Friday, July 02, 2010

Say, Mr Orwell: Got a handy new term for "Liberal Media?"

I'm in the middle of an argument over at the forums that started with the Dave Weigel nonsense and has since broadened into a larger discussion about what journalists should and should not do. I am at loggerheads with a woman who has a couple of years under her belt as a working journalist. What follows is a straight copy of the most recent reply I posted over there. I apologize if you feel dropped into the middle of something, but I wanted to call your attention to this story I just heard about as soon as possible, and it has made me too angry to be able to rework my post for a different set of readers.

One note for clarification: where I refer to the phrase "working with," I am referring to my earlier objection to her use of this term to describe how she sees her relationship to those whom she is covering. For more on this, and in a more extreme sense, see Matt Taibbi commenting on Lara Logan's recent disturbing comments, and zero in on where he uses the phrases "work for" and "working for."



Before I get to reading what you've posted in response, let me just quote a bit from my earlier post:

"Working with" is, to me, in the abstract at least, only a short step away from "working for." There is a reason access has become such a loaded term when talking about Teh Media.

and then add this:

“In any dispute, their view is not: What is true? But: How can we preserve our access to the political right and not lose pro-torture readers?"

(Andrew Sullivan via email to Michael Calderone, via Jason Linkins.)

You and everyone else who cares about journalism should read both, but to get you started, here's a bit from the first, to give you some context:

“From the early 1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture,” the study noted. But the study found that things changed in the years when “war on terror” became part of the American lexicon.

The New York Times defined waterboarding as torture, or effectively implied that it was, 81.5 percent of the time in articles until 2004, the study found. But during 2002-2008 — when the George W. Bush White House made a concerted effort to normalize harsh interrogation methods for use on terror detainees — the Times “called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles." That’s 1.4 percent of the time.

I should point out that the NYT was hardly alone in this quisling behavior, although sadly, the WaPo was not examined.

The study from which Calderone draws his stats is here: (PDF).

More commentary: Sully, Glenn Greenwald, Adam Serwer, and Marcy Wheeler (who observed the missing WaPo aspect).

If my next responses to you in this thread are a bit surly, now you know why: there is no other way to describe what these papers were doing during the Bush years except to say they were "working with" the people they were covering.

[Added] Happy Independence Day, if I forget to say so in a couple of days.


merlallen said...

I believe we also executed a couple of Japanese for waterboarding our people. When others do it it's a war crime.

Brendan said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who remembers that. Good on you.