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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's Wrong with US Journalism ?

Glad to say no one was listening to me, but I gave them very very bad advice. Long ago, I thought to them "you can't please everyone but, at least, you can displease everyone." This ineveitably leads to the deadly error of thinking that they have gotten the slant about right if they are denounced with equal vigour from right and left.

Sad to say, it also lead to the deadlier error of saying that they used that rule. Journalists are in principle in favor of frankness and openness and think an honest debate leads us towards the truth. For some incomprehensible reason, they thought that there was no need to keep this honest discussion hidden from, Brent Bozell, Richard Mellon Scaife, Sun Myung Moon and Ruper Murdoch. Thus the right has learned that, so long as they shout about alleged liberal bias in the press, all they need is money to pull the debate ever rightward.

Many bloggers have explained this, and I am too smart to claim any originality and too lazy to look up many thousands of links.

I think there is another problem, which may have been noted only a few thousands of times. Editorial boards and op ed writers will not stoop to stealing candy from babies. Part of their aim is to show that they are smart and one can not do so by refuting an obviously false, depraved and/or idiotic argument. Thus they must avoid participating in the many heated debates in which all of the evidence supports one side, while the other can neither present a coherent argument nor hide their unmentionable motives.

No columnist with self respect will argue whether the weight of evidence supports the claim that the rapture is immenent or whether George Bush is Woodrow Wilson or whether we should nuke Teheran.

Unfortunately editorial page editors note that there are heated debates related to these questions, and conclude that their pages should contribute, if not directly, at least periferally. Thus they force their staff to find issues which have something to do with the question of whether George Bush will meet Woodrow Wilson in heaven when the rapture comes the day after he nukes Teheran.

Now I would be a bit nonplussed, but then I am not qualified to write editorials. People with more verbal ability and intellectual flexibility than me realise that they can satisfy the concerned editorial page editor by writing about the question of whether Democrats should get over their hostitility to religion or just communicate bettter their lack of hostility, whether foreign policy realists are attempting to challenge the alleged current Wilsonian consensus in Washington and whether we should just let Teheran build nukes.

The point is that when people on the US right show that they are determined to prove that they are insane idiotic and depraved, editorial page editors change the subject to find some debate between left and right, where people with brains and conciences can see merit on both sides. This makes it possible for people with plenty of intelligence and good intentions, but very little time to spare, to imagine that, if they studies issue more thoroughly, they might, in the end, reasonably decide to vote for a Republican.

Thus journalists mislead not because it is too hard to find the truth on controversial issue and explain it convincingly, but because it is too easy.
It's just too easy so it isn't done.

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