Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, November 11, 2013

Zombie Lies

Since last night I was unable to liveblog The Walking Dead for the zeroes of people who read it, I thought I would deal with zombie lies instead.  And the current exemplar of zombie lies right now is Benghazi.  And the current hullabaloo is about the 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that was based on a liar who was trying to sell a book.

I am not enough of an authority on journalistic standards to know if Josh Marshall is right, but this sure seems like an accurate take on what's wrong with this reporting.  There is also the problem of Logan's admitted bias on the issue of Benghazi.

So, Logan thinks like a right wing war blogger (though to her relative credit, she is actively engaged in these war zones, unlike war bloggers), and she produces a segment for 60 Minutes that had numerous red flags before airing.  Those red flags turn out to be accurate, and Logan runs a bogus report that fans the flames of Benghazi-mania.

Back when Dan Rather ran his piece on Bush's military service for 60 Minutes, and that report turned out to be false, Dan Rather - who had a storied career as a reporter and anchor - lost his job.  The current leadership at CBS doesn't think that they will pay a price.  Here is the quote from the New York Times:

Overall, cries of “conservative bias” are not nearly as resonant as cries of “liberal bias” were in 2004, and conservative media outlets have largely ignored the CBS retraction in recent days. For those reasons, among others, “60 Minutes” is unlikely to take as severe a hit as “60 Minutes II,” the spinoff program that showed Mr. Rather’s National Guard report, took in 2004....But the staff members also agreed that the program would be helped by that absence of a cause to inflame right-wing media voices, as well as by the belated effort to apologize.

This, to me, ties into the other big story these days: the Obamacare rollout.  The adjectives most used to describe the website and "You can keep your plan" are "disastrous," "catastrophic," and "horrible."  Partly, this is because "liberal" outlets like Ezra Klein and Jon Chait have been very upfront about the problems the website, in particular, are having.

In some ways, what you are seeing is the different relationships to the truth that currently typifies the liberal and conservative spheres in the US right now.

"Liberal" voices like Klein, Chait and Nate Silver are trying to report the truth.  The website was a mess and very slow.  But it's getting better, and they are reporting as such.  And states that set up their own exchanges and accepted the Medicaid extensions are doing great.  But the only story that resonates is "the website is a disaster".  Because here we have Ezra Klein agreeing with George Will, so it must be true.  And since conservatives and liberals can't agree on the color of the sky most days, the fact that everyone agrees that ACA is a "disaster" (when that's not really what Klein and Chait are saying) allows the media to report a story without engaging in the political act of determining what the actual truth is.

Meanwhile, the Benghazi story - reported by a reporter with strong neo-con foreign policy leanings - is an outright act of fabrication.  But 60 Minutes issued a weak-ass apology, which they think will suffice, because the left - broadly speaking - does not engage in the sort of brow beating of the media that the right does.

Liberals want a better press corps that tries to figure out what is factual and true.  Logan didn't do the basic background work on her source, because she wanted his story to be true.  And conservatives have routinely preferred news outlets - like Fox - and stories that they want to be true, rather than are accurate.

Don't believe me?  Well, aside from Benghazi, how about the unskewed polls of 2012?  How about the routine assertions during the shutdown that the American people supported the GOP, when every poll showed very much the opposite?  How about Karl Rove's meltdown on election night?  How about the assertion that Cuccinelli nearly won because he started to attack ACA, when exit polls show no such thing?

Part of the rage on the right these days is caused - I believe - by the cognitive dissonance created by the disconnect between what the right wing tells itself is true and accurate, and what is actually true and accurate.  This morning, John Boehner said he would refuse to hold a vote on ENDA because jobs... lawsuits...blahblahblah.  He's lived inside the Bullshitosphere for so long, he may actually believe that.  And they he'll be shocked that Millenials are turning their back on the GOP.  Must be voter fraud!

And the reason the right wing can exist in this bubble is largely because they have spent 20 years mau-mauing the press.  And Dan Rather's scalp was their greatest trophy.

The question for the left is: do we want Lara Logan's scalp?  CBS seems to think that we won't pitch a fit.  60 Minutes is a great show; they do fine work most of the time, and Logan issued a "correction" - weak as it was - and liberals relationship to the press is different from conservatives.  We are exasperated by the media's failings, whereas conservatives are outraged by the idea of a liberal bias that doesn't report their preferred vision of the world.

Part of me thinks Logan should be fired.  She's become a hack.  But I don't want to create a world where liberals only accept their preferred vision of reality, unless that preferred vision is one where the media reports what is true and accurate instead of what is "balanced".

But when I read a lot of liberal blogs, they seem to think Bill DeBlasio could be elected governor of Iowa.

The most important thing I teach my students is not the passage of the Compromise of 1850 or the co-optation practices of the PRI.  I teach them (or try to) how to make arguments supported by evidence.

Lara Logan didn't do that.  She based her argument on lies, not evidence.  But I don't want the left to embrace a media that only reports on things favorable to them.  Because the right's single greatest vulnerability is that they simply can't see the truth when it is staring them in the face.

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