOMEone has to balance out FOX News, which in its most desperate moments (e.g. when faced with a potentially hostile judge in a lawsuit) admits it does not traffic in news
Here's the thing: just as there really is no basis in reality for assuming American exceptionalism, there really is no basis in reality for assuming liberal exceptionalism.
Well, OK, maybe one reason: being the reality-based community does lend a little credence to a willingness to open up to differing opinions, but I digress. Go with me a moment on this...
Liberals are not going to be much more likely to seek out, say, the opinions of even a moderately conservative news outlet than conservatives would show up at a liberal news outlet. If anything, it will be to provoke an irrational response and then giggle and laugh like the little kid who dropped a dooky under the school stairs.
Koppel's point is troublesome for that reason alone: if we assume that liberals are even quanitatively as biased in their news sources as conservatives, then the Madoff analogy is apt, and people are going to get dragged under.
President Barack Obama. 
Here's a man who clearly knows how to play the game of politics, which means he's less an ideologue than a poker player. Whatever moves he would make are going to be firmly based in the mechanics of the moment and not based on some principle, unless that principle is coincident to the mechanism. Yet, liberals bought the "hope and change" mantra. 
Not incorrectly, I think, but if you go back and read carefully, Obama himself was very careful to distance himself from die-hard liberal causes (gay marriage, for example). The media and his supporters and staff created an illusion that he was more left than he was, and that with a wink and a nod to the left, he was running against John McCain as a centrist.
Even in the primaries, he was able to triangulate towards the center-left since Hillary Clinton was perceived, wrongly, as a center-right candidate (support for the war in Iraq). I've followed Hillary's career since just before the Clinton administration (her work with the Family & Work Institute crossed paths with one of my employers). 
Woe betide anyone who spoke in support of Hillary in some quarters! 
Is that any different than the FOX Newsbaggers who smear moderate Republicans are RINOs? I don't see a difference in degree, to be sure. 
Koppel goes on to point out the evolution of "opinion networks" (my term) from the old days of trusted journalists taking on stories that were informative, important and factual, and makes the strong case that news for profit is a bad idea. He offers no solutions except the vague hope that somehow with all the news swirling around us, we'll manage to pick up the facts and the truth of a story.
I'm not sure I buy that, but frankly, apart from independent news sources like FreeSpeechTV and LinkTV, I don't see much hope for a media outlet that I can click my TV onto and get real news. There's a market for it out there, to be sure. People are curious and don't always want to be fed opinion, but if CNN's ratings are any indication, it ain't on cable TV.