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December 19, 2006

The MSM, Arbiters of All That Is Right, and Wrong.

Just trust us.

Interesting OP-Ed by Martin Kaplan in today's LA Times.

Some snippets...

Does Iraq need more debate? We've had plenty of shouting matches on the war; what we need are better leaders and more capable media. By Martin Kaplan, MARTIN KAPLAN is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School, where he directs the Norman Lear Center (learcenter.org). December 19, 2006

EVERYONE SAYS WE need a national debate on Iraq. Left, right, politicos, pundits, editorial writers, academics. If ever there was a universally held position, it's the belief that holding a national debate on Iraq is just the thing for what ails us in the Middle East.

But what would a national debate on anything really look like? How would it be any different from what we're already doing now? Imagine the elements of a national debate on Iraq, and then ask whether what's going on today fits the bill.

Analysts offering opposing views on television shows? Check. Dueling Op-Ed pieces? Check. Senators and representatives making floor speeches? Check. Presidential candidates staking out positions, and critics taking them on? Check. Magazines and journals offering thoughtful, conflicting takes? Check. A take-no-prisoners brawl in the blogosphere? Check. Public opinion polls? You can't go to the restroom without tripping over a new one. Thousands of people in the streets? Well, it's not like the Vietnam era — without a draft, it won't ever be — but plenty of cities have seen plenty of passionate marchers.

So why, despite all appearances of actually having a national debate right now, do people keep insisting that we mount one?

Perhaps it's because the mainstream media are too timid to declare the difference between right and wrong. Imagine if journalism consisted of more than a collage of conflicting talking points. Imagine the difference it would make if more brand-name reporters broke from the bizarre straitjacket of "balance," which equates fairness with putting all disputants on equal epistemological footing, no matter how deceitful or moronic they may be.

There's a market for news that weighs counterclaims and assesses truth value. It just hasn't kept up with demand. No wonder Jon Stewart has such a loyal audience: He has a point of view, and it's rooted in the reality-based — not the ideology-based — world.

And... he's on Comedy Central. Jon Stewart, reality-based. Yessir. Gottit. No ideology there. Snerk.

Maybe we don't need a national debate. Maybe what we really need are leaders with more character, followers with more discrimination, deciders who hear as well as listen and media that know the difference between the public interest and what the public is interested in. National debates nicely fulfill the circus part of the bread-and-circuses formula of modern public life. Like psychoanalysis, national debates are basically interminable. And in our postmodern era, they do a nice job substituting for the hard work of actually figuring out what's true and what's good.

Martin certainly reveals his bias in this piece. Which is fine - it's an Op-Ed for heaven's sakes. But I'm rather guessing (and this might be unfair) that Mr. Kaplan has in mind Dan's Memo's... as a measure of journalistic truth-telling.

Actually, point-by-point, I agree, and on the issue of leaders and followers, have said so in this space. I find it interesting that Mr. Kaplan tosses the blogs to the wolves (good lord, if *anyplace* exists with shrill evocations of right or wrong, it's the blogs) and essentially argues that only the MSM can fill this role. But, since Mr. Kaplan is "associate dean of the USC Annenberg School, where he directs the Norman Lear Center" I'm not surprised.

Read the whole thing here (though, frankly, it's as overwritten and anything Ry and I have ever done, and the snippets pretty much get the bit). Go look - tell me if the parts I left out materially affect anything.

Ah, for the glory days, eh, Mr. Kaplan? When Walter held forth magisterially from his anchor desk, and we peons just listened to our betters.

Comments on The MSM, Arbiters of All That Is Right, and Wrong.
ry briefed on December 19, 2006 09:07 AM

Uh, OS Card is a democrat who hated Reagan and our escapades in South America(uh, read some of his commentary in the Future on Fire anthology) and is for just about every socialy progressive idea out there(except maybe for gay marriage and where to draw the secular/sectarian line for public discourse). If this dude, simply because he's coming out in favor of The Long War, is now of the Extreme Right Wing Crazies something really wrong has happened to the def'n of right and left(somebody's parrallax filter is busted and it ain't mine). OSC is the modern day Scoop Jackson---he's an anti-anti-communist without being a communist enabler so to speak.

I've heard about that comic a few years ago. It's wack. Pure wackittude. So what. Ever read 'THe WAtchmen' or 'V'?

What about the Mars trilogy by KS Robinson(Davis, CA's own KS Robinson)? Pathetic liberal/progressivist talking points mascarading as fiction(with some wild sex scenes and political cloak and dagger throw in for kicks).
If it's bad fiction call it that. I hate the Mars series because I think the stories are stupid, the politics of it just adding to the stuff I don't like(I don't always like the politics of Phil K Dick, but the man wrote some amazing works of fiction).
If the 'right' is in some kind of slumber of reason the 'left' is Rip van Winkle, and this Annenburg dude needs to stop freebasing NPR.

ry briefed on December 19, 2006 09:15 AM

Oops. Wrong thread. Sorry(nothing to see here, move along. Move along. These aren't the droids you're looking for.).(red face)

ry briefed on December 19, 2006 09:26 AM

Okay, read the Kaplan story. Not having the same reaction.
"Anyone who's watched a presidential debate knows how useless they are for deciding our country's direction. The coming presidential primary season, which will stretch for more than a year, will be the scene of multi-candidate cattle calls in which entrants will moo canned messages, spring scripted attacks, ignore interlocutors' questions and declare inevitable victories." I agree with this point. There's no there there. That's something we largely agree on around here I thought.

Yeah, he thinks the only legitimate opinion is ones close to his(proll'y on the left side of things). What's wrong with that? If he has to admitt it we might actually get somewhere with news coverage. One set-up that is dry and boring and very Joe Friday. Another two that do the 'analysis' but are obviously ideological. I'm with Jonah on this front: if you have to admitt the bias it's all to the good even if you are the big fish news outlets.

But the main thrust, which cutting it up really hides, is that we're dealing with something that follows form without providing ANY substance. That's something we should all be worried about.

John of Argghhh! briefed on December 20, 2006 07:46 AM

Like I said, point-by-point, I don't have a lot of disagreement with his observations.

It's his assumption, essentially, that he and the other organs of the MSM have a lock on what I still think *he* perceives as the objective truth.

And, by implication, only he and his.

Which, Kaplan missing the point, is why, when the tech allowed - all those alternatives sprang up, as the great unwashed noted that there were people who saw the world they do, and not always in consonance with the way the MSM believed it to be.

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