Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hating America?

Our pal Soxblog (whose real name, we can now report EXCLUSIVELY, is Dean Barnett) has a few posts up about whether or not the media is functioning as a Fifth Column, essentially aiding our enemies in the War on Terror. We can understand where he's coming from, but we beg to differ.

A little.

First of all, let's dispense with the notion that the "media" is in any way an organization of people working in concert toward a common goal. The term "media," as Dean uses it, is effectively meaningless. All newspapers? TV stations? Magazines? He's undercutting his argument at the outset by using a hollow generalization, more likely out of the convenience of the term than to be disengenuous.

That's why people who suggest that "the media is biased" are usually ignored or dismissed, as they should be. Putting it that way suggests a conspiracy carried out by the entire group, when the reality is that many of the people working in journalism happen to have a world view that leads them to embrace a more liberal political philosophy. This includes the men and women who have been hired by news organizations to report the news. Others work as editors or bureau chiefs and are responsible for making decisions about what is published or aired (see our related post below). So they decide what stories are important and what details in those stories are relevant. That is why, on balance, the media appears to be biased. But actually it's just the sum of thousands of people making thousands of decisions each day which reflect, either consciously or sub-consciously, their own personal opinions. It's human nature, and it happens with those on the left and those on the right.

But that doesn't explain things like the press reaction to the NEWSWEEK affair or the actions of 60 Minutes II in the memo scandal. Chalking it up to "media bias" does little to help us understand the lengths certain individuals in the MSM are willing to go to, in the eyes of Soxblog, do damage to the United States.

It starts with a post-modern view of the world. There is no absolute truth. Instead, truth is something that is defined by the individual, and our truth might be different than your truth. For many of you, this no doubt sounds very odd; unfortunately, many people have accepted it as a central tenet of their lives. These include many left-leaning individuals, including those working in journalism.

And if there is no absolute truth, facts don't have much value, do they? Instead, your own thoughts and feelings take precedent. That's why so many people thought that the exit polls were more accurate that the actual vote totals in the last election -- they just "knew in their hearts" that Kerry had won. Since the returns did not confirm that, they must be flawed. When you dispense with the concept of absolute truth, certified vote totals can't mean much.

But there is one type of truth that they wholeheartedly embrace: the "greater" truth. Perhaps the finest purveyor of a greater truth is everyone's favorite filmmaker, Michael Moore. The standard process for making a documentary is to gather facts (!) and interviews and footage related to a particular subject, and discover what the movie is about in the editing of all of those components together. Moore, on the other hand, starts with an assumption -- "Bush lied about WMD and sent our soldiers off to die in an unjust and unnecessary war" -- and then complies and manipulates footage to support that thesis. He ignores any evidence that contradicts his thesis; he's after the greater truth, which he knows "inherently." Moore is skillful enough that those watching his films begin to think he's got a point; it's only after Christopher Hitchens reminds the public of all the things that he left out or altered that his movies fall apart.

But that still doesn't address the question of whether or not Moore and those like him are out to sabotage America. Now, let's get something straight: are they hurting America? Undoubtedly. The fallout from the NEWSWEEK piece is confirmation of that. But are they acting as a Fifth Column to conduct such damage on purpose?

No.

Frankly, they're not that smart. Remember, it's about the greater truth. They know certain things to be true: that Iraq never had WMDs, that Bush lied, that the war was all about oil, that Kerry won the election -- now it's just a matter of uncovering the information to confirm it. (Even journalists who don't believe in absolute truth know they need some facts...well, most of them.) These lapses in judgment are not conceieved as assaults on America; they're just efforts to prove themselves right.

So is the "media" a Fifth Column? Sometimes, to an outsider with perspective, it seems to function as such, but the reality is that its far too inept (as we're all finding out) to be acting in concert on anything. How do we know? Lucy Ramirez faxed us a memo from a Kinko's in Texas that said so...

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