Friday, June 01, 2012

Exhibit A-holes

My little column on Fox News's airing of a four-minute hit piece on President Obama under the guise of being a news item -- now cross-posted in a slightly edited version at the Huffington Post -- spawned a pretty good debate about the current state of the media on my Facebook wall. Most of the back-and-forth has been between an old friend of mine from high school, Norm Kaiser, and someone I only met recently, good guy and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of A History of Violence Josh Olson. Josh's most salient point, what he sort of calls modern journalism's original sin, is the faulty notion by the press that every story has two sides worth giving serious consideration and an open forum to. If you've been reading my nonsense long enough, you know that I couldn't agree more with this assessment; I've bitched about it incessantly over the past few years.

Most news agencies these days, certainly the ones that have to fill 24-hours-a-day with cable-friendly content, work off of the absurdly warped assumption that proven reality can be open to interpretation and endlessly debated by those who have a personal agenda to espouse. Basically it's as if, somewhere along the line, the American news media became one big college philosophy class where there's never any right or wrong, per se, and if you can make your case sound legitimately solid enough with enough clever bullshit, your point of view deserves to be taken seriously no matter how flat-out wrong you are. What's worse, the press believes that to take this tack means to remain objective -- that by giving both sides of every single issue that can be easily exploited and politicized equal consideration, it's honoring its commitment to remain unbiased and above the fray. If you're looking for a somewhat pejorative term for this phenomenon, it's been referred to as "the view from nowhere." Cesca also regularly calls it the "both sides meme."

I bring this up because, as if on cue, CNN just presented us all with possibly the most egregious and infuriating example of this kind of lazy, horseshit journalism. It's a piece that could honestly stand as Exhibit A in the case against the media when it comes to pseudo-intellectually reporting on the controversy and indolently allowing themselves room for equivocation rather than doing their jobs and actually parsing fact from fiction -- being the gatekeepers and guardians of the truth. The piece is called "Why Politicians Lie and Why We Want To Believe Them," and it follows flawlessly the formula for a modern day piece of journalism in which nothing is actually stated, no real point is made and little gets resolved to anyone's satisfaction. It paints one of the most ludicrous and debunked conspiracy theories in modern history in colors other than simple black and white, makes the case, as expected, that all politicians lie -- citing examples from both parties -- then turns the whole thing over to an expert, in this case a psychologist, for analysis on why people lie in the first place. Read it and you'll find yourself either aggravated at how obviously devoid of an actual position it is on right-vs.-wrong or at the very least how perfectly representative it is of a few minutes of your life you'll never get back. It's that fucking pointless.

Seriously, this is why the American press sucks.

And this is why things are the mess that they are -- why reality itself can be hijacked by whoever can tell a lie the loudest and most creatively, immediately ensuring that proven fact can be subject to democratic consensus. Because those we trust to give us the truth aren't doing their jobs.

CNN: Why Politicians Lie and Why We Want To Believe Them/6.1.12


namron said...

We have no one left to trust. The information we receive or we seek on the internet or cable has no validation other than its persuasiveness. The only metric professional information disseminators --including bloggers, Chez--receive is the number of eyeballs or clicks. So many viewers do not have the skills to distill the valid from the bullshit and then rely on the sparkle and glitz to decide what to believe. Glitz and sparkle seem to far outpace logic and rationality. Sigh! I long for good ole Uncle Walter, even if we know now from Douglas Brinkley that he was somewhat of a creep.

bafreeman said...

This is a minor, "I'm just sayin'" kind of a bitch, but I actually majored in philosophy and then became a reporter, and I have to say that the former was excellent training for the latter--only it made me hate most of my colleagues. Studying philosophy essentially means searching for the truth, and searching for truth absolutely requires you to be constantly on the alert for bullshit. Most of the j-school fuckers who populate the industry mistake cynicism for skepticism, and the field of journalism has suffered as a result.

TheReaperD said...

I read the article in question a few hours before I came upon this article. I still remember reaching the end of the article and going "the point of this was....?". Quickly followed by "this 'reporter' should be fired".

Anonymous said...

An article ending with "...and Why We Want To Believe Them" could have so much potential. But sigh, instead of focusing on the effects of, say, ideology, CNN chose to bring in a psychologist to pratter on about human universals. Had they chosen to examine why we believe / want to believe our politicians, they might have been capable of provoking an actual thought. What a wasted opportunity