Apropos of Nothing (aka, Journalistic Objectivity)

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Non-AZ, The Media

A recent photo of Dick Cheney (seen here http://yhoo.it/bTaP5Y) shows a much thinner man.  This led some progressive blog commenters (see original post here http://bit.ly/cZQUu0)  to crow about his impending demise and to speculate as to how much bullshit will be printed about Cheney when he passes. 

On the whole, I agree with many of the comments.  Cheney was indeed evil and deserves to feel himself die ‘cell by cell’.  Pres. Bush, on the other hand, embodied ignorance and banality and isn’t capable of recognizing suffering for the karmic punishment it would be.  Essentially, Cheney was Mephistopheles to G.W. Bush’s retarded Faust.  From where I and many other Progressives sit, Cheney embodied evil.   The Iraq invasion was the imposition on the U.S., its allies and Iraq of his personal, deeply held philosophies regarding the de facto hegemony of the Executive Branch, American Exceptionalism, and the Randian belief that it is not only right, but an obligation, to make a profit from it all.  And all of it was done without a care for the cost in lives, money, and America’s reputation in the world. 

John Cole (http://www.balloon-juice.com/) in his comment regarding Cheney’s eulogy posted a link to an article by Hunter S. Thompson from 1994 eulogizing Pres. Nixon.  Whilst reading Thompson’s wonderfully vituperative prose, I was excited to find the following statement:

“Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism–which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.”

This statement succinctly encapsulated the argument that Keith Olbermann made (http://bit.ly/aST9Mr) in response to Ted Koppel’s op-ed in the Washington Post, which said that Olbermann was an example of the lack of objectivity in journalism today and that objective journalism was “dead”.  Olbermann’s response is detailed and historical.   He makes a sound rebuttal by pointing out that Koppel is idealizing history and giving modern journalists an undeserved pedigree of objectivity.   Indeed, Olbermann goes on to say that not only are journalists lacking in objectivity historically, but that in some cases, thank God (or FSM, whatever!) they weren’t acting objectively.  One example of that lack of objectivity was Cronkite’s on air op-ed regarding the Vietnam War and how it helped speed us toward ending that conflict.  Olbermann also, devastatingly I might add, brought up the fact that Koppel, along with the majority of the American press, completely failed in objectivity on the story regarding the reasons for going to war in Iraq.  Which brings me full circle, back to Cheney. 

It is eery that Olbermann is repeating an argument that Thompson made back in ’94 about the failure of journalistic objectivity and the rise of Nixon, an evil man.  And disappointing that another evil man, Cheney, who served in the Nixon administration where his beliefs were forged, also rose to power through a lack of journalistic objectivity.  It is also incredibly sad that journalistic objectivity is said to be lacking by the very journalists, like Koppel, who have failed to understand it and apply it and continue to do so at great cost to the world. 

Journalistic objectivity when practiced today (as rare as the Yangtze River Dolphin) is vilified as being the bias of a “librul media”.  Truthiness is the new journalistic standard and the fate of the nation and innocent bystanders be damned.  When I hear those truthiness spewing, foaming at the mouth, TV gasbags aspiring to the title of “journalist” I am reminded of a different quote (from Macbeth):

“…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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