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"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Everything that is rancid and corrupt with modern journalism: The Nutshell

Everything that is rancid and corrupt with modern journalism: The Nutshell

Glenn Greenwald

Time Magazine has done a superb service for the country by illustrating everything that is rancid and corrupt with our political media. After I emailed Time.com Editor Josh Tyrangiel asking why the online version of Joe Klein's column remains online uncorrected given that -- as Managing Editor Rick Stengel now says -- the article contains a "reporting error," this is the "correction" Time has now posted to the article. Seriously -- this is really it, in its entirety:

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don't.
Leave aside the false description of what Klein wrote. He didn't say "that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets." He said that their bill "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" and "would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans." But the Editor's false characterization of Klein's original lie about the House FISA bill is the least of the issues here.

All Time can say about this matter is that Republicans say one thing and Democrats claim another. Who is right? Is one side lying? What does the bill actually say, in reality?

That's not for Time to say. After all, they're journalists, not partisans. So they just write down what each side says. It's not for them to say what is true, even if one side is lying.

In this twisted view, that is called "balance" -- writing down what each side says. As in: "Hey - Bush officials say that there is WMD in Iraq and things are going great with the war (and a few people say otherwise). It's not for us to decide. It's not our fault if what we wrote down is a lie. We just wrote down exactly what they said." At best, they write down what each side says and then go home. That's what they're for.

That our typical establishment "journalist" conceives of this petty clerical task as their only role is not news. But it is striking to see the nation's "leading news magazine" so starkly describe how they perceive their role.

In reality, they don't even usually fulfill this clerical role fairly or well. After all, Klein's entire column presented only the lies from the Republicans about this bill as fact, and didn't even mention that there was another side (just as Time, in a lengthy article by the now-promoted Tyrangiel, presented only the Bush view to its readers about Saddam's scary stockpiles of WMD and didn't bother to mention that there was another side).

Here, there are not two sides; the bill could not be clearer. What Klein's GOP source (and Time) said about the bill is indisputably false. But that isn't for Time to say.

So to Time, Klein's so-called "reporting error" wasn't that he falsely described the bill. No; describing the bill accurately isn't the role of a journalist. Klein's only "reporting error" was that he only wrote down what one side said (the Republicans). He "forgot" to write down what the Democrats said. Now that the Editors noted in passing that the Democrats disagree, everything is fixed. Their job is done. That's what they just said about explicitly as it can be said. And they don't even realize that saying this is a profound indictment on what they do. They think that's what they're supposed to do.

I can't recall a recent incident that has shone as much bright light on the ugly, vapid, propagandistic practices of our national media. The more they speak, the more they reveal what they are.

UPDATE: Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Dinner:

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!
So few of them thought that was funny because they thought he was describing what they really are supposed to do -- what they do actually do -- and what is funny about that? Just compare Colbert's satirical description of the press to Time's claimed understanding of its function here.

UPDATE II: The recap of Klein's behavior, along with the reasons why there is no conceivable basis whatsoever for the fear-mongering claims that Klein and Time made about the crystal clear House Democratic FISA bill, is here (and here).

-- Glenn Greenwald

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/11/27/the_correction/index.html

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