Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders -- and describing them as such -- is what good journalists do, by definition. It's the crux of adversarial journalism, of a 'watchdog' press. 'Objectivity' does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims. The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that: treat factually false statements as false. 'Objectivity' is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a 'lie,' but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they're viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions. The very idea that a journalist is engaged in 'opinion-making' or is 'taking sides' by calling a lie a 'lie' is ludicrous; the only 'side' such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth. It's when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are 'taking sides' -- they're siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies."

-- Glenn Greenwald, attacking the almost comical hackery of James Rainey and Howie Kurtz, who seemed to mock Anderson Cooper for having the temerity to call out the Mubarak government for its lies

I'm certainly not Greenwald's biggest fan, but credit where credit is due -- he's absolutely right on this.


Jamie McIntyre said...

This argument, of course. is only TRUE, when the journalist in question KNOWS the truth. When I hear a politician utter something I BELIEVE to be a lie, my job is to point out - or uncover - the FACTS that demonstrate the falsity of the claim. It is NOT my job to be the final judge, and pronounce that I myself possess the ultimate truth. While in some cases it may be clear to ANY objective observer that someone is lying, it is a very slippery and dangerous slope when journalists begin to think think their special knowledge and insight equals access to the "truth," and that their OPINIONS - no matter how educated and well-formed - constitute an unassailable truth. An editorial may be dead right, but it's still an editorial. And once you've decided editorializing is a legitimate substitute for balanced news reporting and impartial analysis, you're crossed over into advocacy.

Chez said...

Same thing I posted in response to this on Facebook:

Understood, Jamie, and I certainly see your point. But I think the point Greenwald is making -- and believe me when I say his piously crusading tone generally irritates the hell out of me -- is that if you as a journalist bear witness to so...mething you know 100% to be true, and then hear, say, a government agency say that it's not, and you speak out about that, it's not really editorializing; it's simply reporting the facts. With a metric ton of respect to you, because we worked at CNN at one point during the same period and I think your journalistic credentials are beyond reproach, we've fallen into a trap in which we believe that stating actual facts, if they happen to tilt politically one way or another, is a form of bias. In other words, we're willing to skew a story in order to create some kind of false objectivity. I definitely get the slippery slope argument, but while you shouldn't play god as a journalist, if you have information not everyone has, isn't that your job -- to report it? Saying someone is outright lying is tough language, but if it's actually happening I feel like saying anything different is an abdication of your journalistic responsibility. Thanks for commenting by the way.

John Foley said...

Finally, someone passes Greenwald's Purity Test.

Mart said...

If afraid of calling out lies, I would settle for a more defiant line of questioning. (I heard Obama got this type of treatment today - if so great.)

One example, politicians of both stripes are strutting on the TV telling us that it is time for an adult conversation about the tyranny of the deficit. We need to cut entitlements (mostly effecting poor and middle class). They are doing this just after blowing up $800 billion by extending the Bush tax cuts, mostly for the rich. They are doing this while spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined; and continuing to fight two unfunded wars.

Yes I want an adult conversation - give me one. I want reporters in the US to get in the face of politicians by drilling them to answer to the lunacy of their policies.