Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chuck Todd and the Sorry State of the Fourth Estate

So, looks like dear ole Chuck Todd's got his panties in a bunch over a comment he made earlier in the week concerning Obamacare that he says was taken totally out of context.

To back up, Todd was talking with former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell on Morning Joe about the Affordable Care Act. Rendell's point, which was valid, was that the White House hadn't done a good enough job selling the public on the merits of the bill and that most of the information they received had been incorrect.

Todd agreed and added that such misinformation "would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it. They don't repeat the other stuff because they haven't even heard the Democratic message."

So far, so good. As Leslie Nielson would say, "nothing to see here." But danged if dear old Todd just couldn't resist the urge to unburden himself further. And out it came:

"What I always love is people say, 'Well, it's you folks' fault in the media.' No! It's the President of the United States' fault for not selling it."

Yeah, that's it, the phrase that pays.

Now to be fair to Chuck Wagon, it IS the President's responsibility to sell his healthcare bill and, to be honest, he did a fairly lousy job of it. But the idea that that let's Todd and the rest of the Fourth Estate off the hook is preposterous.

Imagine for a moment that you're a journalist interviewing two meteorologists and one says, "the forecast for tomorrow calls for partly cloudy skies with a chance of showers," and the other one says, "tomorrow alien invaders will storm the earth causing the sky to turn bright pink and rain down candy canes." I'm pretty sure you have an obligation to your audience to point out that one guy appears to be sane and the other one is nuts.

Now granted, the above example is an exaggeration. Nothing is that obvious. But while it may have been a lot harder discerning truth from bullshit during the healthcare debate, it was still possible and, so long as it was possible, it was most definitely the responsibility of the main-stream media to do their best.

For instance, the whole issue of death panels was a canard from the get go. Every journalist worth his or her press credentials should've been all over that lie from the beginning. Yes, the White House was derelict in pushing back, but the press was completely negligent in its failure to fact check that and other nefarious yarns.

Like the one about how Obamacare was nothing more than socialized medicine. The fact of the matter is that the original idea for employer mandates was hatched by the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s. Bob Dole, then minority leader of the Senate, approached Bill Clinton in 1994 and said he could deliver the votes necessary for a mandate-style healthcare law if he could get his wife Hillary to give up her quest for universal coverage. Clinton balked. Twelve years later then Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signed into law the very same healthcare reform bill that Obama would later propose.

If you thought that was difficult to research, the truth is it took longer to type than it did to find. And I don't even work for a major news network. Imagine the resources they must have at their command. Resources which, sadly, go mainly untapped.

It isn't just the coverage of Obamacare that underscores how inept the media has become in this country. The buildup to the Iraq War might go down as the worst case of phoning it in by the press in the entire history of the Republic. A war that cost over a trillion dollars to wage, resulting in thousands of deaths and the plundering of American prestige across the globe was nothing more than a giant fraud perpetrated on the American public who were still reeling from the aftershock of 9/11.

Where were the journalists challenging the Bush Administration's lies? Out to lunch, that's where. David Gregory, host of Dodge the Press, insisted on blaming everyone else over the war.

"If there wasn't a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate? Where was public opinion about the war? What did the former president believe about the prewar intelligence? He agreed that -- in fact, Bill Clinton agreed that Saddam had WMD."

Hear that? It was the people's fault. No wait, it was Congress's fault. No wait, it was Bill Clinton's fault. Good thing he stopped there. I was afraid he was going to say it was the man in the moon's fault.

Spare me, David. The point of a good journalist isn't just to get in the face of a guest on a cable news show, but to actually role up your sleeves and dig for the truth. There were enough bread crumbs being dropped by the Bush Administration to feed a small town in Indiana. All that was needed was a little perspiration, not a Point / Counterpoint forum.

So, you see, I have no pity for Chucky Cheese or anybody else in the lame-stream media who cries like a baby when they get caught not doing their jobs. If I may proffer some advice for my lazy brethren. Dry your eyes, grow up and do your fucking jobs!

In the meantime, I'll continue to get my news where I've been getting it for the last eight plus years: from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.


Links: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/21/chuck-todd-petition-obamacare-media_n_3967407.html
http://mediamatters.org/research/2008/05/29/defending-medias-war-coverage-nbcs-gregory-aske/143596

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Way to take Chuck Todd and David Gregory to the wood shed on this. What's unsaid in all of this is probably the most salient point about the whole thing. I'm sure this statement would make Chuck and David's head explode (as well as every other "Very Serious Journalist" as Kos calls them), but the FACT is that congresspeople from one of our two parties lies, distorts, and otherwise dissembles nearly everytime they speak publically and the other side does not. Hint: It's the party with the elephant as their logo. Someone from Mars (or anyone not paying close attention) might say "Come on, how can that be possible, how would they get away with so much dishonesty?
Enter Chuck Todd, David Gregory, and all of the other "Very Serious Journalists" and their admitted failure and outright disavowal of responsibility to parse out the truth and we have the answer. The Republicans get away with lying and outright fabricating exactly because of the abdication of those jounalists to do their responsibility. The reason why Democrats don't just go ahead and do the same thing are varied. First, it's not in their nature. Progressiives just don't believe in the Malchiavellian way. Second, if they did desire to lie in order to achieve their political objectives, their base would not let them get away with it. Progressives value truth and honesty in their discourse much more than their conservative (tea-party) counterparts. Thirdly, the Media would play referee at that point, because it's OIYAR, but not a Democrat. It's just the way it is, probably due to the fact that the powerful's interests who mostly run the mediai have more in common with the Republican agenda than the Democratic agenda.

Finally, in addition to all of that, and expanding on that last point, the Republicans have more than just their elected officials going around lying about everything. They also have the Koch Bros, Freedom Works, Heritage Foundation, Karl Rove, and a whole host of other Propaganda sources that are extremely well funded and spread misinformation on an hourly basis every day through TV , web, print and radio ads, as well as billboards and other venues. The president didn't do a lousy job at all of selling the benefits of the ACA - that's just a flawed analysis that completely ignores everything just mentioned. He made speech after speech extolling the virtues of the plan. I know becuse I saw them. The fact is that the bully pulpit was far out-matched by the Tsunami wave of disinformation it was up against. DEATH PANELS - REALLY???
How else could such an obviously provable falsehood (along with dozens of others) gain any traction except for the dynamics just mentioned did not exist?