Pliant mass media, part 3

December 05, 2006 by susan

by susan lenfestey
Wading in on Barb's and Lynnell's posts, I'd like to point out that some in the mass media did their jobs well. Okay, maybe just a handful, and those mostly in the magazine world, like Hendrik Hertzberg, Jane Mayer and Seymour Hersh, all in the New Yorker. But in general, there was much better information to be had from the mags like Harpers, Atlantic and even in the shifting sands of the New Republic. Read on.

It seems to me that the blogosphere needs the MSM to feed off of, like a bacteria-eating enzyme. The MSM journalists have their sources, and, as in all relationships that grow cozy, the truth suffers. Pretty soon the source is calling the shots, because the "journalist" doesn't want to burn bridges. So a form of the story appears, stretched like silly putty to meet the needs of both source and writer. And it's that blob of lazy writing that the blog pounces on to ferret out the truth. Without it, where would the bloggers go to find their feed?

That said, before we pat ourselves on the back for being part of the brave new blogworld -- a gnat's eyelid among the billions --let's not forget the part played by the right flank of the blogosphere, and their part in promoting the Swift Boat veterans, for example. Their constant pummeling of the "liberal" media is part of the reason the MSM has dumbed down and retreated into the pablum they call balance. The untruths pushed by the right-wing blog nuts are as credible to them and their readers as our truths are to us (enhancement of my point unintended) and I'm not sure we're well served when we pick and choose only those bloggers who agree with us.

I suppose the difference is that in the blog world we know we are reading an unverified source, layered with opinion (you do know that, right?) and in the MSM, especially the venerable NYTimes, we know we're reading the unbiased truth. Right.
I share the rage at how we were misled by the MSM, and how they looked the other way, or overtly shilled for our Bully-in-Chief's murderous march into the abyss, not to mention his destruction of nearly every standard that made us the enviable, if imperfect, nation we were. But I think the blogworld has a way to go before I'll depend on it entirely. For now, I'll take a mix --- newprint in the morning, straight up, with a chaser of blog for balance.

Post script
Shameless self-promotion department. In June, 2003, I wrote an op-ed for the Minnepolis Strib about the role of the "pliant" media during the Vietnam war, as well as now. Here's an excerpt:

"During the first Gulf war, New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, whose award-winning reporting from Cambodia won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 (and whose story about his aide Dith Pran was the subject of the movie "The Killing Fields"), warned journalists not to forget "our unquestioning chorus of agreeability when Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident." It's a reminder that needs to be heard, especially in light of the recent spate of truth-impaired reporters and gullible editors at the New York Times and the current charges of government fabrications.

Schanberg was referring to reports that ran in 1964 in both the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as in other media, that North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. There were no such attacks. We know now that the reports were trumped up by the Pentagon and used by President Johnson to convince a reluctant Congress to formally launch the disastrous Vietnam War. And unquestioning media passed along the government's message. As media critics Jeff Cohen and Norm Solomon have written, "By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War. A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media . . . leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties." We must be a nation of slow learners because here we are again."

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regdbcvb (not verified) | June 6, 2007 - 10:48pm

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