Thursday, September 27, 2012

U.S. Press Doesn't Wear Prada--It is Pravda

From First Things:
... a recent Gallup study suggests that the press’ credibility is on the wane, with fully 60 percent of the country saying they have “little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.”

Given the events of the last two weeks, we may expect an acceleration of media-skepticism. Let us consider just how egregiously the press has abandoned its responsibilities to the public trust in the past few weeks:

On September 11, on the eleventh anniversary of the worst attack yet endured on our shores, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three aides were murdered, and their headquarters in Benghazi sacked. The U.S. Press unquestioningly accepted a White House explanation calling the event a “spontaneous demonstration” inspired by a poorly made anti-Islam film short that had been languishing online, all-but-ignored, for months.

Despite reports that the attackers had been chanting “Obama, we are all Osama,” (in reference to Osama bin Laden, whose America-effected demise was celebrated over 20 times during the recently concluded Democratic convention) the press duly reported the White House line, and they saw no First Amendment issues when the Obama administration asked Google (owners of YouTube) to remove the offending video. (Google refused.)

... The press did not blink when the film’s creator was publicly identified, handcuffed, and brought into police custody for questioning about “a possible parole violation” in the middle of the night. In fact, some journalists—utterly incurious about the possible constitutional repercussions of establishing such a precedent—began helpfully arguing that sometimes free speech ought to be limited, darn it! The work of cultural darling Andres Serrano—whose overpraised “Piss Christ” showcases a photograph of a crucifix submerged in a bucket of Serrano’s own urine—was free speech and “art” deserving protection, while an execrably produced anti-Muslim short, made by a cultural nobody, was not.

The press appeared not to notice that while embassies were under threat in multiple countries, the president traveled to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. ...

When the State Department threatened to go into a bureaucratic swoon of Judy-Garlandesque proportions if forced to answer questions about the attack, the press offered a thoughtful cold compress to soothe its frazzled brow, and then closed the door softly, as it made its way out.

After the administration finally admitted to Congress that the September 11th violence was, in fact, a terror attack ... the press corps heard White House Spokesman Jay Carney affirm that the attacks were “self-evidently” terrorist in nature. The press expressed no surprise at the change in story...

It took a Spanish-language interview with Univision for President Obama to be asked direct and pointed questions about Libya and other issues, and the president’s answers were largely meandering and unfocused, like the defensive moves of a boxer who has taken a surprise hit and is trying to run out the clock for the safety of his corner. The President quickly moved to the David Letterman Show—where the host allowed him to say he wasn’t sure what the national debt actually was, without reaction—thence to a forty-thousand-dollar-a-head fundraiser hosted by rapper-entrepreneur Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce.

... Meanwhile, Obama gave a speech at a 5,000 seat arena, and the press described it as given before 18,000. CBS News Director John Dickerson admitted that Mitt Romney needs to ask pointed, difficult questions of Obama in the upcoming debates, because, “the press isn’t necessarily going [to do it] for him.”
 See also this post from Walter Russell Mead from a few days ago on the same subject.

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