Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Church of MSM and the New Reformation

"You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, 'Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?' And I said, 'That's what journalists do.' And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I've ever had." – Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, 7/12/07
For those who've been reading TSM for a while, you know I adhere to the belief that the media is most definitely biased - print, radio, and TV. I am not alone in that perception, as the majority of the population agrees with me. Interestingly, however, while most believe the bias is in favor of the political Left, many on the political Left believe the bias is toward the political Right.

While I'm inclined to shake my head in wonder at that worldview, something leads them to that conclusion.

At any rate, that there is a perception of bias is undeniable, and there is strong statistical evidence. Pew Research polls of journalists consistently find that a significant portion self-identify as liberal, far more than do conservative. A May, 2004 issue of Editor and Publisher contained this commentary:
Those convinced that liberals make up a disproportionate share of newsroom workers have long relied on Pew Research Center surveys to confirm this view, and they will not be disappointed by the results of Pew's latest study released today. . . .

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative. . . .

While it's important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.
Note the language: "journalists... call themselves." We'll come back to this.

But this perception received its first widespread national attention with the publication of an op-ed by CBS journalist Bernard Goldberg, which eventually became his 2002 book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, an unapologetic (and somewhat bitter) exposé. The original op-ed was prompted by a CBS Evening News segment done by reporter Eric Enberg on February 8, 1996. That piece was one of CBS's special "Reality Check" segments, and (1996 being an election year) Eric chose to cover millionaire candidate Steve Forbes and his "flat tax" plan.

From the first chapter of Bias:
Not exactly a sexy subject. So what's the big deal, I wondered. But as I watched the videotape, it became obvious that this was a hatchet job, an editorial masquerading as real news, a cheap shot designed to make fun of Forbes - a rich conservative white guy, the safest of all media targets - and ridicule his tax plan.

Still, blasting the flat tax wasn't in the same league as taking shots at people who are against affirmative action or abortion, two of the more popular targets of the liberal media elites. How worked up was I supposed to get...over the flat tax?

But the more I watched the more I saw that this story wasn't simply about a presidential candidate and a tax plan. It was about something much bigger, something too much of big-time TV journalism had become: a showcase for smart-ass reporters with attitudes, reporters who don't even pretend to hide their disdain for certain people and certain ideas that they and their sophisticated friends don't particularly like.
Goldberg then goes on to dissect the piece in detail. In conclusion, he says:
I don't believe for a second that Eric Enberg woke up that morning and said "I think I'll go on the air and make fun of Steve Forbes." The problem is that so many TV journalists simply don't know what to think about certain issues until the New York Times and the Washington Post tell them what to think. Those big, important newspapers set the agenda that network news people follow. In this case the message from Olympus was clear: We don't like the flat tax. So neither did Eric Enberg, and neither did anyone at CBS who put his story on the air. It's as simple as that.
This echoes a quotation from Robert Bartley, former editor emeritus of the Wall Street Journal from about the same time:
The opinion of the press corps tends toward consensus because of an astonishing uniformity of viewpoint. Certain types of people want to become journalists, and they carry certain political and cultural opinions. This self-selection is hardened by peer group pressure. No conspiracy is necessary; journalists quite spontaneously think alike. The problem comes because this group-think is by now divorced from the thoughts and attitudes of readers.
It's only gotten worse. One recent poll (take it as you wish) reported:
(J)ust 19.6% of those surveyed could say they believe all or most news media reporting. This is down from 27.4% in 2003. Just under one-quarter, 23.9%, in 2007 said they believe little or none of reporting while 55.3% suggested they believe some media news reporting.
I'd call that "being divorced from the thoughts and attitudes" of the audience.

Goldberg writes:
Jerry Kelly from Enterprise, Alabama, spotted the bias in the Enberg report. Jerry Kelly spotted the wise guy and the one-sidedness. And Jerry Kelly is a general building contractor, not a newsman.

Who didn't find anything wrong with Enberg's piece?

First off, Enberg didn't.

His producer in Washington didn't.

The Evening News senior producer in Washington didn't.

Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News in New York didn't.

His team of senior producers in New York didn't.

Andrew Heyward, the CBS News president and Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, didn't.

And finally, Dan Rather, the anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News didn't.

Not one of them spotted anything wrong with a story that no one should have let on the air in the first place.
Bernard Goldberg, a guy who didn't know Steve Forbes, who didn't care much about his flat tax plan, a guy who had never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in his life, a journalist who had been complaining to his coworkers and bosses about just this sort of abuse of the power of journalism for years - without result - got angry. He got angry enough that he took his complaint outside CBS. He wrote an op-ed, clearly stated as such, that was published in the Wall Street Journal using the Enberg piece as an example of what he saw as an unconscious but systematic and pervasive bias in media that was a disservice to the public that the media is supposed to inform. And he signed his name to it.

He was promptly scourged.
A few hours after I faxed the op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, I got a call back from an editor named David Asman (now with the Fox News Channel.) He told me he liked the piece and that "We're going to run it next Tuesday."

"Be prepared," I sighed, "to run my obituary next Wednesday."
He wasn't far from wrong, but it was his career that ended up on life-support.

Also published in 2002 was iconoclastic journalist John Stossel's book, Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media Stossel's book is much less bitter, and focuses less on bias, but he does have some interesting things to say. From Chapter 1:
I was once a heroic consumer reporter; now I'm a threat to journalism.

As a consumer reporter, I exposed con men and thieves, confronting them with hidden camera footage that unmasked their lies, put some out of business, and helped send the worst of them to jail. The Dallas Morning News called me the "bravest and best of television's consumer reporters." Marvin Kitman of Newsday said I was "the man who makes 'em squirm," whose "investigations of the unjust and wicked... are models." Jonathan Mandell of the New York Daily News quoted a WCBS official who "proudly" said, "No one's offended more people than John Stossel."

Ah, "proudly." Those were the days. My colleagues liked it when I offended people. They called my reporting "hard-hitting," "a public service." I won 18 Emmys, and lots of other journalism awards. One year I got so many Emmys, another winner thanked me in his acceptance speech "for not having an entry in this category."

Then I did a terrible thing. Instead of just applying my skepticism to business, I applied it to government and "public interest" groups. This apparently violated a religious tenet of journalism. Suddenly I was no longer "objective."

Ralph Nader said I "used to be on the cutting edge," but had become "lazy and dishonest." According to Brill's Content, "Nader was a fan during Stossel's consumer advocate days," but "now talks about him as if he'd been afflicted with a mysterious disease."

These days I rarely get awards from my peers. Some of my ABC colleagues look away when they see me in the halls. Web sites call my reporting "hurtful, biased, absurd." "What happened to Stossel?" they ask. CNN invited me to be a guest on a journalism show; when I arrived at the studio, I discovered they'd titled it "Objectivity and Journalism - Does John Stossel Practice Either?" People now e-mail me, calling me "a corporate whore" and a "sellout."
Keep in mind the part I emphasized in bold.

I recently finished reading a very interesting book, by coincidence also published in 2002, The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage by Professor Brian Anse Patrick, whom I've written about here before. The initial topic of the book was a study of how the NRA manages not only to survive, but thrive in an environment in which it is given nearly universally negative coverage in the media. Of course, to make a study of this topic, it is first necessary to prove that such bias exists. Bear in mind, this is a research dissertation, it is not light summer beach reading. Professor Patrick performed a rigorous statistical study, and details it with data and thorough footnotes. The basis of the research is the study of what he terms the "elite press," differentiated from the "mainstream media" and the "local media," and defined as follows:
(T)he serious papers and/or magazines of political-social reporting and analysis that enjoy national (or at least regional) and sometimes international status, reputations, and circulations.
These are identified as New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. The coverage of five special interest groups was studied in detail: The National Rifle Association (NRA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and Handgun Control (HCI - before it was absorbed into the Brady Campaign).

The study examined multiple variables: the amount and proportion of quotations from group officials printed; amount of coverage of events staged primarily for media consumption; the use of photographs in articles; the use of proper titles of officials of the organizations; "personalization" - in which subjects are treated sympathetically or unsympathetically as opposed to straight factual reportage; use of derisive headlines; use of satire or mockery; verbs of attribution (e,g.: "said" vs. "alleged"); "democracy themes" in which stories concentrate on how special interest groups circumvent or work within the democratic process; "group intensity" themes (self-explanatory); "growth-dwindle" themes - stories that comment on the membership changes in the target group; editorial tone and semantics: labeling ("lobby" versus "special interest group or the like); and "science-progress" themes, in which some attention is paid to whether the group in question is working with or against the latest in research or recognized social progress.

That's a pretty broad spectrum.

The results were quite fascinating.

First, the results were quite uniform. There was a definite hierarchy in coverage from most-negative through neutral (you know, "objective") to most-positive. The rankings were as follows, from most negative to most positive:
NRA
ACLU
NAACP
AARP
HCI
The NAACP ended up neutral primarily because of the mix of positive coverage of its activities and negative coverage of its scandals. The AARP received some negative coverage due to its lobbying activities on behalf of its membership - a negative on the "democracy theme" scale, but overall it scored positively. The ACLU - acknowledged by most as a bastion of liberalism, scored noticeably negative throughout the spectrum of parameters, however. But if there is a pervasive liberal bias in the media, how can this be explained?

Professor Patrick concludes that a bias quite evidently exists, and it is pervasive, but it is not defined as being politically liberal. From Chapter 7:
I suggest that a larger concept lies behind all of these measures of interest group coverage. Certainly the measures all indicate, each in its own way, media bias in some discreet aspect of coverage. Bias does not stand alone, for bias in small, seemingly discreet things exists as a manifestation of something larger. Or put another way, bias exists for or against some particular thing, person, group, idea, or constellation of ideas but this bias must arise from within a frame of reference. Thus, mainstream physicians tend to despise homeopathic and "natural" medical treatments, not because physicians harbor some innate dislike of herbs or treatment through visualization, but because physicians have been trained and thoroughly enculturated in a scientific clinical positivism. Their bias is a manifestation of this deeply inculcated way of seeing (which they call examination) and interpreting the world.

So (what) do the rankings reveal about whatever may be inculcated in the interpretive heart of journalism? For one thing, it leads to the dismissal of some common explanations of elite media bias. Certainly, it is by now evident from the content analysis results alone that elite journalists who wrote the articles considered in this study do not on the whole care for the NRA or guns: there is too much evidence in the form of their own words, works, and statistical significance tests to ignore. Many would therefore ascribe these reportorial tendencies to that venerable bugaboo, liberal bias or to simple anti-gun bias, as NRA officials and many political conservatives often in fact do. Why, then, should ACLU, a "leading liberal champion" according to some of the content-analyzed articles, also find itself so often shaded by negative coverage? ACLU remains and has been since its origin, very much a left-leaning organization, with "ultra-liberal" often a term applied to it. While on the matter of guns, despite ACLU being denounced at times as constitutional rights absolutists, ACLU explicitly does not support the individual right to bear arms interpretation of the Second Amendment; they are anti-gun by proclamation. If the predominant bias of the elite press were liberal or simply anti-gun, ACLU would be highly revered. So the liberal and anti-gun bias concepts illuminate nothing here.

It is not that liberal-conservative bias does not affect coverage at times. Or that other forms of bias do not exist. One would have to be naïve to the point of addle-headedness to believe otherwise. Elite journalists tend to identify themselves with politically liberal causes, and personal idealism cannot possibly be segregated from the interpretation of events. Doubtless, too, old fashioned economic concerns have killed many a news story. Many discern in the national media, some on the basis of good evidence a conservative bias supporting economic imperialism and mindless consumerism.

Additionally, the powerful forces of personal psychological projection interact with the amorphous nature of external events that media professionals must daily interpret, in ways that allow just about everyone to see what they need or want to see in the media. The Left sees bias for the Right; Right sees Left; schizophrenics and the devoutly religious see the Hand of God, devils, or aliens at work; we could also list racism, sexism, internationalism, and the exploitation of women and girls, men, animals, and classes. There are bugs and bugaboos in the media appropriate to nearly every orientation or fixation. So bias is often not just about what affects coverage, but also what affects perceptions of coverage.
(Hmm... is Professor Patrick intimating that the devoutly religious are mentally ill?) OK, all of that leads up to this:
That elite media may be biased for or against a particular issue or topic is interesting, and this knowledge may help an interest group rally indignation or manage its public relations; however it tells little about the overall functioning of media in society. This latter concern is the broader and more important idea, with larger implications. The overall ranking results provide such an explanation.

The larger concept that lies behind the consistent ranking is a broad cultural level phenomenon that I will label an administrative control bias. It has profound implications. Administrative control in this usage means rational, scientific, objective social management by elite, symbol-manipulating classes, and subclasses, i.e., professionalized administrators or bureaucratic functionaries. The thing administered is often democracy itself, or a version of it at least. Here and throughout this chapter terms such as "rational," "objective," "professional," and "scientific" should be read in the sense of the belief systems that they represent, i.e. rationalism, objectivism, professionalism, and scientism. Scientism is not the same as being scientific; the first is a matter of faith and ritualistic observance, the other is difficult creative work. William James made a similar distinction between institutional religion and being religious, the first being a smug and thoughtless undertaking on the part of most people, the second, a difficult undertaking affecting every aspect of a life. The term scientistic administration would pertain here. Note that we move here well beyond the notion of mere gun control and into the realm of general social control, management and regulation.
Does any of this sound familiar? "Central planning," anyone?

The Editor & Publisher quote above, which notes that the Pew Research poll is based on journalist's self assessment was plucked from an Instapundit post. A comment Glenn found worthy left at that post:
One point that can't be overstressed is that the Pew findings are based on self-assessment. I worked in the newsroom at three large newspapers for 22 years, and many of the journalists who rate themselves as politically moderate are well to the left of center, especially on social issues. They are moderate by newsroom standards, not by the general public's standards.

Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem.
Professor Patrick continues:
This administrative control bias is the manifestation of a hermeneutic that could be termed "the administrative gaze," honoring the style of Michael Foucault. This interpretive view organizes, manages, objectifies, implements, and looks downward in such a way as to beg administration or clinical-style intervention. Too, it is a basic power relationship, or an attempt at one, for such is the nature of all management....

--

In illustration of how the administrative control bias plays out in the national news coverage of interest groups and social action, imagine a valence scale with a neutral midpoint, anchored at one end by a pro-administrative control position, and at the other by an anti-administrative control position. The interest groups figuring in this study can be situated along this scale in exactly the same order as they embody or align with the idea of administrative control; and this ranking precisely matches the ranking of their respective average scores on the content analysis measures.

Of the five groups, NRA necessarily anchors the negative end. The very existence of the potential for uncoordinated violence represented by guns is a threat to an administrative control hermeneutic. Guns simply invite administration.

--

Next up the administrative control scale is ACLU, which because of its mission must often position itself "athwart the road" chosen by administrative ambition. While not flaunting the administrative control hermeneutic to the same extent as NRA with its inherently dangerous firearms, ACLU often confounds administrative attempts to implement efficiently rational, scientific policies in educational settings, workplaces, law enforcement interactions, prison environments, and other social institutions. Accordingly, the underlying theme of much of its coverage is ACLU frustrating rational democratic administration by its pursuit of abolutist visions of constitutional rights of individuals and groups. That ACLU is also a well-known champion of the First Amendment - which embodies a principle that is in the self-interest of journalists to endorse and understand - is doubtlessly helpful in ACLU receiving more favorable treatment than NRA.

--

At the top of the scale, HCI represents the essence of the administrative hermeneutic. It stands for scientific management or rational control and regulation of a problem quite often framed as a general public health concern.

--

Although this study deals with five interest groups, this result generalizes to elite news coverage of other interest groups. In the form of a proposition, then: an interest group will in the long term receive negative, neutral, or positive coverage in elite media in accord with how well the group aligns with the administrative control hermeneutic.

This proposition could be put to a larger test, but it applies to any number of interest groups or interest group-generated issues common to elite news.
He then mentions a few: environmental groups, anti-smoking, anti-drug, and anti-drunk driving (and alcohol) groups.

If Professor Patrick is correct in his assessment (and I believe he is), journalists see themselves as the clergy in the Church of State:
Previous to objective journalism, baldly partisan news media were the norm; under objectivity news became a scientific tool of social progress and management. The elite press continues also to serve this function, connecting administrators and managers not only ot the world they seek to administrate but also to other managers with whom they must coordinate their efforts. So in this sense social movement-based critiques have been correct in identifying a sort of pseudo-pluralism operating in the public forum, a pluralism that is in reality no more than an exclusive conversation between elite class subcomponents - but this over-class is administrative in outlook and purpose.

We should not think of this way of thinking and interpreting reality as an entirely deliberate process. We are dealing here with the diffusion of a hermeneutic that accompanies an organizational and cultural style, a scientific management method of proven effectiveness, with wonderful social benefits and also terrible side effects. Journalists, like everyone else, steep in this hermeneutic throughout their education and upbringing; moreover they work in and serve organizations that arose in response to administrative needs. High-level journalists especially have survived a rigorous selection process that favors those who are most suitable and effective for this environment. Journalists are probably no more conscious of the hermeneutic that fish are conscious of the water around them.
And here I will disagree with the good professor.

It is often said that "the exception proves the rule." One exceptional exception, the aforementioned John Stossel, credits his journalistic iconoclasm thusly:
In retrospect, I see that it probably helped me that I had taken no journalism courses.
Thus preventing him from being steeped in the journalist mindset that Robert Bartley (you remember Robert? Quoted near the beginning of this essay?) spoke of.

But unaware of it? Not exactly. They're aware of the bias, absolutely. Of the reason for it, possibly, even probably not. From Bias, after warning CBS News president Andrew Heyward of the upcoming Wall Street Journal op-ed and its contents:
When Heward called me in it was obvious that steam was coming out of his ears. What I had done, he told me, was "an act of disloyalty" and "a betrayal of trust."

"I understand how you feel," I told him, trying to diffuse a bad situation. "But I didn't say anything in the piece about how even you, Andrew, have agreed with me about the liberal bias."

Instead of calming things down, my comment made him go ballistic. "That would have been like raping my wife and kidnapping my kids!" he screamed at me.

--

This is how self-centered the media elites can be. These are people who routinely stick their noses into everybody else's business. These are people who are always telling us about the media's constitutional right to investigate and scrutinize and a lot of times even embarrass anyone who winds up in our crosshairs. These are the people who love to take on politicians and businessmen and lawyers and Christians and the military and athletes and all sorts of other Americans, yet when one of their own writes an opinion piece about American Journalism, then you've crossed the line . . . because taking on the media is like raping their wives and kidnapping their kids!
Or nailing up 95 Theses to the door of the New York Times.

Heward's response isn't isolated either. Here's what Professor Patrick had to say about attempting to interview journalists for his book:
Although I had accurately anticipated the reluctance of NRA officials in releasing information about the activities of their organization, I did not anticipate a general reluctance and the outright refusal of some journalists to explain their activities. Most of the journalists would not return calls when they were contacted and asked to participate in the study. Callbacks did not help. Neither did assurances of anonymity help to reverse the refusals. The non-response rate, thus defined, is almost 95 percent.

--

The journalists contacted had no tolerance whatsoever with a survey research-style questionnaire, however short and to the point. Based on their reactions, my impressions are, first that the subject of the survey - journalists and interest group coverage - is a sensitive area for journalists, as well it should be considering the inevitable tension that must exist between journalistic professional standards (and pretensions) and the journalistic dependence for material on interest group pseudo-events and news sources. To use an old but apt idiom, in this case asking specific questions concerning their attitudes on the groups they covered seemed to hit them where they lived; they became very cagey very quickly. At this point almost all withdrew their consent, though they had to this point seemed comfortable with the general idea of the survey.

Second, they seemed hypersensitive to what ends the survey might be directed, and did not like the fact that they were not being told everything up front. In the words of one journalist, "Where are you going with all of this? I need to know before I can continue."
After all, they might find out they were appearing on a TV show asking if they practiced either objectivity or journalism. In fact, they feared that Professor Patrick might be (metaphorically) planning on raping their wives and kidnapping their children.

Back to Journalists as clergy:
Journalists acquire importance in the mass democratic system precisely because they gather, convey, and interpret the data that inform individual choices. Mere raw, inaccessible data transforms to political information that is piped to where it will do the most good. Objective, balanced coverage becomes essential, at least in pretense, lest this vital flow of information to be thought compromised, thus affecting not only the quality of rational individual decision-making, but also the legitimacy of the system.

Working from within the perspective of the mass democracy model for social action it is difficult to specify an ideal role model of journalistic coverage other than a "scientific objectivism" at work. An event (i.e., reality) causes coverage, or so the objective journalist would and often does say. Virtually all of the journalists that I have ever talked with regard coverage as mirroring reality.
"Mirroring" being an particularly apt description, as author Michael Crichton describes much of journalism as being made up of "wet streets cause rain" stories.
They truly seem to believe this, that they have access to information to which philosophers and scientists have been denied. I spoke once to a journalist who worried out loud about "compromising" her objectivity when covering a story.
You mean like this?
The claim being advanced here, by assumption, is that journalists can truly convey or interpret the nature of reality as opposed to the various organizational versions of events in which journalists must daily traffic. The claim is incredible and amounts to a Gnostic pretension of being "in the know" about the nature or reality, or at least the reality that matters most politically.

An ecclesiastical model most appropriately describes this elite journalistic function under mass democracy. Information is the vital substance that makes the good democracy possible. It allows, as it were, for the existence of the good society, a democratic state of grace. Information is in this sense analogous to the concept of divine grace under the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. Divine grace was essential for the good spiritual life, the life that mattered. The clergy dispensed divine grace to the masses in the form of sacraments. They were its intermediaries, who established over time a monopoly, becoming the exclusive legitimate channel of divine grace.
No wonder Diane Sawyer felt hurt when she was laughed at by an entire courtroom.
Recollect that the interposition of intermediaries, the clergy, along a vital spiritual-psychological supply route was the rub of the Reformation. The clergy cloaked themselves in the mantle of spiritual authority rather than acting as its facilitators. Many elite newspapers have apparently done much the same thing, speaking and interpreting authoritatively for democracy, warranting these actions on the basis of social responsibility. Of course, then and now, many people do not take the intermediaries seriously.
Sorry, Diane.
It is not accident, then, that the pluralistic model of social action largely discounts journalists as an important class. In the same way the decentralized religious pluralism generically known as Protestantism discounts the role of clergy. This should be expected. Pluralism and Protestantism share common historical origins. American pluralism particularly is deeply rooted in the Reformation's reaction to interpretive monopoly.

Journalists, particularly elite journalists, occupy under mass democracy this ecclesiastical social role, a functional near-monopoly whose duty becomes disseminating and interpreting the administrative word and its symbols unto the public. Democratic communication in this sense is sacramental, drawing its participants together into one body. We should not overlook the common root of the words communication, community, and communion.
Not to mention communism.
What might be termed as the process of democommunication has aspects of transubstantiation an interpretive process by which journalists use their arts to change the bread and wine of raw data into democratically sustaining information. Democracy is a kind of communion. Objectivity and social responsibility become social necessities, legitimating doctrines much like the concept of papal infallibility, which had to emerge to lend weight to interpretive pronouncements.

In this light, even the laudable professional value of objectivity can appear as a nearly incredible claim. Both claims, objectivity and infallibility, function to lend credence, authority, and an impeachment-resistant moral/scientific base to organizational or professional products. Both are absolute in nature. Both also serve the quite necessary social function of ultimately absolving from personal responsibility or accountability the reporter, whether ecclesiastical or secular, who is, after all, merely duty-bound to report on the facts. As it is in heaven, so it will be on Earth; and as it is on Earth, so shall it appear in The New York Times.
So it isn't just gun control. And, as with gun control, it isn't about guns, it's about control. When Bernard Goldberg nailed up his version of the 95 Theses, he was ostracized. When John Stossel started questioning the efficacy of administrative control, he absolutely "violated a religious tenet of journalism."

The New Reformation is coming about because the populace is sick and tired of op-eds written as straight news. We're tired of being fed bullshit and being told it's steak. More and more of us are aware we're being lied to - and you know what? The Left is being lied to, too. I'd venture to guess that the nature of their objections is more along the lines of things not happening fast enough, but their most recent objections were to the media's complicity in the ramp-up to the Iraq war - and they were right to object. The media wasn't being "objective" - they were advancing the administrative control hermeneutic.

Viewed from that perspective, it all makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

ORIGINAL JSKit/Echo COMMENT THREAD  Thank you, John Harding!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.