Raging Right Wing Republican

For those of us who are politically informed, and therefore Republican.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"The voice of the opposition"

That's how journalist Michael Massing describes the New York Times.

I object, however, to Massing's answer to a different question put to him:
It's often said that conservatives are out to decertify the press as unrepresentative of the public, while liberals just think that this institution is failing the public and want to see it do a better job. Is that a valid distinction?

I think that if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, if you listen to Bill O'Reilly, if you listen to Sean Hannity, they over and over and over are hammering away at the press, claiming they don't talk for anybody, that they represent a very narrow perspective of left-wing opinion in America, that their news is all slanted. I think it's a very calculated campaign on their behalf to discredit the press.

Now, if you go on the left side of the spectrum, I think you have a division. A lot of liberals get very disgruntled with what they see, especially when the press is not sharp and aggressive enough. They want it to do better. They want it to perform its function of exposing the powerful and comforting the afflicted. Then I think you have people on the left who also see the mainstream media as completely corrupt, completely co-opted by the establishment, and indistinguishable from the government. And they have a demolition-like approach to the media similar to that of the right; they feel it's so thoroughly corrupted that it has to be discredited.
Massing's response is unintentionally revealing.

Massings says that most conservative press critics want to "discredit" the press whereas at least a subset of liberal press critics only want it "to do better." But better at what? "They want it to perform its function of exposing the powerful and comforting the afflicted."

Does that sound to you what the function of a news organization is? To "expose the powerful" and "comfort the afflicted"? Apparently their job isn't simply to do just that -- report news.

This definition of "function" of journalism is fraught with liberal assumptions -- it's an example of what one astute commentator on Jay Rosen's Pressthink called, "the crusading oxymoron of non-political populism."

It's absurd that liberals believe that the mainstream media is not biased to the left when they have an agenda set out for the press, one that's intended to affect the world. This is why journalists are almost always liberal -- they go into the profession for idealistic reasons, to "cast a spotlight" on the problems plaguing society and so on, instead of simply taking the facts and passing them onto the people. No, that's not enough: the facts have to be taken and put into the "proper context" that'll spur people into action on the problems that only those high minded clairvoyants in the press can ascertain.

Yet here is Massing telling us that conservatives want to "discredit" the press because we think it's somewhat disingenuous that the New York Times continues to masquerade as an objective source of news when Massing himself declares that it's beginning to look more like an opposition party leaflet. Then he turns around and tells us that liberals just want the press "to do better," by which he means "advocate populist [liberal] causes more aggressively."

What's wrong with this picture?


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