Monday, February 14, 2011

Speaking truth to power OR Journalism should be about huevos

Love this column from Salon's Glenn Greenwald today. In it Greenwald not only defends CNN's Anderson Cooper for using the word "lie" or a derivative thereof when he used it to describe actions of the Egyptian government during his telecast last week, but calls out those who criticized Cooper, namely CNN and The Daily Beast's Howie Kurtz and the Los Angeles Times' Jim Rainey.

I'm going to quote liberally here from Greenwald's column, in which he points out that both Kurtz and Rainey admit Cooper was correct in using "lie," because not only do I agree with his point, but he wrote it with vigor.

Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders -- and describing them as such -- is what good journalists do, by definition. It's the crux of adversarial journalism, of a "watchdog" press. "Objectivity" does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims. The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that:  treat factually false statements as false. "Objectivity" is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a "lie," but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they're viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions. The very idea that a journalist is engaged in "opinion-making" or is "taking sides" by calling a lie a "lie" is ludicrous; the only "side" such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth. It's when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are "taking sides" -- they're siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies.

As a proud member of the media, I hope that I never forget and that my compatriots never forget that we are always on a SIDE—the side of the facts. And when those facts lead to inexorable conclusions that one side is also "RIGHT" we damn well better be on that side, too.

I feel like Fox News Channel's use of "fair and balanced" (which we've gutlessly allowed to be misappropriated from actual Truth), couldn't be smarter for them. They've exploited our country's glaring lack of knowledge about how the media operates or its role in a democracy to buffalo far too many of the mainstream press into always allowing the corrupt, the ignorant (Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party) and the liars (Michele Bachmann) an opportunity to offer opinions.

Instead of calling them for their quotes, we should force them to meet a standard of objective facts. Don't let them claim that we're not balanced, instead force them to be educated. If doing rigorous research is elitist then BE FUCKING ELITIST. No more stories about Birther arguments or about how climate pollution isn't happening or about fucking Creationism and the Earth being only a few thousand years old.

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