Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shocked, shocked!

Fabius is in a swivet about the network news:
"Perfidy: The act of violating faith or allegiance; violation of a promise or vow, or of trust reposed.

ABC News proudly announces what seems likely to be a betrayal of their public trust as journalists, joining the Obama Administration to produce propaganda supporting their proposal for health care reform. If that proves to be true, at least they are open about this – so Americans seeking real news can look elsewhere.

1.ABC news refuses to air paid ads during its White House health care presentation, the Drudge Report has learned, including a paid-for alternative viewpoint. (Source: Drudge Report)
2.Letter to ABC News from the Ken McKay (Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee) protests this “glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda”, esp the refusal of ABC News to include any presentation by Republican Party leaders.
3.Response by Kerry Smith (SVP, ABC News) to the RNC letter — “no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions.”
4.An excellent analysis of this by Zenpundit: Well at Least We Know ABC is Immune to Intellectual Embarassment."
Leaving out the caveat that anyone intending to bash the Mainstream Media for bias would do best to leave out any references to Drudge, I will simply append my comment from Fabius' blog to give our commentors a chance to opine:

"I’m shocked. Shocked!

Republicans are now all swoony and gasping because the media conglomerates are falling all over themselves to parrot the Administration line? Refusing to paper up the GOP counter-propaganda during commercial breaks? Giving the “he said” without the “she said”?

Mind you, notice that nobody, from Drudge on down, is actually recommending that the network news do an impartial, analytical breakdown of the whole “health care” issue, scrutinize the various nostrums recommended by the big parties as well as more peripheral players, and then provide an assessment of the proposed solutions’ costs and benefits to the public.Nope. They just want the MSM to air THEIR propaganda alongside the Democrats.

The network news no longer does “journalism”. Dog bites man!

And this is different – how? – from when the Hearsts furnished the wars provided that they were furnished the pictures? When each party and even each grange, union, mill, and turnverein published their own little fishwrap, loaded with slanted articles, special pleading and outright lies? When you could predict the tone of the article based on whether it was a Whig journal, a Democratic journal or a Republican one, a Jacksonian or a Hamiltonian one?

We’ve allowed ourselves to continue dreaming on in the particularly unique and anomalous moment that existed from about 1945 to 1985, a period when the news outlets persuaded themselves – or were persuaded, did someone mention the Fairness Doctrine? – that they were “unbiased” sources of information. This time period is now as dead as the dodo, and I’m not sure how getting angry at the network news for doing what economic and political pressures and realities were bound to make them do is going to help.

How about, rather, we accept that FOX is news for right-wing-nut-Republicans, ABC/CBS/NBC is news for moderate Republicans and…well, there IS no “news for left-wing-nut-Democrats” unless you count the blogs. And even knowing THAT, if you want to be truly knowledgeable you will accept that all Drudge’s horses and all Kos’s men can force the net news or the big papers to do, y’know, actual JOURNALISM, that is, a reasoned analysis and dissection of the competing sides’ claims. Instead they will take a controversy, any controversy, and print some version of: “Scientists claim sun giant ball of flaming gas; others believe its Apollo’s Chariot”.

We’re returning to a period where the “news” arrives from a mix of competing ideological sources and fourth-grade level mass market pablum. If you’re used to getting your information served up to you already dressed and butchered, you’re going to have a hard time with that. If you can accept that you’re going to have to dig harder for the “truth”, then you can move on and still take part in the kabuki play that has become our national governing process."

Is there a third option? And is this really the Apocalypse, as Drudge and Fabius seem to think?


  1. It appears to me, based on the format identified, as if the Pres will not only present his ideas, but have to field questions from a variety of people. That's called dialog, and if he doesn't get to choose the questions, we might very well learn something. Hopefully, if the Pres is unclear on something, he will be called to clarify. If he offers something questionable, someone will call bullshit on him. I have no problem with that.

    What the wingnuts want is serial monologue, not dialog. No way to clarify, and no way to call bullshit. And, from what I have read, much of what the GOP has to offer about healthcare is bullshit, wrapped in a bright shining banner of fear.

    Will the ABC format ensure that each and every question in our minds be answered? Of course not, as the possibilities for questions are limitless. But it does look like this is nowhere near a scripted monolog, and has the potential for entertaining a spectrum of info far more comprehensive than GOP vs Dem ideology.

    As far as I can see, this is not a question of neutral journalism. There is only one President of the United States, and ABC has set out to see where he stands, using a broadcast forum for that purpose. There is no GOP presidential equivalent to interview. There is no GOP official to sign or veto legislation. Like it or not, Mr Obama is THE President, so is it not in our interest to find out what is going on between his ears? I would like to hear his version of things and have time to digest it before I am bombarded with objections.

    I lost my respect for the GOP in the 90's when their response to being trounced in the 92 presidential election was to begin the never ending series of "investigations" to overturn the will of the people in selecting a president. And, when the margin was even greater in 96, they ratcheted up the game to try to overturn the results of that election even more.

    To be frank, the people might be well served to learn, without drama, what their President has on his mind. Monologues and press conferences are far too limited to accomplish this. I say let it play out and see how it goes. Heaven knows, the techniques of the past 8 years didn't serve us well. Perhaps the wingnuts fear that Obama might know what he's talking about?


  2. Might I ask, is this intended to be a "newscast", a political presentation or a public service show? Just because it is being produced by ABC News does not mean it is traditional "reporting", and just because an elected official is the focus does not mean it is partisan politics.

    It's time for the GOP to accept the fact that they are currently in the "LOSER" column.


  3. Al: Just for the record, my heart and mind are waaaayyyy over on the left side of the issue involved. I've been - we've both been - inside the nation's biggest "single payer" health system, AMEDD and then the VA. Works just fine. I'm all for rolling up the AMA, the for-profit hospitals and medical organizations and the private insurers in a little ball and flushing it.

    But in this case the thing that seems to have Fabius and his sources (Drudge, well, really! As if Drudge had been anything but a $20-dollar-a-trick streetwalking whore for the GOP since back in the days when Newt Gingrich was banging his first-mistress-soon-to-be-second-wife in the supply closet of the hospital where his first-wife-soon-to-be-ex was in bed with cancer..!) all it a tizzy is the horrible, terrible, no-good betrayal of the Red, White and Blue by the secret Islamist traitors at ABC for not inviting, oh, Tom DeLay, to spend thirty minutes telling you why NOT enriching insurance company executives is Communist and wrong.

  4. Chief--

    Living where we have the benefit of national health care (that means everybody, including tourists has access), I long for the day that the US shifts from a market driven Health Care Industry to a full provider National Health Care System. Not simply insurance, but real national health care. Market forces should not determine who has access to a doctor in a civilized society.

    We are on the same wavelength on the wingnut tizzie. I simply stated it in my words.


  5. I'm not going to discuss national healthcare as I am simply for any system that works reasonably well and reduces our healthcare costs by at least 50 percent, preferably more.

    I strongly agree that the MSM should do a serious analysis of the benefits, shortcomings, costs, and challenges of all reasonable approaches to paying for healthcare but, as you've already noted, this doesn't seem to be in the cards as the MSM is having way too much fun printing the propaganda of all sides of the story to actually rain on any of their parades. But I have another question that I'd like for the Chief to answer:

    Your response to FM's comments essentially amounted to "so what, use the backup system (make people dig for the information among multiple sources and do their own validation cross-referencing) and everything is okay."

    I'm about as unhappy as FM is because it has been my experience that backup systems should only be used temporarily because they are less efficient and tend to break down frequently.

    I have several concerns over the extremely cozy relationship that ABC is developing with the Obama administration:
    1. ABC seems to be doing this primarily because they are on the financial ropes due to 20 years of generally lousy programming and this is another form of a government bail-out.
    2. As the banks are discovering, getting into bed with the government is far more pleasant than the morning after, when the government can bend you to its will in ways that you never imagined.
    3. As the events of Watergate pointed out, an independent press is absolutely vital to political health of the country.

    While you might point out that Fox News, for example, would GLADLY go in-depth on an illegal Watergate-like mistake by the Obama administration, I suspect the Republicans would prefer to take advantage of the precedent set by the Obama administration and wait until they are in power to use it than in trying to break Obama's power base right now.

    All of the above is precedent to asking the question below:
    Allowing the White House to essentially take over a major news source will likely increase the rate of collapse of credibility (and therefore legitimacy) of the United States government. Are you in favor of this?

    Regardless of where you stand on healthcare, I can see no benefit from this development to the average American.

    I should also mention that I've been seeing LOTS of small but ominous signs lately that Obama's role model should be Gorbachev instead of FDR. I suspect that the US is much closer to a Soviet-style collapse than we think.

  6. Pluto: I've seen no evidence that ABC - or any of the nets - is in any immediate danger of becoming "WHTV". From what I could tell, 90% of Fabius argument came from the GOP talking heads he cited. THEY were pissed off not because, as I mentioned above, that ABC was shilling for the Obamites. They were pissed off only because ABC wouldn't shill for them, TOO. Instead, the situation is just business as usual for the nets and the big news agencies; they sell themselves for "access", and the politicians have figured this out. In effect, this isn't marriage, it's just prostitution. The nets will whore for Rush just the same as they will for Obama, if Rush has what the viewers want, or that they think the viewers want.

    I am not happy about the standard news organs selling out their journalistic standards for access. I'm not happy to see the relatively objective (only "relatively", mind you) coverage of our youth go the way of the dodo. But, again, as I said, the journalistic pattern of 1945-1995 was an aberration in the history of American newsgathering. We've chosen to let "the market" rule our news as we've let it rule everything else, and what else can we do? The big news organs see "access" as everything, and so if the parties and players require whoring in return to access..?

    We're returning to a time that a Jacksonian or a Secessionist or a Wobblie would recognize. The sources you've identified as backups will become the new primaries. Reporting and publishing will once again become partisan, leaving the citizen who wishes a level of understanding deeper than partisan ranting to dig on his or her own, finding the chinks in the mainstream presentation and the small, independant voices that will remain.

    This doesn't "benefit" the average American any more than pointless wars in central Asia, any more than handing massive bailouts to feckless financial corporations, any more than subsidizine offshoring, downsizing and deindustrializing benefits most of us. But since when has that bothered a large portion of the powers-that-be, whether those powers be in Washington, Arlington, Hollywood... Like much else about the U.S. in 2009, little of the events shaping our lives are being done for our benefit.

    Having said that, I honestly doubt that the U.S. is looking at a USSR-like collapse anytime soon. The Soviets had an economy like a house of steel cards, and their state was less a state than an asylum full of inmates who wanted nothing more than out. I suspect, rather, that we will see a long, Roman Imperial period where sheer size and power keeps us upright. But eventually the Goths and the Alans will gather...

    But until then, there are good lives to be lived in the long imperial twilight. I intend to try and ensure than mine and my childrens' are among them.

  7. Yours is the conventional wisdom, but I'm not completely sure that your description of the USSR as "an economy like a house of steel cards, and their state was less a state than an asylum full of inmates who wanted nothing more than out" doesn't apply to us as well.

    There's been a serious rise in police corruption cases around the country (many of when I've heard from more-or-less reliable sources) that aren't getting prosecuted.

    High school graduation rates nation-wide are now 52% in four years and 60% after 10 years.

    The state governments of NY and CA are pretty much on hold due to budget and party issues. The federal government is indulging in a lot of disfunctional behavior as well with Bush and now Obama more or less ignoring Congress.

    There's a LOT of wing-nuts that are creeping out of the woodwork who think they'd be better off without the US government. Somehow Ron Paul has gotten involved in this movement and is openly asking Texas to seceed from the Union on the grounds that Texans don't want to be part of such a disfunctional mess.

    Taken individually there's nothing to worry about here. Taken all together (and recalling the astonishingly quick fall of the Soviet Union) there might be something of concern.